Kitchen Garden

Lettuce Progress

Magenta and Bibb lettuce, May 25, 2021.

This year’s spring lettuce crop beat expectations. I harvested a lot and the heads are healthy-looking. I set a wheel barrow with lettuce at the end of the driveway to share the abundance with neighbors. Only a couple found homes but I’m happy to place any of it. I’m not really marketing either.

I seem to have cracked the code for growing lettuce. Here’s what I am seeing.

It began with selecting variety. Magenta from Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a good summer crop lettuce and that’s most of what’s in the photo. I also procured five other varieties, which I’m trying in succession.

The germination heating pad made a big difference. Seeds germinated more quickly and that resulted in more viable starts. I recycled some nine-cell seed starter trays and that’s the right size per succession crop for our household. Before last frost I transplanted to larger containers and now I’m planting from the nine-cell trays directly into the soil.

Lettuce under row cover.

What appears to have made the biggest difference is planting lettuce under row cover. The heads grew quickly to maturity and the soil remains fertile with addition of composted chicken manure crumbles. The row cover also protects lettuce from excessive sunlight and from insects. I’ve grown lettuce from seedlings before, but never like this, with big heads and a high seedling success rate.

I did a financial analysis of gardening as a potential source of income and lettuce would be a key component. People will pay more for organically grown lettuce fresh from the garden. I haven’t thought much about taking it to the farmers’ market before, but after this spring, I can see a path to selling some of it next year.

A gardener is always observing the results of their work, trying new things, and staying up to date on tools and techniques available to improve cropping. When one hits on a success, like this lettuce crop, the work seems worth it.

Think I’ll have a celebratory salad for breakfast.