Winter Lettuce is one of my favorite crops for fall planting even though it doesn’t yield a harvest until the following spring. The name is a bit deceiving because this isn’t a single plant variety, and it isn’t a crop that is harvested during winter, at least that isn’t how I use it in my garden.

I treat Winter Lettuce similar to the way that I grow garlic, it’s planted in late fall and allowed to over winter as a juvenile plant in order to get a huge jump on the spring growing season. It doesn’t require much space in the fall garden as the seed is sown thickly and the plants are crowded together in a garden bed or cold frame over the winter.

Winter Lettuce is Actually Sown during the Fall Months

These types of lettuce varieties are super hardy, and because the plants are young andWinter Lettuce in Cold Frame small they are able to easily endure even bitterly cold winters here in Central Pennsylvania. I usually broadcast the seed thickly over a four by four foot area during October or November.

The seed will germinate and begin growing during the fall but will not attain any significant size going into the winter months. Once the ground begins to freeze I will place a cold frame over the patch to offer a little protection to the plants. But more commonly Winter Lettuce plants are covered with a light layer of straw for protection, or a snow cover would also serve the same purpose of providing insulation and to deflect harsh winds. Floating row covers could be another good option.

Hardy as Fall Planted Garlic and Just as Care-Free to Cultivate

Winter LettuceThat is all the care that these hardy plants require and it is possible that some types could survive the winters out in the open with no protection at all. These are heading lettuce varieties and by March they will begin to look the part as they send out a spurt of growth during late winter. Again just like the fall planted garlic there will be noticeable leaf gain when most other plants are still enjoying their winter slumber.

This is the time when the gardener really appreciates Winter Lettuce because the plants are so lush and more vibrant than any lettuce plants you could have started indoors. They are also perfectly acclimated to the outdoor environment since that is all they’ve known and there is no need for coddling the plants or for hardening them off as you would plants that were started inside or under lights.

Spring Thinning and Transplanting Winter Lettuce

Mid-March is the time that I usually thin and transplant the patch of Winter Lettuce,Transplanted Winter Lettuce and since I use raised garden beds I can conveniently transplant without the need for tilling or working the garden beds in advance. I can also get into the garden earlier than most gardeners and don’t need the soil to dry out at all, which is another bonus that comes in handy when it’s time to transplant Winter Lettuce.

Simply dig down and loosen a five by five inch square of plants, carry to the new growing place, and gently separate the plants for replanting. You should find nice root growth on healthy plants with six or more true leaves. Set the transplants at the same depth that they were growing before and lightly firm them into the ground. Then if desired you can mulch around the Winter Lettuce transplants with shredded leaves or chopped straw to restrict weed growth and conserve moisture.

Don’t Overlook Spring Care, Harvesting, and Seed Saving

Mulched TransplantsBecause of the weather conditions during late winter and early spring I seldom notice any transplant shock and the plants should recover quickly from being moved and resume their rapid growth. I usually transplant before a rain but otherwise you may need to irrigate to help the plants adjust to their new setting.

After transplanting it will only be a matter of a few weeks until the Winter Lettuce will be displaying nicely formed heads that can be harvested or left a little longer to reach full maturity. Leave a few heads until summer and the plants will produce seed to use for next fall’s planting and the cycle will continue.

Starting and Locating Varieties of Winter Lettuce

If you’d like to grow Winter Lettuce in your own garden start by searching for lettuceWinter Lettuce Variety varieties that are bred for this purpose and that are hardy enough to survive winters without much care or protection. When I lived on the farm there was a no name “winter lettuce” that we planted under straw and saved seed for during the summer. I don’t have that seed anymore but have been able to locate varieties such as; Landi’s Winter, Maule’s Philadelphia, Eva Snader’s Brown Winter, and Red Tinged Winter Lettuce that I am putting to the same purpose as that proven generic winter lettuce that I used to grow.

It may require a bit of trial and error to determine the timing and varieties of Winter Lettuce that will grow best for your growing region but it is worth the effort. Fall sown lettuce plants that enter into springtime are so healthy, vibrant, and in sync with the changing seasons that I believe they will outperform greenhouse produced transplants and provide an early harvest of gorgeous heads of homegrown lettuce.

{ 1 comment }

FLEX Chipper Shredder

Troy-Bilt FLEX Chipper Shredder Attachment Review

April 3, 2017

It’s been a couple of years since I began using the innovative Troy-Bilt FLEX System that employs a shared “power base” engine that connects to a variety of attachments to perform assorted tasks around the home and garden. Today I will share my experiences with a new addition to the FLEX line of equipment; the […]

Read the full article →
Budding Mushrooms

The Latest Mushroom Cultivation Technique is in “Yesterday’s News”

February 24, 2017

Here’s a really quick, easy, and simple hack for growing mushrooms at home with just a few easily obtainable items. I learned this technique from a couple members of the Georgia Mushroom Growers Club at the Radical Mycology Convergence in New York last September. The ingredient list is short and consists of “Yesterday’s News” Kitty Litter (unused […]

Read the full article →
Homegrown peppers

VermisTerra Worm Castings and Teas for Soil Enrichment

February 12, 2017

A previous post detailed a simple worm bin that can be made out of recycled materials and kept right inside your home. But not everyone wants to take care of worms or have them in the house, in spite of the benefits gained through recycling kitchen scraps and producing a wonderful plant fertilizer in the […]

Read the full article →
Convergence Event Site

A Radical Mycology Convergence Just Took Place

November 14, 2016

The 4th Annual Radical Mycology Convergence was held last month and for the first time the event took place here on the East Coast. I had been hoping to travel out west one year to attend this gathering that is focused on all things related to cultivating, foraging, and consuming mushrooms, so when I saw that […]

Read the full article →
Composting Worms

Building a Better Worm Bin for Composting

August 31, 2016

There are plenty of options for raising composting worms in bins, from basic home-made boxes to high-tech structures that can be purchased at retail stores or through the Internet. I tried many types of worm bins before finally settling on a simple and effective version as the best for my purposes, and will share that design with you […]

Read the full article →
Sweet Peppers

Scenes from the Mid-Summer Vegetable Garden

July 27, 2016

The vegetable garden was slow developing this season but things are finally shaping up and it looks to be a pretty productive and rewarding year. So far the stars of the garden are the eggplants which are gorgeous and have not suffered from the flea beetle attacks that often riddle the leaves and weaken the […]

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Troy-Bilt’s New TB4300 Handheld Blower

Troy-Bilt’s New TB4300 Handheld Blower

June 28, 2016

What’s better than finding a great new gardening tool that saves time and effort as you make the yard and landscape look better? Well how about an entire collection of power tools that make your work go faster and easier… and do it without using gasoline or being tied to a cord and electrical outlet. […]

Read the full article →
Sourdough Breads

Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Residency Program

June 14, 2016

Back in April I traveled to Walnut Ridge, Tennessee to participate in a Fermentation Residency Program taught by the well-known fermentation expert; Sandor Ellix Katz. It was a great experience at a wonderful venue with an amazing group of fellow fermenters. The program is offered twice each year and there is huge demand for the opportunity […]

Read the full article →