Looking at Lettuce

Big confession:  I don’t really like lettuce.  I’ll eat it, but mostly I like the things that go on top of it–raisins, nuts, croutons, cheese, mandarin oranges, apples, salad dressing, etc., depending on the season.  This is a problem, because it seems to me that most people who join a CSA do like lettuce, and expect me to grow it for them.  I’m been trying–2010 was the first year we had lettuce in the CSA share almost every week, and Josh gets the credit for that.  He made planting lettuce a priority, starting 5 trays of it every week, and worked hard to keep it watered, weeded, and shaded.

I’m hoping to build on the success of last year, so I’ve been planning very carefully, and developed a separate planting schedule for lettuce.  We’re going to be growing 21 different kinds throughout the season.  I figure, if you’re going to eat something every week, you might enjoy some diversity!  Some kinds do better in the spring and fall, others are more suited to the heat of summer.  There’s oak leaf and butterhead (also called Batavia or French Crisp) and romaine and summer crisp and regular leaf, and then there’s red varieties as well as green.  There’s also iceberg, but it can be challenging to grow and as far as vegetables go, it hardly counts.

We transplant all of our lettuce, starting it in the greenhouse.  We used to put each lettuce seed in its place by hand; this spring, I’m looking forward to using a wand seeder that will plant 8 seeds at a time.  Pictures of that will come later.   During the summer, we put the flats in the refrigerator for a day to ensure good germination.  After four weeks or so, they get transplanted into beds.  By the end of the growing season, we will have transplanted 11,776 lettuce plants.   We’ve tried growing those fancy salad mixes (sometimes called mesclun), but those need to be seeded directly into the ground, and we have too many competing weed seeds.

If you have a favorite or recommended kind of lettuce, let me know and I can try to work it into the plan. We’ll also try to be more conscientious about labeling the varieties of lettuce in the shares (i.e., “Emerald Oak” or “Adriana” instead of just “lettuce”) so you can give some feedback, too.  I hope you like lettuce, because you can look forward to a lot of it!

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