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 dont 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, Schweitzers
Mesher Bibb, Winter Density, North Pole, Brune Dhiver 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, dont 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. Dont allow heat to build up and fry your plants, or let
too much moisture turn them into rotting mush.