Love is in the air and it is time to plant lettuce. I don't know who started this practice, but it is easy to remember. February 14 is the time to plant your lettuce in southern Illinois. If you miss the date, get it done soon as lettuce will do better growing in cool weather.
Most gardeners fail to plant their crops in a timely manner. However, many do plant their lettuce on this day because mom or grandpa did.
The really cool thing about planting lettuce early is that this space can be used for another crop of your choice as the summer approaches. This practice is called intercropping.
Most southern Illinois gardeners plant leaf lettuce using a popular variety named Black-seeded Simpson, but there are several others.
Lettuce seed should be sprinkled on top of a prepared seedbed in rows no closer than 10-inches. Use your hand to gently pat the seed into the ground. Now, water the area thoroughly.
Some gardeners choose to start their lettuce in cold frames or under plastic. This practice helps to germinate the seed faster and protect the plants from extreme cold.
Other cool season crops such as broccoli and cabbage can be started indoors at this time of year. Then as temperatures rise you will have your transplants ready for planting outside.
Crops like tomatoes and peppers should not be started until early to mid-March.
Remember, those cool season plants need cool temperatures to grow vigorously. Normal house temperatures are too warm and then leggy plants will be the result. Seed temperatures should be kept near 65 degrees F. An unused bedroom, basement or sun porch will make a great cool location to grow some quality plants. Light should be kept bright such as from a south window.
If you do not have the location to grow quality plants, then maybe purchasing those transplants might be wiser. But now is the right time to plant your lettuce outdoors.
Source: Ed Billingsley, County Extension Director, Williamson County and Interim County Extension Director, Jefferson County, email@example.com
Pull date: April 15, 2009