The Q&A Archives: Lettuce not heading

Question: I've been having trouble getting my head lettuce to head up. What should I do? Stanley Chatham Salisbury, MD

Answer: It's very hard to grow head lettuce in Maryland, according to Charles McClurg, Extension vegetable specialist with the University of Maryland at College Park. The climate gets too hot too quickly in spring and is cool for too short a time in fall, heexplains. Instead of growing head lettuce, I'd recommend growing a spring and fall crop of leaf or butterhead lettuce planted in late March for a spring crop and late August for a fall crop, he adds. But if you insist on trying head lettuce, Steve Garrison, Extension vegetable specialist at Rutgers University in Bridgeton, New Jersey, has a method that's worked successfully in the souther part of the state. Head lettuce grows best as a fall crop in New Jersey, he says. Because seeds won't germinate if soil temperatures are above 85oF, start them in flats in an air conditioned room in mid August. When seedlings have four to five true leaves, slowly harden them off for about a week, then transplant them about one foot apart in the garden. They should grow well in the cooler autumn temperatures and by late October heads should be ready to harvest. A variety that has produced well in New Jersey is Great Lakes Mesa 659.

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