What’s a girl got to do to grow lettuce in the greater DC area?
Spring is a fleeting season in DC. If you blink (or, because of pollen allergies, you sneeze), you’ll miss it. Case in point: I started experimentally sowing seeds for cool-weather plants, like radishes and peas, in February. The first ones that actually came up were in mid March, because before that, there were too many freezing nights. I also bought some lettuce seedlings at a nursery, just so I’d have some.
But by mid April, in DC, we’re already having 80-degree days. Not every day, but it’s hardly uncommon.
The trouble with lettuce is that it’s a cool-weather plant, and if the weather gets too hot, even for a day, it bolts. “Bolting” is a technical term for what members of the lettuce family do when they go to seed, and it’s very descriptive, as I’ve recently found. I walked into my garden one afternoon this week to find that the central stems of my greens were all 6 inches taller than they’d been that morning. A couple days later, the stems were taller still, and flowering. They had bolted; it’s as if the plants all said “Dude, it’s hot out. Let’s get outta here.” And away they went.
So if March is too cold, and April too hot, when oh when should I grow my lettuce?