Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2007
Regional Report

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Lollo Rosso lettuce is as beautiful as it is tasty!

Diagnosing Problems With Lettuce and Peas

We all want to get the garden off to a good start in spring so it can be dismaying when some of our early-planted crops like peas and lettuce develop problems that stump us. Here are some of the more common things that can plague these plants and what to do about them.

Problem: The leaves are bleached and paper thin, or the inner leaves of head lettuce develop black and slimy edges. Hot weather causes both these conditions.
Solution: Plant summer-maturing varieties rather than trying to lengthen the season for those that should mature in cool weather.

Problem: Foliage edges appear burnt. This results from water stress and calcium deficiency, especially on dry soils that are acidic or high in potassium; and on hot, dry summer days after cloudy weather or heavy irrigation.
Solution: Provide more regular deep watering. Calcium is not available to plants in soils that have low pH. Dolomitic limestone is a good source of lime and magnesium. The finer the grade of the limestone, the faster it can break down in the soil, raise the pH, and enable the calcium to be utilized. Incorporate bone meal, gypsum, and organic matter. Rotate crops.

Problem: Lettuce tastes bitter. This happens when it matures during weather that's too hot.
Solution: Plant varieties that mature at different times. Sow fewer seeds at a time, and sow them one or two weeks apart so that they mature consecutively. Harvest promptly and rinse the lettuce, shake off the excess water, and let it sit in the refrigerator for several days; the bitterness will dissipate.

Problem: Lettuce goes to seed before it can be harvested. This is caused by planting too late in the spring.
Solution: Make successive plantings of varieties appropriate for your area, including some varieties that are slow to bolt.

Problem: Semicircular notches on the margins of leaves are tell-tale munchings of the pea leaf weevil.
Solution: Serious damage occurs only until the six-leaf stage.

Problem: Plants that are healthy but don't set blooms may be affected by excessive nitrogen, a previously heavy fruit set, or overmature pods that still remain on the plant.
Solution: Flush out excessive nitrogen with a one-time very heavy irrigation. Keep harvesting pods as they mature.

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