Varieties and Advice for Growing Early Spring Lettuce



Hoophouse lettuce Green Forest and Red Salad Bowl. Photo by Wren Vile

I have written posts for Mother Earth about winter lettuce and Growing Lettuce Year Round, and I have a year (May to April) of postings about suitable lettuce varieties for each month on my website Sustainable Market Farming. The Lettuce Year Round article is mostly about scheduling your sowings to provide an unbroken supply of lettuce, no shortages or gluts, using succession planting techniques. Here I’m going to focus on varieties and strategies that work best early in the year.

I like to sow four lettuce varieties each time (for the attractive harvests, and to reduce the risks if one variety bolts or suffers disease): at least one red and one romaine. If you choose varieties with different numbers of days to maturity, you will stretch the harvest period (and get more choice each time you harvest).

We have 5 lettuce seasons, with different varieties:

  • Early Spring (Jan – Mar), 6 sowings
  • Spring (April – May 15), 5 sowings
  • Summer (May 15 – Aug 15), 17 sowings
  • Fall (Aug 15 – Sept 7), 9 sowings
  • Winter indoors, Sept 8 – 27, 9 sowings

Each season has varieties that work well and others that do not. Our springs are short and quickly heat up, so we only have a small window for sowing lettuces that bolt as soon as the weather warms at all. Johnny's Selected Seeds has a head lettuce planting program with three seasons (early season, mid-season and late season) where they recommend some suitable varieties. Varieties for early spring are fast-growing. Mid-season varieties have some heat-tolerance (resistance to bolting). Late-season varieties are chosen for disease resistance and cold tolerance.

Growing early season lettuces involves choosing suitable types and varieties (cold-tolerant and fast-growing), having successful production methods, and a good schedule. Harvesting early in the year might mean fast production in January and February, or it might mean starting in the fall and overwintering the plants.

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