5 Tips for Growing Lettuce in the Summer

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One of my absolute favorite things about the Tower Garden is the ability to grow lettuce all year round here in central Florida. Because the ground gets too warm causing dormancy, lettuce can’t be grown in the traditional garden during our summer months.


That said, it's helpful to keep the following things in mind when growing summer lettuce in the Tower Garden:


1.) Seedling Temperature: Seedlings grow much better when the water surrounding the base of the rockwool is cool. Lettuce seedlings can experience slower growth when too warm. This video shows how we keep seedlings cool in the summer, Video - Keeping Seedlings Cool in Summer

2.) Bolting: Lettuce will bolt much faster in the summer due to the combination of heat and longer hours of sun. What’s bolting? The plant begins to grow a tall stock from the center which is its first step toward seed production. These photos compare normal mature Red Crisp Magenta leaf lettuce to the same variety that has bolted to the point where it’s just starting to grow flower heads.

Mature Red Crisp Magenta Lettuce

Severely Bolted Red Crisp Magenta Lettuce

The photos below show both a young Red Crisp Cherokee lettuce and the same variety that has formed a flower head. Eventually the flower head will form seed. Yes you can harvest and save the seed in a cool, dark location until you’re ready to plant, but you’ll have to be OK with giving up a location in your tower for several weeks. The 'bolting to flower head to seed pod' process takes a while. This video shows when and how to harvest lettuce seed, Video - How to Harvest Lettuce Seed.

Red Crisp Cherokee Leaf Lettuce

Bolted Red Crisp Cherokee Lettuce with Flower Head.

3.) Harvesting: The idea is to harvest your lettuce before it bolts because bolted lettuce acquires a bitter taste. You will need to harvest each plant sooner than usual during the summer since bolting occurs much faster. This video shows you how to harvest leaf and head lettuce. Notice how leaf lettuce will grow back after employing the harvesting method shown in the video. Video - How to Harvest Lettuce.  


What if some of your lettuce needs to be harvested but you’re not ready to use it quite yet? No worries, simply take it out of the Tower, don’t remove the roots (you can cut them back), and store it in the frig in a container or plastic bag keeping the roots moist. As long as the roots remain moist, the lettuce should stay fresh for at least two weeks.


4.) Seedling Planting Frequency: Because lettuce has a tendency to bolt quicker in the summer, plant seedlings frequently so you’ll have an ongoing crop. Everyone’s situation is a little different but we’ve been planting new lettuce seedlings every 4 weeks or so.


5.) Summer Lettuce Varieties: Some varieties of lettuce do better in the heat than others. We’ve been happy with Red Crisp Cherokee and Magenta, Rex Bib, and Red Fire. All are available from Johnny Seeds.


I hope this information helps you enjoy a summer full of crisp, tasty, fresh-picked lettuce!

Questions? Contact me

July Tower Garden Workshop

Know anyone who is curious about growing their own produce in the Tower Garden?

All their questions will be answered at the upcoming Tower Garden Workshop scheduled for:
Saturday, July 26th from 10am to noon

at a commercial Tower Garden farm in Eustis, Florida.

For more information and to register, visit:
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