In many parts of the country, it may be much too warm–not to mention much too dry–to even think about planting fall leaf lettuces. In my part of the country–the northeast–this is about the time that I begin to think about it and this year I’ll probably start sowing my seeds this weekend. It’s been a cool enough summer–I just pulled out the last of my lettuce two weeks ago–and of course I need to give the seeds time to germinate and grow.
(As an aside, a big “thank you” to Renee’s Garden, who, as you can see, provided half the seed packages to me. Renee’s Garden has a wonderful trial program for garden writers and I am greatly indebted to them for it!)
Traditionally in my garden the nights start to cool down by mid-August. That’s when I really notice the loss of light too. Suddenly I realize it’s getting darker much earlier than it used to, and if I want to do chores in the evening I need to get out earlier–I’m not going to have daylight until 8 or 8:30 the way I did in June or July.
With that darkness also comes more coolness-just the sort of weather that leafy crops like.
I’ll sow a row of seeds in my raised beds tucked in among the tomatoes somewhere. This year, probably because of the lettuce that was there in the spring, I spaced my tomatoes badly so I have some weird gaps now. I can just sow lettuce back in those gaps.
I tend to sow my lettuce seeds rather thickly. It can always be thinned–and the thinned leaves used for early salads, of course.
In the fall, seeds tend to take a little longer to germinate too–maybe 10 days instead of a week.
I’ll probably put in some radishes as well. I have one, ‘Watermelon’, that is supposed to be great for fall growing. We’ll see. You can use those thinnings for salads as well.
Our fall season here tends to be much longer than our spring–which is often cold and wet. Unless we have a freak storm like last year, autumn can often extend almost to Thanksgiving. With some protection, leafy crops can grow late into the season.
Isn’t that nicer than buying them from the store?
Territorial Seed Company has a lovely guide to fall greens on their web site (they also have great seeds and a great variety of organic seeds if you cannot find them nearby). I found it interesting that they said that bitterness can often be reduced by washing lettuce in warm water.
Most likely because I’m a wimp I do exactly that. I also grow lettuce much later than it is reasonable to do so and don’t seem to have a problem with bitterness. Perhaps that’s the reason why and I just didn’t know it!