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!)