Posts tagged ‘lettuce’

Hot Season Lettuce

R asked me the other day whether it was too late to plant lettuce. The short answer is yes, it will bolt in the heat. Bolted lettuce is terrible. The long answer is, you can get around that. Here’s some tricks:

1. Give it lots of water. Lettuce is mostly comprised of water, so water frequently to keep it in shape. By frequently I mean daily, at least.

2. Give it nitrogen. Lettuce likes fertilizer. You can apply a balanced composted manure, or for a bigger nitrogen kick, apply fish meal or blood meal. Interplanting lettuce with soybeans is good too, so you can enjoy edamame and nitrogen fixing from a plant that will be roughly the same height. Another surprising nitrogen source is hair. Finely chopping up the (un-dyed/permed) hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. On another note, your soil loves toenails, but the wonders of human soil additives are best saved for another post.

3. Eat your sprouts. Make sure you are thinning your lettuce crop as it grows, so that the plants have room to grow. Lettuce can’t bolt before it’s mature, so eat salad every day. With leaf lettuce, you can also harvest single leaves from the plant, so that it continues to produce new leaves without having a chance to reach its bolting stage. This reminds me of another tip:

4. Plant leaf lettuces, not head lettuces. Head lettuces are harder to grow, even in the appropriate season. Plus, there are more fun varieties. Check the seed packets for varieties that say they’re resistant to heat or bolting.

4. Shade it. Keep it out of full sun, because lettuce isn’t a fan of summer weather. If you’ve ever moved a plant into natural sunlight without adjusting it first, you’ve probably seen that plants can get a sunburn (whitening of the leaves). Lettuce is the Irishman of the veggie patch: it sunburns easily, and then it’s cranky. Either plant it in part shade, install a shade cloth, or plant tall things to shade it.

5. Use containers. A soil-less potting mix retains water better than earth, so container planting can be a good solution if you’re more neglectful. Just remember to plant it in clay, not plastic, so that the roots stay cool.

May 29, 2009 at 10:56 am 3 comments

You asked Google, I answer:

I’ve noticed a lot of people are arriving here at Living Lime on search terms with some variation of “buttercrunch lettuce” and “lime” (as in ground limestone for the garden). Hopefully I can help you find what you’re looking for:

1. Leaf Lettuces:
– are delicious, but have to be planted in cool weather, and give them frequent, short watering (most other plants want infrequent deep watering). If leaf lettuces bolt (suddenly grow tall and flower), you may as well just let them seed and try again, because they’ll be bitter.

– How to harvest? pick it. Early in the morning is the best time, whenever the leaves are big enough to eat.

– If you plant the seeds close together, then you can thin the lettuce patch by eating it. This will help you grow more in less space. Even better is if you mix a bunch of leaf lettuce seeds together in one spot, so you get a tasty salad mix.

– companion planting: beans, kohlrabi carrots, alliums(onion family), radishes. Avoid celery, cabbage, cress, parsley.

2. Horticultural lime:
– is excellent for raising the Ph of your soil for alkaline loving plants. But unless a soil test has told you your soil is too acidic, you probably don’t need it for this use. Your plants like soil that’s full of organic matter, even if it makes the soil more acidic. I wouldn’t recommend applying lime unless you’ve done a soil test, because you don’t want to be mucking about with your soil’s pH if it’s already perfect. It can damage plants and drinking water supplies.

– is often used for adding calcium to the soil, which is particularly useful for preventing blossom end rot in peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants (the fruit gets sunken dark patches of rot on the bottom). More likely, your peppers just need more consistent water conditions, as peppers have difficulty taking up nutrients if they go through periods of drought. Bone meal delivers calcium but is also high in phosphorous (= strong roots), so I’d rather use that than lime. I’ve also read that that you can put a Tums tablet in the bottom of the hole when you plant, as the calcium is more available in that form, and it only goes where you need it.

Blossom End Rot:

-lime is best applied in the fall, because it needs time to break down. Adding it in the spring isn’t really going to help with calcium levels for your new plantings.

-If you’re going to use lime, Don’t ever apply lime mixed with a chemical fertilizer. Even with natural fertilizers, it’s best applied at a different time, because nitrogen + lime = ammonia + negated nutritional benefit to your plants. Also, don’t apply lime two years in a row, or you’re just asking for trouble.

-If you’re sure you want to apply lime, use a face mask. Trust me, you don’t want it in your lungs.

May 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

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