Garden Fresh: A Lettuce Patch

Outredgeous Red variety
Outredgeous Red variety
Photo by John Kiely

The reason I grow lettuce in cool weather is not because I eat a lot of salads, but rather I don't eat a lot of salads. Lettuce doesn't store well in the refrigerator; worse, it becomes unappetizing before it looks, smells, or tastes bad, but after a salad has been made.

Garden lettuce leaves can also be plucked off the plant and chopped up for garnish, for instance, in tacos or hamburgers.

The best varieties to grow in Houston are leaf lettuces, romaines, and bibb lettuces. Iceberg lettuce is not a proper selection, as it easily gets freeze damage (despite its name), which is something we can expect more of, with the disturbed climate.

Lettuce can be started from seed, but it needs light to germinate, so just scratch it into the soil and water it, but don't cover it. It's easier to buy transplants, and the Outredgeous Red leaf lettuce variety I planted last week is thriving already.

Lettuce requires weekly fertilization, heavy on the nitrogen, but just about any commonly available fertilizer will do. The lettuce will began to mature in anywhere from 45 to 75 days. If it grows too long it might start to become bitter, but two days in the refrigerator will lessen the bitterness.

Lastly, the lettuce will survive a light freeze, but extended temperatures of 28˚ or below will whack it, so cover it up and add some Christmas tree lights if those nights come along, and you'll have some holiday green you can eat.



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