Lettuce in July

Lettuce in July.

It’s time to celebrate spring lettuce. I think back to March, bitter cold, snow-covered, never-ending March, and how I dreamed about a delicious summer garden salad. Now, we are having garden salad every day. Lettuce, radishes, onions, sugar snap peas, and lots of peppers tossed together with maybe some feta or blue cheese and a little olive oil and vinegar. Also putting a bed of garden lettuce under anything–tuna salad, salmon, chicken. Also adding a big leaf of lettuce to a sandwich. It’s time to celebrate lettuce.

As I wrote in the post Lettuce in June, 3 varieties of spring lettuce were finally successful, although it took some replanting effort to get them to germinate. Lesson learned. Use fresh seed every year. Try to buy only so much seed as can be used in a season. Cut down on the number of varieties per season. I’ll try to remember.

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I seem to have the lettuce varieties mixed up again. I do this every year. For sure, I know that the lettuce in the photo above is Crispino, an iceberg head lettuce that is my favorite. It works for cut-and-come-again lettuce for a time. The outer leaves are always big and perfect for holding a tuna salad or adding to a sandwich. After a time, the leaves get so tightly whorled together that it’s easiest just to cut the whole head and then start thinking that Crispino should have been replanted a few weeks ago to keep a continuous supply. Oh well.

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The photo above looks like a romaine lettuce, but I have it labeled as Bambi, a green bibb mini-head lettuce.

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On the other hand, the lettuce in the photo above is labeled as Concept, but it looks more like the Bambi pictured on Johnny’s Selected Seed website. The only thing I can do at this point is enjoy all this good lettuce until it’s gone, and then try to get a fall crop of lettuce started with more careful record-keeping and labeling, which I thought I was doing, but apparently not.

I got so annoyed by lack of germination with the lettuce, probably because I was planting pelleted seed for the second season, and with getting varieties mixed up, that I ordered 1 new variety from Johnny’s, Helvius, a midseason head lettuce that makes heavy dense hearts. If I plant only Helvius, and it germinates, at least I won’t get it mixed up with other varieties. Hard to mix up one variety.

Helvius is not listed in Johnny’s catalog, but its picture on Johnny’s website looks conducive to my lettuce philosophy of using heart, or head, lettuce for cut-and-come-again harvesting in the early stages of growth. It is reported to be heat tolerant.

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I planted Helvius in a raised bed on June 17, interspersed with some Sora radishes. Germination was sparse, as can be seen in the photo above, taken today, July 18.

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I haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks promising. The photo above was also taken today, right after a little shower of rain that left all the vegetable plants looking refreshed.

Now, with the garlic harvested and the leeks due for harvesting any day, there’s room in the vegetable garden to start thinking of a fall garden. Garlic and leeks are heavy feeders, so their vacated beds will need to be made ready for new crops. Worked over with the broadfork and compost incorporated.

Right now, I’m thinking about Helvius and Crispino for the fall garden. Lettuce germinates best at soil temps between 60° and 68°F., so bed covers will be needed–maybe even the heavier winter covers. Hmm. I’ve never had good luck with fall gardens, but maybe this year I will. Partly because I started this blog, I think, I’m more enthusiastic about keeping the vegetable garden going for as long as possible. Eliot Coleman says all winter in The Winter Harvest Handbook. We’ll see about that.

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