Lettuce is Started

Today is the first day the sun has shown in a long time. It has poured buckets of rain almost everyday since the first of the year, and more rain is forecast for five out of the next seven days! Agh! Rain, rain go away ~ come back in July.

Black Seeded Simpson lettuce transplants were started on Tuesday. The lettuce will be set out about the middle of February. Typically, the soil no longer freezes by then but there may still be a few more hard frosts. This particular variety of lettuce has proven to be very frost tolerant. Millipedes munched on the tiny leaves last year but once the straw mulch was removed, the millipedes were no longer a problem. Flea beetles were discovered in the lettuce once the soil warmed about mid-March; they chewed tiny holes in the leaves.

The flea beetles were not immediately eradicated though, instead, they were observed. To bad because they eventually took over the potato plants; however, the foliar damage was minimal and there was no negative impact to the tubers. To control these beetles a row cover of Remay cloth may be left on the lettuce at all times except during harvest, or a special insecticide mixture of hot pepper and natural soap may be applied to the foliage, or both. This year is another one of experimentation. The result of which is left to be seen.

two trays of lettuce transplants

The soil starting medium being used this year is an OMRI rated Scott’s Miracle Grow organic blend. The soil was spread into clean sterile trays and then it was watered until thoroughly moistened but not soggy. There are 48 cells in each tray and two plants in each cell thus making 96 transplants per tray. Each seed was hand-planted to a depth of about 1/4″ then covered lightly with soil. After the trays are planted, each is covered lightly with clear wrap then placed under fluorescent lighting. The clear wrap helps to retain moisture. Some will say to wrap the trays tightly, however, last year damping off was an issue so this year the motto is “cover lightly and mist often.” As soon as the first seedling emerges, remove the clear wrap.