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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 11, 2020
Q . I need some advice on growing lettuce successfully in hot, dry summer weather. My lettuces tend to dry up in these conditions.
A. Fine lettuces can be grown through the summer. First, choose heat-tolerant varieties. Catalogue listings and seed packets indicate suitable varieties.
The Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogue begins its vast lettuce listings with a charted guide to preferred varieties for early, mid, and late-season harvesting. The mid-season varieties are planted in late spring and early summer for hot weather (mid and late summer) harvesting.
Red Cross, one of the best red butterhead lettuces I’ve grown, is described as heat-tolerant in the catalogue. Johnny’s beautiful, tasty Salanova lettuce blends “hold their flavour without growing bitter.” I’ve found the Salanova Home Garden Mix to be very reliable for growing spring through early autumn.
West Coast Seeds notes that Buttercrunch “doesn’t become bitter in hot weather,” and Alkindus, a red butterhead, is “very slow to bolt (to seed). Ours stood in the field trials into mid-August.”
It’s worthwhile trying a few new varieties each year, to determine the most reliable in your conditions for summer growing.
For the easiest possible summer lettuce production, move seedlings and transplants to lightly shaded areas as the weather begins warming. I transplant lettuces on the north (shaded) side and right at the bases of tall plantings like staked tomatoes and trellised pea vines. Or, create shade with old screening or commercial shading materials available at garden supply stores.
Another key element in successful lettuce growing is the soil. A fertile, humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil gives the plants the best possible support for good growth in hot weather. A plump soil produces plump lettuces.
Lettuce needs water. Don’t let the soil dry out. As temperatures rise, arrange a heat-reflecting, soil-shading, moisture-retaining mulch around the plants. Chopped straw and dried grass clippings are examples of materials useful for this purpose.
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