published Saturday, January 7th, 2012

5 tips for growing lettuce in winter

How would you like to step outside your door, even in the winter months, and pick your own lettuce for a salad?

It's a definite possibility, said Kim Bonastia, manager at Signal Mountain Nursery.

The hearty vegetable can, with care, grow in our area year-round.

Local gardeners who have lettuce in their gardens now planted it in early fall, said Bonastia.

"It could die out after this week of cold weather unless protected with a freeze cloth," she said.

"The lettuce that we see today started out as a weed around the Mediterranean Basin," according to www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. "Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the New World, and from there lettuce in the United States began cultivating."

FIVE TIPS

1. Till and compost topsoil with mushroom compost. Weed when necessary. Fertilize with a 6-12-12 mixture and work into the soil. Always add lime. A more neutral pH is better for vegetable gardens. Plant in full sun or at least five hours of direct sunlight for spring and fall plantings.

2. To have lettuce in late spring, plant in early spring. If the lettuce bolts (blooms), the lettuce leafs become bitter. The plants you plant in spring will bolt as soon as the temperatures get hot. You will need to replant in the fall.

3. When planting lettuce to grow in the fall and winter, amend the soil used for the spring and summer lettuce. Use mushroom compost. Tilling and putting down lime helps the soil not to be so acidic.

4. Romaine, ruby leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce and spinach do well in the fall and, if protected with a freeze cloth, will do well during the winter.

5. Plant lettuce in early spring, or at the end of August only if it has been a particularly wet month. Otherwise, plant fall lettuce in September.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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