Lettuce By Any Other Name

Lettuce By Any Other Name

New lettuce plants.

New lettuce plants.

Lettuce is a name for a Tokyo Mew Mew anime character, a rager band [sorry, no link], a group of ladies [no, no link], an initiative to prevent e. coli eruptions, a Sydney taxi driver with a blog, a Yuma Lettuce Days festival, and, well, you get the idea. Pets are probably named Lettuce. Just google lettuce. It’s amazing. Doesn’t anyone use the name as a food?

According to that ol’ standby Wikipedia:

The lettuce plant has a short stem initially (a rosette growth habit), but when it blooms, the stem lengthens, branches, and produces many flower heads that look like those of dandelions, but smaller. This is referred to as bolting. When grown to eat, lettuce is harvested before it bolts. Lettuce is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera.

Perhaps they should know that lettuce is also used as a food plant by slugs, snails, birds, a certain large gray cat of unknown origin, and humans.

Easy way to start lettuce

Easy way to start lettuce

Netted pots

Netted pots

Young lettuce transplants

Young lettuce transplants

Planting lettuce can be a real pain if you don’t follow my perfected plan. The perfected part is that I now don’t have to thin those very over-crowded, very small plants when they get big enough to be crowding each other. Heres the way to do it:
  • Fill a flower pot, or nursery pot, or leaky soup pot (anything that drains well) with some fine fluffy dirt.
  • Sprinkle those tiny seeds on top.
  • Use a stick or finger to gently move the seeds around so that they are not too crowded.
  • Cover with 1/8? to 1/4? very fine soil. (read the package)
  • Keep watered. Water gently with a mist.
  • When the plants are large enough to transplant, gently tip out the seedling pot, set the ball of soil in a bucket in a few inches of water, twirl your fingers around in the water to loosen those tiny roots.
  • Gently separate the little plants, pulling out each one to plant in a hole in their final home.

You can see from the photo that I cover the nurseries with nylon netting, to keep out the slugs. One of our large slugs has been know to devour the entire pot of young lettuce in one night. I actually found the marauder hiding under the pot. He’s gone now.

Lettuce comes in lots of varieties. This year I have, so far, planted New Red Fire, a leaf lettuce; Continuity, a butterhead; Buttercrunch, a butterhead, and Romulus, a romian. All from Territorial Seed. There are other varieties, sometimes including the word “summer” to indicate that they are slower to bolt in the summer heat.

Just after setting out the seedlings, we had heavy rain and wind for several days. The little starts did get rather battered, but they now seem to be coming out of it. For the purpose of this article as a garden log, I planted the lettuce seed on March 21, transplanted the seedlings on May 8. Now is the time to start another crop. I’d better get busy.

12 Responses to “Lettuce By Any Other Name”

  1. i can eat raw lettuce and i love the taste of it. Lettuce is also very nutritious.”*

  2. i love to eat pickled lettuce and also raw lettuce, it really taste great”;”

  3. Liam Martin says:

    we always want to put lettuce in our vegetagble salads and vegetable soups.:’~

  4. i love to eat freshly picked lettuce.

  5. Jan says:

    Thanks, drfugawe, for all the tips. The slug bait I use is pelleted, contains iron phosphate (I think that’s the stuff), is safe in case birds, dogs, cats, etc. get it, and I only put it outside the actual garden beds. It really seems to have worked so far, except for the really, really small slugs in the store lettuce starts. Those tiny guys probably never got outside the raised bed. Tomatoes: always a tricky problem here. We get late blight almost every year. Even Cisco Morris talks about it. Last year was blight free, however. So, what’s with that?
    Have a great garden this year.

  6. drfugawe says:

    Hi Jan,
    Yeah, those slugs are the worst! An additional benefit of the plastic over the seedling pots is that they keep the slugs out. I’ve discovered that the slug bait that looks like raw wheat bran (I think it is raw wheat bran with chemicals added!) actually acts as a retardant to germination for new seeds – so watch out for that stuff.

    Yes, I start the seedlings in the pots in the greenhouse (actually like a giant cold frame). My sense is that the sun coming into the greenhouse is not as hard on the seedlings as is the open sun outside – but until the seeds germinate, I keep them in the shade – when the plastic comes off, they get some sun exposure. I don’t fear the effects of the sun’s rays in the greenhouse as much as I do the way it can quickly heat up in there.

    For most transplantable seeds, I try to start them about 6 weeks before I’ll want to set them out – for stuff like tomatoes, I think even starting them in Feb is good, for an early June transplant (I don’t put my tomatoes out until the soil temp is at least 60F – I’ve proven to myself that if I put them out too early, they just sit there and do nothing until the soil warms – so now I wait, and always plant under black plastic.

    I use another trick with tomatoes – after they are about 6 weeks old, I transplant into 1 gal pots and place them in a dark area of the greenhouse where they have to “reach” for the sun – this produces a very “leggy” plant maybe two feet high at transplant time – then I dig a very deep hole with lots of compost at the bottom, and put the plant down in there so that only about 6-8″ of it is above ground level – break off any branches that will be underground. The tomato will then develop roots all up and down that section of buried stalk and create an amazingly strong plant with super productivity – this really works well.

    I’ve heard others say that your area is a fantastic place to grow things – good luck this year.

  7. Jan says:

    Hi drfugawe,
    Nope. Western Washington islands, er, peninsula. Long ferry ride to work in Seattle, but better than driving. Keep your ideas coming!

  8. Jan says:

    Hi drfugawe,
    Thanks for your tips! I’m actually in Western Washington state – out on the Kitsap peninsula, near Poulsbo. Are your plastic-covered pots in the shade? So they don’t boil? When do you start the seedlings? We had Muscovy ducks at another house – they were supposed to eat the slugs. They DID eat the slugs, but only if I chopped them up first, sauteed them in a little butter, and fed the ducks with a spoon. Now I just use Sluggo or a flashlight at night with a locking hemostat. My little lettuce starts didn’t get big enough fast enough this year, so I actually bought starts, only to now find the big heads full of microscopic baby slugs. Weird. But maybe the store starts are acting as a trap for future slug adults, because my baby starts are still fine this year.
    Thanks for writing!

  9. drfugawe says:

    Opps – sorry, I thought I remembered reading that you were in the BC islands.

  10. drfugawe says:

    I use a process quite similar to yours (Great minds …, huh?) – I’ve got a 12×8′ greenhouse (unheated) where I start seedlings, etc. – allow me to add a few “refinements” to your perfected plan:

    * I sprinkle the let seed over my potting soil and cover with 1/4″ of sterile playground sand (get at Home Depot/Lowes – do you have these in BC?) – I also use this sand when broadcasting seed directly into garden – good stuff!

    * After watering initially, I cover the 1 gal pots with plastic wrap and a large rubber band – this creates a mini greenhouse effect inside the pot, retaining moisture and is a bit warmer than outside the pot – it speeds germination – after I start seeing emerging seedlings, I remove plastic.

    * So as not to shock my seedlings, I move the more mature ones first to a sunnier part of my greenhouse, then to a shady outdoor location before finally transplanting into the final garden spot.

    I too have lost much to the slugs/snails, but we have some help from a strange source, a flock of local wild turkeys! They are quite tame, and wander from yard to yard – they love gardens, since slugs are a prime part of their diet (makes one wonder why we love turkey!), and they don’t seem to ever bother any growing plant (I think.). I love it!

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