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!
Black Seeded Simpson lettuce is an old favorite that has been bred for over 150 years. It’s more heat tolerant than other types of lettuce, though it will bolt (sending up a tall central stalk of yellow flowers) in hot summer weather. This variety is also able to survive light frosts and mild drought. A fast grower, Black Seeded Simpson can be harvested for baby greens only 3 weeks after planting. Plant a few rows every 2 weeks for a continuous supply.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/2″
Space Between Plants: 4–10″
Space Between Rows: 4–12″
Germination Soil Temperature: 40–75°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.
Very easy to grow, this lettuce will thrive in most climate zones. Although lettuce enjoys warm weather, extreme mid-summer heat may cause plants to bolt early, making it bitter and inedible. Planting in late summer for a fall harvest tends to be a better match for this plant. 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.
History: An heirloom variety established in the 1870s, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce has been an American household favorite for generations. Thought to have originated in Asia Minor, it has traveled quite the distance from its beginnings!
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!).
Use leaves in all types of salads to add some crunch and color!