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Growing lettuce in the summer heat

Jun 12, 2013 -
  Growing lettuce in the summer heat
'Little Gem' Romaine lettuce sparkles in your garden, even in hot weather.

It seems unfair—just when we really need lettuce as the foundation of a summer salad, the lettuce wants to pack up and spend its summer at Lake Tahoe (or some other cool spot).

Here’s how you can have your lettuce and heat it too.

bibb butterhead lettuce

Horses bolt and so does lettuce

Lettuce prefers the cool days of spring and fall with air temperatures in the 60s. When the weather warms up lettuce will often bolt right out of your garden bed. In the world of lettuce, bolting means that the plant sets a flower and grows a seed stalk—which makes the lettuce leaves bitter.

What causes bolting? A combination of more sunlight in the longer days, and the hot summer weather.

loose leaf lettuce

How to grow lettuce in the heat

What’s a summer gardener to do?

First, alter your lettuce growing climate to make it cooler and shadier.

Second, grow heat tolerant lettuces.

romaine or cos lettuce

Cool down the summer weather for your lettuce

As gardeners, we adjust to the seasons. If your spring vegetable patch is in full sun then don’t plant summer lettuce there—instead, plant summer lettuce where it will get morning sun and afternoon shade (morning shade and afternoon sun will give too much heat).

This might be the time to plant lettuces in amongst your part-shade ornamentals. Want variegated foliage? We’ve got some stunners, like ‘Freckles’, shown above.

Can’t move your vegetable patch? Then adjust the sun’s rays by providing a shade cloth covering for the lettuce part of the bed. Need support for your shade cloth? We explain how to build low tunnels over your raised beds.

crisphead iceberg lettuce

The ABCs of growing lettuce

Tricia plants, grows, and harvests lettuce in our latest video.

There are four basic groups of lettuces: Bibb, Crisphead, Leaf, and Romaine. We make it easy for you to find the lettuce you want.

Start with our Seeds page, scroll down past the purple bar and pull down in the button that says Lettuce Type.

All four kinds of lettuce are listed, along with Mixes, and the all-important Heat Tolerant lettuces (those are the ones you want for your summer garden). You’ll see all the lettuce varieties we carry, in seed packs on up to bulk sizes.

Heat Tolerant Lettuces

There are Heat Tolerant varieties in all four lettuce groups:

Bibb  Buttercrunch, Speckles, Summer Bibb, Summer Bibb Blend

Crisphead  Michelle

Leaf  Black Seeded Simpson, Green Salad Bowl, Red Deer Tongue

Romaine  Little Gem, Parris Island Cos

Container gardening—an easy way to modify climate

One of the joys of container gardening is that you get to play Mother Nature.

Is the sun too strong for your lettuces? Pick up the container and move it to a part-shade location.

Our vegetable gardens are rarely right outside the kitchen door, but you can grow containers of Leaf lettuces just steps away from your kitchen sink—cut some leaves, rinse, spin, toss, and eat.

Head lettuces like Romaine, Bibb and Crisphead need to grow about 50 days to harvest, so let them get on with it out in your vegetable bed. But the Leaf lettuces are ideal for containers—pick the outer leaves and let the center continue to grow. This is called a “cut and come again” method of harvesting.

Whether you grow in containers, mixed in with your ornamental plants, or in a vegetable garden—plant some lettuce this summer.

Categories: Organic Seeds, Organic Vegetable Seeds, Vegetable Seeds, Vegetable Seeds Organic, Vegetable Seeds Heirloom, Heirloom Seeds, Heirloom Vegetable Seeds, Frost Protection, Row Covers, Shade Fabric, Container Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Organic Gardening 101, Urban Gardening & farming

Susan DeFrank Says:
Jun 15th, 2013 at 8:23 am

Loved your article on one of my favorite things to grow.  I do a mass growing of lettuce and spinach during our So Cal winter and have fresh greens from the garden all winter and spring.  This spring/summer I have planted leaf lettuce varieties in patio containers to add texture and beauty to my other plants on the patio.

Rae Says:
Jun 15th, 2013 at 9:01 am

Very informative with the Texas heat reaching over 100 degrees.

Pamela Rose Says:
Jun 15th, 2013 at 9:17 am

Good article! Your advice “pick the outer leaves and let the center continue to grow. This is called a “cut and come again” method of harvesting.” I have always called sustainable picking.
Always enjoy your website!

George Martin Says:
Jun 16th, 2013 at 7:55 am

Very good info. As in Texas we have a screen fabric tent over the entire garden .

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 17th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Susan, Your lettuce garden sounds great! Thanks for giving us all new ideas.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 17th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Rae, Good luck this hot summer!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 17th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Pamela, We like that “sustainable harvesting” name!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 17th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

George, That tent of your sounds like an excellent idea!

Sharon Says:
Jun 18th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Just discovered your website. Great articles! I always plant lettuce under the tomatoes.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 18th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Welcome Sharon! That’s a great idea, to plant lettuces in the shade of the leafy tomato plants.

Nina Says:
Jun 21st, 2013 at 10:24 am

We plant our summer lettuce underneath the cucumber trellises.  The Cucumbers get full sun and the lettuces are shaded.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 21st, 2013 at 10:27 am

Nina, Thanks for sharing your great idea!

Larien Says:
Jul 23rd, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Thank you for this article, it sure helped me a lot when it comes to choosing lettuce plants for a tropical country that I live in (Philippines). smile

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 30th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Larien, Thanks for writing! That makes us happy to know we can help in your garden!

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