Crisp, tender lettuce, the most desirable of all salad plants, can only be grown with the strictest attention to its moisture, soil, and climatic requirements. For the home gardener heirloom lettuce seeds may be divided into three categories: (1) Tight, crisp, nearly white head lettuce with a cabbage like head. (2) Loose, so called leaf or garden lettuce where, although there is a head, it is looser, and with many more outer green leaves. (3) Cos or Romaine lettuce, which is cylindrical, has long, relatively loose leaves.
Raising Lettuce from Seed
Sowing heirloom lettuce seeds should be timed so that they are transplanted to the garden just as soon as the ground can be worked. Having determined your earliest safe date for outdoor culture, allow 8 to 10 weeks before this date to begin indoor operations. Start by sowing the seed in tiny drills in flats an keep in a cool greenhouse or in a hotbed. If you have neither, put the box in the kitchen window (but not if you have a gas stove). Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of finely sifted soil. In a few days the plants will be up and as soon as they are 2 inches high, they must be pricked out and spaced about 2 inches each way when planted in the garden.
Care While Growing Heirloom Lettuce Seeds
Lettuce needs loose well drained soil; in hot summer areas, light shading at midday helps. Water regularly; feed lightly and frequently. Sow heirloom lettuce seeds in open ground at ten day intervals, starting after frost as soon as the soil is workable. Lettuces should be hoed, and watered if necessary. Mulching is also beneficial.
Soil and Climate
Heirloom lettuce seeds like cool moist conditions. They will grow well in shade, and are inclined to bolt, or run too quickly too seed, in hot sun. Thus they do best in cooler and moister climates, and should only be grown in winter if you live in a hot climate. In order to grow lettuces well you need rich soil. The ground should be well drained but humus rich in order to retain water. Lettuces will not grow well in heavy clay soils, raised beds are ideal for lettuce.
Harvesting and Storing
Lettuces will not store and lettuces that have been stuffed inside a refrigerator for days are worthless. So pull them when you want them making sure that the roots come out with the lettuce. Do not let them grow to seed (unless you want seed), but pull them before they have a chance to bolt, and give them to your poultry or put them on your compost heap when they become over ripe.
Pests and Diseases
Cut worm: Cut worms sometimes gnaw into the stems of seedlings near the ground. If your lettuces suffer badly from this, you should place collars around the seedlings when you plant them out. This will also discourage slugs, who love to eat lettuces.
Lettuce rot: In some gardens there is a rot which comes from the soil and may attack the lettuces spreading through the plants. This can be prevented by a layer of sand on top of the ground around each lettuce. With proper rotation, however, this should not be a problem.
Heirloom Pepper Varieties
Bibb – The small, somewhat loose head is tender with a distinctive flavor. The tender and mild taste is great for children and picky eaters.