Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an easy-to-grow vegetable, as long as the weather remains cool; in my gardening 6B zone, this imposes short growing windows, either in early spring, or during the fall. In my garden, trying to successfully grow lettuce directly from seed has proven elusive from this limitation. In the spring, sprouts welt with sudden heat waves, or start bolting (shooting bloom stems) and turning bitter as soon as the summer heat hits the yard; in the fall, the seed just rots from all the rain. Many gardeners tackle this problem by starting seed indoors under a grow light, and transferring the strong seedlings to the ground as soon as the conditions are favourable, giving the crop a huge head start. This method works great for me in late-winter/spring; I tried it for the fall season one year, but it just seemed to me like too much waste, since there was plenty of light outdoors; I also lacked the discipline to remember the crop in the basement (I mean, summer, right?) and check on the seedlings to make sure they had enough water. I came to a compromise of growing my spring lettuce and enjoy it until early summer, then buying lettuce for the rest of the year. One of the varieties available at my local supermarket is hydroponic Bibb lettuce, grown in small plugs of inert media, partnered with nutrient-rich water; they come in packs of two, with their roots still attached:
As the weather turned cooler in September, it occurred to me that saving the core and roots from them and plant them in the garden could work in a similar way to transferring basement-grown seedlings, with the advantage of having a much stronger and well-established root system.
Back on September 14, I had a package with two heads of lettuce. I removed most of the leaves for my salad of the day, then I placed the cores with roots attached in a bowl of water; this particular batch came with the roots still in their plastic plugs (photo below, left). Later that evening, I removed the plastic plugs, loosened the roots slightly and planted the two lettuce cores (photo below, right):
On September 20, I had another two left-over cores with roots (left on the photo below); also, notice the first batch (on the right) already growing new leaves, after just one week in the ground:
A nice feature of growing lettuce is that it has a shallow root system, so it may be inter-planted wherever there is a spot in the garden. In the photo above, a tomatillo stem may be seen between my two batches of lettuce. Fast forward to October 5 (just between 2 and 3 weeks since transplanting) and I had four florid heads of lettuce:
The tomatillo crop was harvested a couple of days earlier, so the stem is now gone, leaving the pretty lettuce patch unharmed. There is still time to grow another couple of batches before the hard frost comes around. Today I harvested the two heads shown at the top of this post; I will just wash and disinfect them, then serve them all by themselves, perhaps with a hint of salt and a splash of lime juice for just a bit of zest, not to tamper with the crunchy flavour of pure freshness at its best.
I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) for October 7, 2019.