Lettuces are considered a “leaf” variety when they sport leaves that branch off a central stalk as opposed to ones that form a tightly-packed head. While taste is always subjective, many have attested to the fuller flavor and crisper texture of leafy lettuces as opposed to some of the other types. Within this group are varieties which vary in leaf size and color, which can range from pale green to a deep red. No matter the preference, nothing beats fresh salad greens at your fingertips all summer long, so be sure to add a couple varieties of this tasty veggie to your garden!
Dine like royalty with the Royal Oakleaf lettuce. Taking its name from the deeply lobed shape of its leaves, which resemble those of the oak tree, this variety is heat resistant and slow to bolt, meaning it can be grown later in the summer than other varieties. It’ll form its leaves in loose rosettes, which should be harvested starting from the outside.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 4–10″
Space Between Rows: 4–12″
Germination Soil Temperature: 40–65°F
Days for Germination: 5–10
Sow Indoors: 6 weeks before average last frost or when the soil temperatures are too warm (if planting in summer).
Sow Outdoors: 2 to 4 weeks before the average last frost. Sow successively every 2 weeks following the first planting.
Grows best in cool weather. Extreme mid-summer heat may cause plants to bolt early, making leaves bitter and inedible. Planting can begin in early spring for harvest throughout spring and early summer or in late summer for a fall harvest. Do not plant in any temperatures above 80°F.
Natural: Partial shade in the summer. Full sun in the spring and fall.
Artificial: Can be grown indoors using LED, MH, fluorescent, or HPS lamps. Be careful of placing lamps too close to plants, as they are sensitive to heat and can burn or wither easily.
Soil: Prefers most well-drained soils. A pH of 6.2–6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished. Be wary of a low pH as plants are extremely sensitive to acidic soil.
Soilless: Germinates well in a soilless potting mix.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic environment. Start seeds in individual containers or in trays. Great success has been shown growing lettuce in deep water cultures and floating raft techniques.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires moderate amounts of water. As plants have shallow root systems, a long soak is not needed. However, plants should be watered consistently, i.e., once a week or more, during dry spells.
Nutrients: Requires rich soil to grow with adequate amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. A standard, balanced fertilizer should do the trick.
Mulching: Mulch may be used around the plant to keep weeds down. Take care when weeding as a shallow root system makes plants susceptible to root damage.
Deficiency(s): Wilted leaves, stunted growth, or discolored leaves may all be an indication of nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorous deficiencies. Make sure to use a compost of fertilizer if planting in an area with poor soil.
Rotation: Rotating lettuce with nitrogen-fixing legumes will keep soil healthy as lettuce takes up quite a bit of nutrients.
Companions: Grows well with onions, cucmbers, carrots, strawberries, beets, chervil, and leeks. Avoid parsley and celery.
Harvest: Can be harvested in very early stages as baby greens or once the plant has matured. Avoid harvesting once the plant has started to flower or “bolt.”
Storage: Will store best wrapped in paper towels in a dry plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Fun Fact: The vitamin and mineral content of lettuce is higher in darker-leaved varieties, including this one.
Preserve: Does not preserve well due to its extremely high water content.
Prepare: Best eaten fresh as a salad on sandwiches or in wraps. Can also be added to soups or served braised.
Nutritional: A good source of vitamin(s) A, K, and potassium, lettuce is a healthy vegetable that is also low in fat, sodium and cholesterol.
Medicinal: Has been cited as being good for indigestion and was used in ancient cultures to treat everything from impotency to insanity (although we won’t swear by it!).
Cool down your summer with this recipe for an Escarole, Fennel, and Oakleaf Salad.