If you love and enjoy lettuce like I do you’ll want to enjoy it fresh from the garden as many months of the year as possible. Here in Virginia (and many other places) it’s possible to have it at least 10 months if not 12.
In prior years I’ve only been able to harvest enough lettuce in winter for a salad to eat once or twice a week. (And yes, I have it under cover during the coldest days.) But thanks to the abundance of mache (which is without a doubt the BEST lettuce-like green I’ve EVER grown) in my garden this winter, I could enjoy salads in the abundance everyday!
For once, my winter lettuce could enjoy growth through the winter without my picking every leaf that it produced. By April and May I had the most beautiful young and maturing heads of lettuce that I’ve ever seen in my garden that early in the year. And delicious? Wow! I couldn’t believe how delicious that Winter Density lettuce was this spring!
(Out of the many varieties that are suppose to grow well in winter, Winter Density performs the best in my garden and always has.)
The heads have now flowered and will soon set seed which I definitely plan to save. I get excited when I think of Winter Density adapting itself even more to my garden. And that’s what happens when you save your own seed from an open pollinated variety of a crop. (Most lettuces by the way are open pollinated, which means the seed from them will produce a plant just like the parent. I’ve never had trouble with lettuce cross pollinating with another variety close by — but be aware that it can.)
Among the first lettuces I plant in the spring are Reine des Glaces and Sierra Batavia, my two top favorites. When those two lettuces are producing in the garden, I just ignore every other variety because these two are so good.
I continue to stagger plantings of other varieties up to and sometimes through June. That way, I’ll have lettuce longer into the summer because each variety has it own particular set of preferred variables. Plus this gives you plants at various stages of growth for the most delicious eating. And when Reine des Glaces and Sierra Batavia disappear from the menu, I’ll have others to fill in.
Late Spring and Summer
I recommend always having several patches of an oak leave lettuce on hand. Bronze Arrow and Royal Oak Leaf are two of the most beautiful. When nothing else seems to be producing leaves that are eatable (not bitter), I can always get a few leaves from these two varieties even if they’re stalking.
Freckles or Florenschullous is another variety of Romaine that I wouldn’t be without.
Red Sails and Outredgeous Red also serve to fill in now and then when nothing else is good enough to make the dinner menu.
The two main lettuces I planted this year for the hot weather were Jericho and Anuenue. Both were developed especially for hot weather; Jericho in Israel and Anuenue in Hawaii.
I succession plant all my lettuce, but I make sure hot weather varieties are part of the last planting to go in the garden in late spring.
Jericho is a light green Romaine that is not my favorite taste UNTIL nothing else is available. Then I’m so happy to have it! I’ve picked it so much that it’s almost a funny sight to see now, with a stalk that is about 18 inches tall and only two leaves at the top of it. Will be interesting to see if it can set seed with no leaves!
Anuenue was wonderful! It’s leaf is more rounded and a bit thicker than some lettuces and a much deeper green than Jericho. I only regret that I didn’t plant it earlier and a lot more of it. It’s held well in the heat and is the only lettuce in the garden that has not stalked as I write this.
Next month, it’ll be time to start the fall crop of lettuces.
Green Deer Tongue, Reine Des Glaces, Sierra Batavia, Bronze Arrow, Red Sails and Winter Density are all on the list to enjoy in the fall. (I think I’ll start some Anuenue just to see how it fares.)
Staggered plantings of Winter Density will insure that we enjoy it in the fall, the winter, and into the spring. It’ll be one of the first to be planted in August and the very last to go into the garden in October and November. (That’ll be just about the time the mache volunteers should start showing themselves.)
Planting numerous varieties (also known as “diversity”) is one of the main secrets to enjoying lettuce all year. (Or almost anyway!)
Lettuce-Sierra Batavia-A New Favorite
Variety is One Secret to Enjoying it Well into Summer
Growing Lettuce Plant for a Continual Supply
Secrets to getting Eatable Lettuce Well into Summer
Lettuce – How to Have More in the Off Season
Lettuce – There’s No Right or Wrong Way
Lettuce – Eating Fresh Even After it Stalks
Lettuce Bitter? Secrets to Keeping it Tasty
Lettuce – Favorites, Tips, and Several Sources
Lettuce – Plant in the Fall – Harvest for 3 Seasons
Lettuce – Greens – Will Fall plantings carry you Through Spring and Summer?
Winter Gardening – Growing Lettuce- 3 Tips
Lettuce – Harvesting for Dinner on July 16th
Addendum to the Post – Lettuce – Harvesting for Dinner on July 16th
Something to think about–summer lettuce. Sure would be nice to still have lettuce when the tomatoes come in!
Your articles on lettuce inspired me to buy several packages of seeds early this spring. I hope to have lettuce most of the winter as my winters are not harsh. I will plant in October when the weather cools some.
How did you like the Simpson Elite? I found a cell pack at the nursery and planted it on St. Pat’s Day. It grew so well and fast that I was giving it away. It lasted until we had the hottest June on record here in UT. It was nice and buttery with a mild flavor. I am letting it reseed in the places it did the best. Thanks for your advice on this variety! Julie
Julie – I was just thinking about you and looking back at your previous emails to me and then I saw your comment!
I had looked so forward to having the Simpson Elite in my garden this spring, but during the course of planting I don’t know what happened to it. I feel sure I transplanted numerous seedlings but only saw a few grown plants after that. That was a bit disappointing but I’ll plant again in August and definitely make note to keep tabs on it better.
Having your input makes me want it in my garden that much more. Even the original Black Seeded Simpson is a lettuce that holds well in the heat. That variety reseeded in various places for me
last year and I was glad to have each and every piece this year.
Appreciate you input Julie!
Theresa, I bought some of the Forellenschlus lettuce seeds from a Turkish man on ebay. He promised I would have lettuce all year as long as I keep them in the shade and just picked as many leaves as needed.
Well, to my enormous surprise this turned out to be completely true. I planted 5 plants in a huge pot and kept them on the shady side of the house. They survived a hot Queensland summer and the stems got very tall before they went to flower. I was very impressed and look forward to doing it again.
Great story Christel! Forellenschlus is a good lettuce and I’m so glad you had such great success with it!
Hope you saved your seed. That way it will perfectly adapt to your unique conditions and you’ll love it even more.