We are in the summer…
You have beautiful lettuce, very green and promising…
And suddenly, when the apple is just starting to form, they bloom (or seed, we can say both; the second phenomenon follows the first)!
If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’re probably familiar with this cruel disappointment…
Your beautiful lettuce potatoes, on which you were already drooling, will remain at this stage of the dream.
Before we look at how to delay this premature run as much as possible, let’s look at the reasons first.
Why does a lettuce go to seed?
Upwelling is an absolutely natural phenomenon.
When a lettuce (like any plant) is mature, it will attempt to reproduce.
To do this, therefore, it will bloom…bloom which will lead to the production of seeds…seeds that will assure its offspring…
Only here, when it is very hot, does the lettuce enter a state of stress.
It “thinks” (yes, I dare to use this term… even if a plant’s way of “thinking” is different from ours, there is indeed an intelligence in plants… as evidenced by more and more scientific studies … but this is another topic that we will probably come back to out of season…) when the end of life is near… and therefore blooms prematurely…
In order to slow down this phenomenon, we will also try to limit this stress as much as possible.
Now let’s see what methods we have at our disposal to delay the flowering of our lettuce.
A good start to the cultivation
A good start is an essential basis for optimal development of a crop.
This is especially true of the question that concerns us here.
Indeed, a lettuce that has vegetated or suffered at the beginning of its development is much more likely to sow prematurely.
It is therefore essential that whether you sow your seedlings in the nursery or sow directly into the vegetable garden, you sow your seedlings in the best possible conditions and maintain these seedlings properly.
Varieties of salads adapted to summer and resistant to bumps
Start by choosing summer varieties for your summer crops.
These are precisely varieties selected for their adaptability to heat and therefore less prone to premature flowering in summer.
This indication of seasonality* normally appears on the seed packets as well as on the sites of the organic seed companies (as you can see for example on the Batavia lettuce page on the Germinance site – you will casually notice there that the “Ice Queen” is not a winter variety, as many gardeners think… so the name can be misleading).
And of the summer varieties, some are more resistant to overshoot than others. This is an indication that sometimes appears on the descriptions in the catalogs of organic seed companies.
But it is above all your own observations that should take precedence…
At home, for example, I know that Batavia lettuce, and in particular the Verano Wonder, does not bloom too quickly…
While most lettuces rise very quickly…
So I mainly grow Merveilles de Vérano… and only a few summer lettuces (Reine de Juillet, Bon Jardinier, Grosse Blonde Paresseuse… the last 2 seem to be more resistant to overshoot than the first).
So don’t say to yourself “ok, I’ll do the same”… because everyone has their own growing conditions and climate (indications of favorable regions can sometimes be found on the sites of the seed companies), even a specific microclimate for his region. ..
Instead, I recommend that you test several varieties of lettuce each year, and over the years select those that you will have noticed better resistance to emergence.
And if you have the ability to source or propagate selected local lettuces in your area for good overshoot resistance, even better!
*Note: Summer lettuce means it is a variety that is meant to be harvested in the summer. For this, too, a summer lettuce is sown in the spring, or at the beginning of the summer… In the summer we sow autumn lettuce.
Abundant water will delay flowering
Water somewhat compensates for heat stress.
With water, the soil stays cooler and the lettuce leaves, by absorbing this water, suffer less from the heat…
That is why the plant will feel fine with constant soil moisture. So she won’t try to reproduce yet…
Even when it’s hot, it may be wise to water your salads much more often, ie every day (which I don’t recommend under normal circumstances) or at least every 2 or 3 days.
In the same vein, when a storm looms on the horizon, temperatures become particularly high and stifling… lettuce then sees its end… and will tend to bloom quickly…
To avoid this, and this is very wise advice given to me by an elder, when a storm is announced… water (yes, I know, the water will come with the storm, but that is the period before to this storm that can be “deadly”…).
Fresh soil thanks to mulching
Mulching, by keeping the soil cooler and moist, will naturally help slow your lettuce sprout…
So in summer a good mulch is required.
Shadow to slow the rise of lettuce
Shading your salads will help lower temperatures at ground level.
So this is an excellent way to delay the flowering of lettuce.
For this you can ‘play’ with other crops… for example by planting your lettuce behind (to the north) tomato or pole bean plants.
You can also, when high temperatures are announced, place simple wooden boxes over the lettuce or use some other support to shade your lettuce crops.
What to do if a salad starts to rise?
When a salad starts to rise, “mass has been said”…. the above tips will not have much more effect.
But tell yourself that if some lettuce varieties come up a bit earlier than expected, that’s not entirely negative: the bloom attracts pollinating insects, which are good for the fruit…
So you can simply let the salad rise and thus promote the biodiversity in your garden.
Then there is a good chance that you will be entitled to spontaneous sowing next year (seeds that have fallen to the ground will germinate on their own)… that said, a lettuce grown too early runs the risk of this trait in its offspring; and so you will struggle to get nice apples…
Also, if you want to save seeds for next year’s seed (whether harvesting them perfectly ripe or letting nature take its course), it’s better to choose lettuce plants that have formed beautiful apples and then voluntarily let them flower and set seed.. …but that’s another topic we’ll get to soon.
Of course, it is also quite possible to harvest a lettuce when it starts to show signs of approaching shooting… there will be no apples of course, but the foliage is still very good (the leaves, on the other hand, are much less tender after bolts).
Well, I hope that with this article you can also harvest beautiful head lettuce in the summer.
Feel free to share your own techniques (I may have left out a few…) and tips in the comments below.