UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Let Us Plant Lettuce

It's Fall in Sunset  Zone 9. Nights are in the low fifties, our highest day this week is 81, and day length is about is about 11 hours 28 minutes. What can we grow?

Let us grow lettuce! Sure, other things end up in salad, but right now I am talking about Lactuca sativa. Some of us can probably grow lettuce year-round, but with its cool day preference, 7-14 days germination time, as few as 45 days to harvest, and range of textures and colors, it's the perfect thing for me to grow and harvest through the holidays!

There are many cultivars, and four major varieties of lettuce:

  • Cos or Romaines. These grow upright and crisp, and handle a bit of heat. The mini Romain  Little Gem, is said to have the best qualities of romaine and butterhead .
  • Butterhead or bibb lettuces mature early into small heads with ruffled outer leaves surrounding a soft heart. They are appreciated for sweet, tender leaves.
  • Summer crisp, French crisp, or Batavian lettuce does well with cool days but they can also stand up to a little heat. 
  • Leaf lettuces include “Oakleaf”,  “Salad Bowl”, and “Black Seeded Simpson”.  They are harvested as leaves, are often included in a “Mesclun”, which means “mix”, and are often “cut and come again”.
    photos by Nanelle Jones-Sullivan

Lettuce can be grown indoors when it's too hot or cold outside. Since we are still getting days above 80 here in Vacaville, I will be starting seed inside, then moving seedlings out in to containers when it cools off. This time I am planting Little Gem, a fast maturing miniature that is said to combine the best of romaine and the best of the bibbs.  I will also grow  fast and  loose-leaf lettuces Lolla Rosa, Oakleaf,  in a mix that works as a “cut and come again “.

With root depths of around ten inches, both do really well in containers. They can be sown closely together  at first, then thinned, or harvested slowly,  by picking the outer leaves of the plant while the center leaves are left to grow.

Lettuce will grow slowly during dark, cool months, but floating row covers can protect from damaging pests like snails, slugs, and earwigs.

Here's to salad days!

lettuce 2
lettuce 2

Posted on Monday, December 4, 2023 at 12:00 AM

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