Growing Lettuce Year Round: Succession Planting for a Continuous Supply



A bed of lettuce in May. Photo by Wren Vile

When I moved to central Virginia 25 years ago, it was accepted as fact that we couldn't grow lettuce in the summer. And we didn't yet have a hoophouse yet, so we didn't have lettuce in winter either. I set out to extend the lettuce seasons of fall and spring, and got them to meet, so that we can have a continuous supply of salads all year. I wrote about winter lettuce here, and I just completed a year of postings about suitable lettuce varieties for each month on my own blog Sustainable Market Farming. Here I'm going to provide a general strategy for scheduling lettuce plantings so that you have neither gluts nor gaps in your supply. This kind of scheduling is called "succession planting" and is also used for short-lived warm weather crops (think zucchini). I have a slide show on Succession Planting, which I present at some of the Mother Earth News Fairs.

Sow Several Lettuce Varieties

One simple way to extend the harvest period of each lettuce sowing is to sow several different varieties on the same day. Choose varieties with different numbers of days to maturity, including at least one fast one and one slow one. There can be quite large differences in days to maturity, for instance Buttercrunch is a small, fast, reliable green 48-day butterhead (bibb) and romaine lettuces generally take 55-58 days. Looseleaf lettuces like the 50-day Salad Bowls are a very useful lettuce type because you can harvest individual leaves off the whole row while you wait for the heads to reach full size. (Yes, you will be setting them back a bit, but there will be plenty of lettuce later and this method will give you lettuce sooner.)

Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce. Photo by Kathleen Slattery

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