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In the Vegetable Patch: Lettuce all Winter

by Lynn Hunt

In most regions, the vegetable growing season lasts about five months from May till October. When chilly autumn winds start to blow and frost threatens, most of us pack up the seeds and gardening tools and head indoors for the duration. However if you don’t want to give up the pleasure of freshly picked veggies like lettuce, try extending your growing season. All you need is the right seeds and some extra protection to keep your harvest going.

Choose cold-hardy seeds.

Although lettuce is a cool weather crop, some varieties perform better than others when temperatures dip. Little Gem Mini Romaine, Schweitzer’s Mesher Bibb, Winter Density, North Pole, Brune D’hiver and Red Deer Tongue are all good choices for the fall and winter garden. The semi-romaine lettuce Sucrine is especially resistant to cold and has an excellent flavor. Find out the date of the first killing frost in your area, then sow seeds about five weeks ahead of time. If bad weather catches you by surprise, don’t worry. Lettuce seedlings are tough and can withstand light frosts. However, you will need to provide protection when harsh weather sets in.

Keeping out the cold.

There are a number of ways to keep your lettuce seedlings safe and warm. In studies conducted at the University of New Hampshire, spunbound row covers protected lettuce all winter even during harsh cold. Cold frames, glass or fiberglass cloches and plastic-enclosed cages (using 4- or 6-mil plastic) can do the same thing. Ask your Growise expert for advice on which method is best for your zone. Whichever you choose, be sure to consider ventilation and keep an eye on the heat and moisture levels within your mini greenhouse. Don’t allow heat to build up and fry your plants, or let too much moisture turn them into rotting mush.



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