Frugal Gardener: Cutting lettuce in March

Red Sails lettuce cut Mar. 2

It was beautiful—the head of Red Sails lettuce I cut Friday when Ellen said we needed lettuce for our lunchtime sandwiches.

The head was the last of three I raised over winter in the mini-greenhouse I fashioned from an inexpensive plastic storage container I bought for a few dollars at Wal-Mart.  The storage container provided enough protection for the Red Sails lettuce—a cold-resistant variety—to grow through Winter 2011-2012. I started the seeds in yoghurt cups on October 31 and transplanted the seedlings into the mini-greenhouse on November 9.

This winter has been unusually warm with temperatures dropping below 20°F only five or six times and never below 18°.  To give the lettuce an even better chance of surviving, I set up the mini-greenhouse on the south side of a brick wall, where it would be both protected from cold wind and would benefit from the heat-absorbing bricks. 

After cutting beautiful heads of lettuce through the winter, I can only declare, “Success!”  The mini-greenhouse works.

Of course I should have two or three lettuce seedlings ready to transplant into the mini-greenhouse—but I don’t.  On Thursday I seeded two varieties—Red Sails and Green Ice—in a yoghurt cup that’s sitting on our kitchen windowsill, but they won’t be ready to transplant for another two weeks.  Do I hear a lecture coming on, “Use Your Head and Plan Ahead, Bob”?

During this experiment I’ve learned that something other than lettuce thrives over winter in my mini-greenhouse—slugs.  When I cut the last head of lettuce on Friday, I looked carefully between the bases of the leaves and found two half-inch black slugs and several so small they appeared more white than black.

I suppose an iron-stomached foodie might consider adding buttered slugs to his or her menu—but, thank you, I’ll take a pass.

I’ve got to add organic slug bait (iron phosphate), such as Slug Magic, Sluggo, or Escar-Go, to my garden shopping list because slugs are a fact of veggie gardening here at Meadow Glenn, where our 10 small, semi-terraced plots curve around the crest of a hill.  Supporting the plots are hundreds of concrete stacking block and even some river-stone mulch and some pavers that provide limitless living places for slugs.

If you want to get a head start on spring lettuce growing, why don’t you make a mini-greenhouse and start your lettuce today—and then reuse your greenhouse this fall to keep your fridge well stocked with lettuce into Winter 2012-2013?

If you want to see my posting about how I built my mini-greenhouse, CLICK HERE.

3 Comments on “Frugal Gardener: Cutting lettuce in March

  1. Alas, poor lettuce; I knew him, Horatio…

    So glad your Red Sails made it through the “winter.” I plan to seed lettuce in my salad table today.

  2. Great to see your lettuce made it. I planted in Sep/Oct and lost almost all of my Black Simpson but my Bloomsdale spinach is still growing strong. Planted onions and garlic too and they are doing great. I didn't even cover them. When I tell people my garden grew all winter they can't believe it. Me either !!

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