Are you frustrated by your lettuce and other greens seemingly flowering shortly after you planted them? Well, you’re not crazy! We are going to talk about it and what we do to deal with it!
The truth is, this is perfectly normal and in some ways, it’s a byproduct of our northern environment. Most greens use the ambient air temperature as their gauge for when it’s the right time to start flowering. In the north, we’re a bit challenged because we have such a late start on the season and very little “acceptable” time in the spring where we can grow our plants outdoors. We don’t get a “nice, cool” growing season and run up into summer like they do in the lower 48. We pretty much go from freezing temperatures to full-on summer mode in a matter of weeks.
So, by the time we’re ready to plant our lettuces, mustards, spinach and so on outdoors, it’s pretty much all ready flowering season for that plant! This problem disproportionately affects mustards and spinach which are much more heat sensitive than common head or leaf lettuces. Even some varieties of a given plant, say lettuce, will have more or less sensitivity to that heat. So, if it’s a problematic variety for you, maybe it’s time to try something else! For example, next year we’re thinking about replacing our common Butterhead lettuce with a less sensitive variety, since it’s prone to early flowering.
How we generally deal with the issue is through the concept of succession planting. This is just a fancy word for sowing at different times. We generally aim for four major plantings of our greens over the entire season. The first is our indoor grown, the second is right around our last frost. From here, we usually plan on a sowing around July and again in August, the latter of which will take us into our frosts. Lettuce and greens are generally quite tolerant of those early frosts, so they’re excellent candidates for it.
The overwhelming majority of your common greens can be harvested about 4 to 6 weeks after sowing. Our later season plantings tend to focus more on leaf lettuces and mustards than they do head lettuces, which tend to take much longer to produce. Most head lettuce will usually take a minimum of 60 days, sometimes more, so these would need to be sowed no later than two months to your first frost to achieve a harvest. This is one of the main reasons we heavily focus on “cut and come” leaf lettuce gardens, since they tend to be a lot more flexible for us.
If you’re looking for that full season lettuce crop, this is really the only way to achieve it. You can’t do it with a single planting! So, plan accordingly…and there’s still plenty of time in the season to get your greens to pop off!
Also, one last administrative thing. We’re no longer going to do primary posts about our YouTube videos here. (A new one is up today!) We’re getting very little engagement, Facebook just doesn’t circulate other platform’s stuff so it’s a waste of our daily posting. So, if you want to see our videos, be sure to subscribe over there! We’re @frostygarden907 on YT!