Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adventures in Lettuce

Cool weather season is time for many things in the garden, planting bare root trees, starting warm season veggies from seed, but also growing cool weather loving veggies, such as snap peas and lettuce.

With that in mind, I've started a small lettuce plot.

(Picture courtesty of Terrior Seeds, Heirloom Lettuce Seeds http://store.underwoodgardens.com/Lettuce/products/20/0/4)

The picture above is from Terrior Seeds and is a Romaine blend of Cimarron, Freckles, Jericho and Paris White Cos.  According the Terrior, the seeds are supposed to grow to a head of lettuce in 50-85 days. 
At first, I wanted to grow all my lettuce from seed, just like the picture above.  It's supposed to be easy.  Plant the seed, it grows - right?!?  Well, after much effort and weeks of waiting, watering, misting, hoping, I managed to grow 4 - count them 4 - romaine lettuce to the size that they could be transplanted.  They stand about 3 inches tall.  They look impressive (to me at least!), but far from the size of a head of lettuce that you see in the grocery stores.  Frustrated at the wait and the loss of about 75% of the little ones I planted, I found some Romaine 6-packs from Lowes.  These guys did better - I got about 50% of them to grow to full size.  The rest wilted and fell over at the base.  Not sure what happened exactly.  I think maybe I over watered.  One place to get answers is San Diego Master Gardeners  http://www.mastergardenerssandiego.org/.  You can also call the Master Gardener's hotline at (858) 694-2860.  They are staffed from M-F, 9am - 3pm.  The help is free!  I've just called and left a message for some help on my lettuce, as it's after hours and they are closed and say they'll call back - hope they do!

In the end, I bought more transplant size lettuce from the garden center and these did better.  I now have enough growing to collect a bowl of lettuce about once a week.  Still, my goal is to grow all my lettuce, so I kept looking...and found a site online that talks about Hydroponic lettuce.  Neat!  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs184  At this site is a plan to build a large passive hydroponic lettuce garden.  It might look small in the picture, but this is 4 feet x 8 feet and grows around 32 lettuces!  Yay - one a day for a month, perfect!

This site from the University of Florida extension office also has a handy video that walks you through the building, step-by-step...http://vfd.ifas.ufl.edu/suwanneevalley/hydroponicgreenhouse/building_a_floating_hydroponic_garden.shtml .  It's pretty amazing...like 'This Old House' but for the garden.  I will give an update once I've got my hydroponic lettuce garden going!