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In the Vegetable Patch: Late Salad Greens


Just about the time you’re giving up on the rest of the vegetable patch you can make a second planting to enjoy late salad greens far into the season. Gardeners are often frustrated and disappointed when lettuce seeds germinate poorly in second plantings, until they learn that the problem is too much warmth.

Germinating Seeds

Lettuces need cool temperatures to germinate but by this time of year the soil has become thoroughly warm and daytime air temperatures often are warm too. If this is the problem in your garden, scatter your lettuce seeds on moist potting mix in small flats that will fit into your refrigerator. After a few days of chilling the flats can be moved to a cool spot, in a garage or basement for example, until germination is complete. Keeping the flats inside open plastic bags will help maintain steady moisture required for germination. After the seedlings are an inch or so high you can transplant them to a bed of loose soil in the garden. Do this on a cloudy day and be sure to move some of the potting mix with the roots when you transplant.

Best Varieties

It’s better to use leaf lettuce for late plantings because it tolerates higher temperatures than does iceberg. It grows faster, too. While red tip and oak leaf are always good choices, your Growise Center experts can recommend several varieties of lettuce seed for late planting. Try mixing in some peppercress seed to add zing to your late season salads. It germinates easily and grows fast.

Quick Harvest

It’s not necessary to wait for lettuce to reach mature size. Begin harvesting as soon as the leaves are large enough to handle. Instead of pulling the plants out by the roots cut the leaves with scissors. Always leave a few leaves on each plant to keep it growing so that if the season continues long enough you may make more than one cutting on a plant as new growth emerges.

Season Extender

It’s easy to keep your second lettuce crop going into cold weather if you cover it lightly with a row cover. These covers admit light and moisture but mediate cold temperatures. To harvest lettuce once you’ve covered it, simply fold back the cover in one spot, make your cuttings, and return the cover.



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