DEAR NEW FARM:
I am trying to get into growing lettuce here on the California
central coast (near Paso Robles). I've not been having much
luck with what I've been doing so far. I am trying to grow
loose-leaf lettuce (‘Salad Bowl’) but it doesn’t
seem to grow very fast, and a lot of the seedlings that I
grow don’t really do all that well once I transplant
them. I have a small greenhouse, but I think it is too hot
in there (I am growing peppers and tomatoes in there with
some success). It gets pretty cold outside in my area—a
little below freezing this time of year. I was thinking of
setting up a small hoophouse where I can keep the temperature
right around 50 or 60 degrees F, which, as I understand, is
ideal for lettuce.
I saw George and Melanie Devault’s article, Lettuce
Get Growing, which has a lot of good information.. I was
wondering if there are any other tips or important points
that you might be able to pass along. I've been into gardening
for several years but am somewhat new to vegetable gardening.
Thanks very much!
George and Mel respond...
Yep, if your tomatoes and peppers are doing well inside the
greenhouse, that's a pretty sure sign that your lettuce will
be unhappy. Tomatoes and peppers like it hot, lettuce doesn't.
Rather than go to all the trouble and expense of a new hoophouse
just for lettuce, you might consider putting hoops over your
lettuce outside and covering the hoops with a floating row
cover. That would probably give you enough frost protection
overnight. Push the cover back during the day to help keep
Hoops don't have to be anything fancy. We use pre-fab heavy
wire bows, old plastic water pipe…and even the metal
frames from old political campaign signs (in fact, they seem
to be even more effective for this application).
Lettuce needs a goodly amount of water. We irrigate daily
when weather is dry. Hand-watering works on small plots. We
also use drip tape and mini sprinklers, which also help cool
lettuce like misters in the grocery produce department. In
summer, we also protect lettuce with shade cloth stapled to
We always fertilize seedlings with fish emulsion before transplanting,
then hit them again with it after setting them out. Extra
work, but it seems to get them off to a quicker start and
keeps them growing. Good soil and lots of compost help, too.
You might try a few different varieties to see what does
best in your area. One of our favorite cut-and-come-again
varieties is ‘Tango’. ‘Kalura’ is
our favorite romaine. Jericho is more heat-tolerant.
We harvest everything on the young side for best taste, especially
when fighting heat and drought.
Hope some of that helps. Happy growing!
us with comments, suggestions and questions.