This article was originally published on August 20, 2012 and expired on August 27, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
The summer is winding down, but should your garden also? The answer is NO. There are many crops that may still be planted in the home garden, and lettuce is one of them.
Lettuce can still be planted in central Illinois during the latter part of September. Spacing plantings about two weeks apart should allow the homeowner to have a continuous supply of lettuce in late October.
Lettuce loves cool weather, and contrary to popular belief, the cool weather does not necessarily have to be in the spring. As long as temperatures are within the 60°F to 70°F range, lettuce can be planted and grown beautifully.
When planted, seeds should be one-fourth inch to one-half inch deep and spaced one and one-fourth inches apart. When the lettuce begins to grow, the homeowner should "grab the old hoe" and cull out the weaker plants until each remaining plant is about 4" apart. This provides the plant adequate room to grow leaf tissue and improves aeration, thus reducing the chances of disease establishment. Rows should be spaced about 12"-18" apart.
When caring for lettuce, remember that the plant does need frequent light watering to achieve succulent leaf growth rapidly. Be careful not to overwater, since root and leaf rots may prove to be a problem.
Finally, do not hesitate to refrigerate your lettuce and use it for the month following harvest. The lettuce stores best in an environment that stays around 32°F. Just wash the leaves, drip dry, and store in a gallon plastic bag. You may end up with better tasting lettuce, since bitterness appears to decrease in refrigeration.
Whatever you decide to do with your lettuce, enjoy your gardening while you can. Winter snow is coming, and lettuce doesn't freeze well.
Source: Matt Montgomery, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms, email@example.com
Pull date: August 27, 2012