Monday, July 5, 2010

Let Us Celebrate Lettuce!

"Lettuce is like conversation," said the American editor and author Charles Dudley Warner. "It must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it."

That pretty much sums up the abundance of lettuce and greens in our garden this year. The unseasonably cool temperatures and wet weather provided ideal growing conditions for these plants. Often the dinner salad fixings were so pretty I'd have to take a picture, which is how I got the one above.

This year, I grew everything from spotted and red romaines to arugula, mustard, tatsoi and kale. Colorful radishes ranged from the striking 'Long Scarlet' to 'Purple Plum' and pastel 'Easter Egg.'

I'll sow seeds for salad greens, wherever I can. Here's a bed where I tossed different seeds together for radicchio, lettuces, kales, mustard greens and more. It's a wild look, which also works well for containers.

Eventually, I let the greens form flowers as the temperatures rise. Then I'll pick the flowers for a vase. So, we can snip off edible, spicy flowers right at the table. And the flowers left in the garden help to self-seed new plants for next year.

Some greens are pretty enough for a prominent position in your ornamental beds. This 'Leonardo' radicchio is a favorite. The leaves add a beautiful, slightly bitter taste to salads. As you can see above, this plant grows nicely next to baby kales and other greens.

Don't have a lot of space? Lots of greens like these butterhead lettuces grow nicely in a small pot. As temperatures rise, move these cool-weather plants into partial shade and water well. Lettuces prefer rich, well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter.

If I could only pick one green to grow, I'd pick 'Forellenschluss' romaine lettuce ... called "speckled trout" lettuce in English. I sow this Austrian heirloom directly into my raised beds, in neat rows.

This variety handles cool temperatures and heat well. In fact, it's the last salad green to bolt in my gardens. You'll love the way this delicious lettuce holds its shape well with salad dressings, and it's beauty will impress your friends. If you can't find this delightful variety at your local garden center, try Seed Savers Exchange.

Fall Greens: There's still time to plant lettuce for the autumn. Simply, count back from your average first frost date and allow enough time for the lettuce to grow before then. Most varieties take about 30 to 60 days to grow, and you can pick the leaves while they're still small. Some varieties perform well with a little frost, as long as the ground hasn't yet frozen.

With a little effort, you can enjoy all types of greens well into the fall.

Want more information?
Here's lettuce growing tips from Clemson University. Plus, tips for growing radishes. Happy growing.


  1. Wonderful post! I adore all kinds of lettuce and finally started my own tinny patch. I will for sure try the 'Forellenschluss' romaine.

    The only drawback is that I have to be willing to share the harvest with my fat-and-happy-neighborhood-groundhog!

  2. Hi Viviana: I hope you do try Forellenschluss romaine sometime. It's my staple salad green, which I mix with the other types for variety. Sorry to hear about your fat groundhog, but at least he's happy. Right? Thanks for stopping by. Warm regards, Teresa

  3. Looks like you've had amazing success this year with the lettuces. Now do you plant Summer-friendly lettuces from seed? Or from the nursery?

  4. Hi Kathy: I almost always plant lettuces and greens from seeds. They perform much better than transplants for me.

    Right no I have a few more pots of arugula and greens in partial shade, and there are some 'Forellenschluss' romaines in my raised bed... but most of it has started to bolt from the summer sun in recent days. So, gradually I'll pull it up, and give it a rest. Then in September, I'll sow more seeds for a fall harvest. This works particularly well with kales and spicy greens, etc... Thanks for stopping by. Teresa

  5. I found you through Blotanical. Thanks for the Lettuce article. I'm new to veggie gardening and wondering why my Green Leaf lettuce is bitter! I planted other Summer Lettuce such as Red Sails and Summer European and are now 4" tall, hope those don't bolt. My husband and I are planning to visit his cousin in Eagle, Idaho. It will be our first time. It's a possible place for us to move. We're in CA now but due to circumstances we might have to move out of state. Please tell me how Idaho is like. Your garden is beautiful! Hope you have a chance to visit my blog. Thanks :)

  6. Hi Priscilla: I was a California transplant here too. You should definitely check out Eagle, as well as Boise (particularly in the North End, etc...) The city offers a nice quality of living and plenty of outdoors activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and skiing near by. Thanks for visiting. Let me know what you think of Idaho. Best regards, Teresa

  7. Thanks for the advice, we will visit Idaho soon, hopefully. I'm following you through Networked blogs too since I'm always on facebook. Great garden and blog you have!

  8. Thanks and best of luck to you... Teresa

  9. Hey Teresa,

    I was hoping you would be in Buffa10. I will not be at GWA so I'm going to miss you again.

    I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the soon to be launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!

    I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence's blog


    I hope you are doing well!


  10. Helen: What! I was so looking forward to seeing you at GWA. Oh well, there's always next year. Thanks a bunch for including this blog on the NC Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll. What a nice honor... readers will find your blog on my favorite garden blogs list. Sending you the best wishes! Teresa

  11. Yes! This Forellenschluss is the same as the "Freckles" lettuce that did so well for me this year up here in Vermont. I've never had such a good harvest of lettuce, and it was very slow to bolt.

  12. Nelly: I agree completely! 'Forellenschluss' is my all-time favorite lettuce for all the reasons you mentioned, plus the wonderful flavor. Thanks for stopping by. Teresa