Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 Overview Lettuce and Radishes

I just have a few more overviews (Asian greens, other brassicas, and tally overview) and then I will be done. Yay! It is a lot of work finding all my dates and remembering everything, but I know I won't be able to remember next year, so it is going to help me out.

This year I grew two kinds of radish, Pinetree mix and Reggae. I didn't like the taste of Reggae all that much. It is supposed to be more resistant to insects (for me this means the root maggot). I only grew them in spring under a row cover so didn't even get to see if it was resistant. But the taste was not to my liking. In the Pinetree mix I thought the White icicle was the best tasting of all and the French breakfast not far behind. So those are the two I'm growing next year.

I planted the radishes on 3/26 between the rows of lettuce and harvested 0.8 pounds from 5/2-5/16. I was very remiss about sowing successions. I did put one in under the brassica row cover, but it never got good roots. It could be from lack of light or being planted where the broccoli root maggots were. Either way there was no harvest. I totally forgot about them in the fall. Next year I intend to do better (famous second to last words). I like radishes. They aren't the be all and end all of my garden, but they are a nice addition to salads. In some years I get very ambitious and make radish top soup out of the greens, but this year I was too lazy. Next year (famous last words).

Lettuce. Oh how I waited impatiently for my lettuce to come in. I grew so much this spring that I'm sick of it still. I eat the occasionally salad from my massive haul, but I have to not burn myself out on it so much in the spring. It is hard since it is one of the few early producers.

I sowed the first seed indoors on 2/21 for what I thought was a super early crop. It started getting hardened off on good days on 3/13 and was transplanted under a row cover on 3/27. I should have done an earlier one. This one was the best of all the lettuce successions (every two to three weeks more got planted). I called it an extra early one because it was earlier than I'd done in the past. Next year even earlier. Note to self on dates. The early plants were grown with the LED lights and they don't grow as fast this way. I probably only need three weeks for the transplants to reach a good size.

The lettuce did very well this year with all the cold and rain. In early August the lettuce started bolting and I let the Deer Tongue and Red Sails go to seed. So I saved seed for the first time. The plants were 12' apart which is considered the minimum distance for isolation. So they should be fine, but I wish one were a white seeded type and one a black seeded so I could tell if they did cross at all.

The main spring lettuce bed was about 3'x3' with plants spaced 8" apart. The fall bed was about 2'x2'. I harvested 7.2 pounds of lettuce. I only grew the plants to full size. Next year I have to grow many more transplants so I can eat the thinnings earlier. Having tiny transplants taking up the whole spot was silly. The bulk of the fall lettuce was planted in early August in a new bed this year in the shady part of the garden by the compost pile. I've never grown in this section before because I considered it too shady to grow anything. Not only is is under the shade of the oaks in the morning, but it is smack up against the fence so doesn't even get any afternoon light. The lettuce grew fine. In fact early on it grew better there than in the main bed. Though the main bed did catch up in October.

I grew five kinds of lettuce this year - Red Sails, New Red Fire, Merveille de Quatre Saison, Australian Yellow Leaf, and Deer Tongue. Red Sails is my tried and true lettuce. It is a slow bolter and seems to be able to handle the cold as well. It tastes good and is very prolific. New Red Fire was touted as a replacement for Red Sails. Except for the seed being white it was hard to tell them apart. I didn't see or taste any improvement. They seemed not identical but so similar it didn't matter which one you grew. So I'll stay with my tried and true.

MQS was the most beautiful of all my lettuces. It was just stunning red and green in the garden. But other than that it was just OK. It tasted good as did Red Sails. It wasn't quick to bolt but bolted a tad before Red Sails. It wasn't as prolific though. I would say it gave me just a bit more than half the poundage of Red Sails. So it won't be grown again unless I decided to try overwintering it some year (hence I didn't toss the seed).

Deer tongue

The last two were both from a trade from Dan. Australian Yellow Leaf is a bright chartreuse. It never grew all that well for me and bolted quickly. In addition I didn't like the taste. So it lost on all counts. Deer Tongue was a surprise gift in the trade and it really surprised me. It wasn't that prolific and didn't hold as long as Red Sails, but it was an extremely tasty lettuce. It will have a place in my garden next year. I however will not give it the full 8" spacing. It is a smaller lettuce. I could probably half the spacing and it would grow fine. Thanks Dan!

So this year I was trialing red lettuces (except for my trades) to see if I could get better than Red Sails. I failed to do that. Red Sails will be my goto red lettuce. Next year I want to try some Romaine. I haven't tried growing it in a long time and it is probably my favorite lettuce type.

As for diseases and insect pests. I haven't found them to be much of a problem as long as I transplant seedlings. If I don't the slugs will eat them to the ground before they get started. The slugs don't really damage the larger ones much. They like the brassicas that grow right next to them better so tend to live over there. I do occasionally find a few aphids but not many this year which is surprising since other plants this year had an aphid explosion (and a lacewing and ladybug explosion not long after to get rid of them).

Next year I think I don't want to do all the successions I've been doing. It is too much work. I want to do three successions instead. Early spring, mid spring, and fall (only in that shady spot). This will open the lettuce bed for more brassicas in the fall and keep me from dealing with so many successions. Lettuce does hold pretty well in the garden and I'm pretty tired of all the successions. Plus it will give my taste buds a break from lettuce. Other things to remember: plant an early crop with the peas and spinach under a row cover to see how early they can be pushed; plant the fall crop in full shade at the beginning of August; grow more transplants and place them at least twice as close together so I can eat the thinnings; Deer tongue is a smaller lettuce, don't give it as much space.


  1. Beatiful pictures especially the top one. Saving lettuce is seed is supposed to be quite straight forward as they mostly self pollinate so I imagine that it will be okay. I miss lettuce - right now it's under a very thick blanket of snow. Our coldframes this year are dismantled. Sniff.

  2. Fantastic overview, Daphne! We love the French Breakfast radishes as well. Have you tried the winter radishes, such as the pink one Thomas Jefferson grew or the white one that's local around here? They're pungent (which we like) and great keepers. We slice them thin and put them on sliced baguettes with butter and salt. Yummy!

  3. It's interesting that after growing all of those varieties you found the Red Sails to have the best flavor. I guess that's why it's so popular but I think it's worthwhile to keep other varieties in the mix, not just in one's individual garden.

    Good advice about planting early. My spinach seems to bolt early and peas have not been as plentiful. I wonder if we need to take global warming and how it's pushing back our zones into account.

  4. I have the reverse situation from you...radishes are easy, but my lettuce is always messed up. It's either bitter or bolts quickly. Hmmm...gotta keep trying, I guess.

  5. I found the yellowleaf to be lacking in flavor as well and kind of textureless. The color is nice in salads though so it will probably find a small home in the garden next season. Glade you liked the deer tongue so much, I did too. Another one selected just because I liked the look of the leaf, I am so vain :-) I came across a deer tongue lettuce that has a good amount of red in the leaf, it just may be ordered for next season.

  6. Red sails and deers tongue are two of my more favorite lettuces. I am not a big radish fan and almost never grow them anymore.

    Great overview and quite interesting to read through.

  7. I'm loving your overviews! When I have a connection, I load them and read them later, offline, so I'm not often able to comment...but I see you ;-)

  8. Ottawa Gardener, saving it seemed easy enough. Susan Ashworth says 12' is far enough for isolation so I'm hoping. It would be interesting to get a cross though. What would a Deertongue and Red Sails cross look like. They are such opposites.

    OFB, no I've never tried winter radishes. And I've never tried highlighting the radish as the main topping for a baguette. I'll have to see if Fedco sells winter radishes.

    Sally, I love trying all the different varieties of lettuce. I only give them 9sqft in the spring but shove in a lot of varieties. I can't wait to try out some romaines.

    Jackie, I can imagine on the CA coast that it would be a lot different growing conditions. Lettuce loves wet weather and we certainly provide it.

    Dan, oh I didn't even get into texture. But I agree the texture wasn't good either. The color is really pretty. It reminded me of Black Seeded Simpson in color. The funny thing is that I was looking for a pretty green lettuce to add to the red, and deer tongue fit the bill.

    kitsapFG, obviously we have similar tastes. I ought to see what other varieties you grow.

    Granny! You are alive! You haven't been eaten by the lizards. I hope you get your internet connection back soon.

  9. I can go really crazy with lettuce, but I do forget to succession plant. So it's feast or famine -- but they're so pretty.

    You're inspiring me to take better notes.

  10. I'd really like to try Deer Tongue one of these days. Everyone keeps mentioning how delicious it is.

  11. Daphne, I just dropped you a line about our seed trade.

  12. Stefaneener, I printed out sheets this year to mark when I planted everything. It has been really helpful. Most years I just guess what did well the year before.

    Thomas, I can send you some. Just ask for it when I put my seeds up this coming week.

    Dan, I got it.