Lettuce is a cool weather crop. Most people grow lettuce as a spring crop, and so do I. But my favorite time of year to grow lettuce is the fall. Here’s why:
- It’s easy to start lettuce indoors around the first of August to be set out in early September. There is a lot less competition for space on my seed starting shelves this time of year.
- Even if you start your lettuce from seed outdoors it gets a good start in the warm weather but matures later in the fall.
- Transplants set out in September are very unlikely to suffer much shock because of the cooler temps.
- It is very rare that you have problems with the lettuce being bitter. Instead of the weather getting hotter as the plants mature, it is getting cooler. This makes for some really tasty salads
- Pest populations are usually declining in the fall, after the first freeze or two nearly all pests are gone.
- I find you have very little problem with tip burn in the fall, again this come from the fact that temperatures are declining in the fall.
- If you do your succession planting correctly the fall lettuce season will last several months longer than the spring crop. We usually starting eating the first fall lettuce around September 1st and we usually finish up the last of our fall lettuce around the end of December. That’s 4 months, compared to May and June in the spring.
- Over all I think fall lettuce just tastes better. Even when the plants get bigger, the leaves stay tender and don’t get bitter.
- With a cold frame, a mild winter and good succession planting you can extend that harvest through the winter and into the spring
We have 4 types of lettuce in the fall garden this year.
Butter Crunch – This is a bib lettuce that eventually forms a loose head of leaves. This one is by far our favorite. It has a nice “leafy” leaf, but also has a really crispy stalk.
Black Seeded Simpson – this is a leaf lettuce that has a great taste and is also an open pollinated so you can save seeds.
Paris Island Cos – This is pretty close to a romaine lettuce. 2011 was the first year we planted this variety and it quickly earned a spot in our rotation. Its large crispy leaves make great salads.
Larry’s Red Leaf – We really don’t know the name of this variety it’s a tasty red leaf lettuce. It is an open pollinated variety and a friend of mine gave me some seeds to get me started. So we named it after him
The other nice thing about fall is there are plenty of other salad ingredients around. We usual have kale, chard, radishes, carrots, cherry tomatoes and sorrel to add to the mix to make for a super tasty salad. So next fall be sure to plan ahead and get a big crop of lettuce planted!!