by Jennifer Banks-Doll
The first in a series about lettuce.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love kale and it seems to do so well on Quadra. But when I served our first lettuce salad of the year we could not get enough of those buttery leaves! We virtually rejoiced at the dawn of lettuce season.
Last year we had the most amazing lettuce crop! We have a perfect spot in our garden for lettuce, with partial shade from a mountain ash on the west side. I planted many beautiful varieties there and it did so well that we were able to give quite a bit away. We couldn’t keep up with all that eating!
This year I decided to plant in the same spot. The Johnny Jump-Ups got there first, and my kids got there next and planted a bunch more flowers to keep them company, and installed a little path to enjoy it all by. So by the time my lettuce starts were ready to go in, there was not much space left. I didn’t mind as I really didn’t think I would need the same amount of lettuce as last year. Plus I planned to succession plant it in other spots around the garden as well as summer went on. So I plugged in my starts and waited for them to grow big enough to eat.
Soon I started to notice that something was awry. It got to the point where every day I started finding dead lettuce plants. It looked like cutworm damage where the lettuce plant is cut off at the stem, just below the soil. Usually when this happens I can find the culprit and dispatch it.. But I have not found a single cutworm this year and the devastation continues. Other pests have joined in and started attacking the leaves. I am going out daily to salvage what I can, but most of my original starts have been taken out at this point. I could blame my autumn leaf mulch, but it has so many benefits too…
I have direct seeded a bunch more lettuce in all the empty space. But I’m also looking for other options. I am going to try other ways to get my lettuce fix!
I was at On Route Greenhouse the other day and noticed a gorgeous container of full heads of especially pretty varieties of lettuce. I asked Marie if she had any tips for growing lettuce this way. She adds some manure and complete organic fertilizer to a potting mix and plants in that. She can put the container in nice cool spot, and when it threatens to go to seed, harvest and start all over. I have the perfect wide and shallow container to start my cutworm free-lettuce pot.
Stay tuned for part 2 where local “Queen of Starts” Karen Dunn will share her trick for getting lettuce off to a good “start.”
UPDATE: After posting my lettuce problem on Facebook, a local gardener suggested it could be wire worms taking out my lettuce. I do have a lot of wire worms but I did not realize they killed lettuce plants. Sure enough the next dead lettuce plant I found had a wire worm sticking out of the cut stem. Buggers! Today I am laying carrot and potato wireworm traps in my lettuce bed…and planting some lettuce in a container without wireworms :).
How is your lettuce doing this year? Please scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a comment.