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Lettuce and some side topics

Hi everyone,

I planted a couple rows of lettuce in March. After a couple very productive months we got a fit of hot weather, the plants bolted, and turned bitter. So, a couple days ago I pulled up the plants and laid them in the soil. Now what? Should I discard the plants? Can I work them back into the soil as added organic material? also, I was thinking of starting another row. I have the seeds already and the space so it would be no inconvenience but I was wondering if my efforts would be futile since we are now very much into summer weather here (in Missouri) and this is supposed to be a cold weather plant.

My next question, if not lettuce, what? What do you plant in that space when the lettuce is done? Also, are there any fall plants that I should be starting from seed right about now? I hate to see this space go to waste!

One other small question, I have started to get cucumbers and a couple of the bigger ones look as if they are curling slightly. Is this normal? Will they straighten themselves out as they get bigger? FYI I have planted two varieties, the one getting cucumbers is a burpless "straight 8". Seems like curling is counterintuitive.

As always, thanks for your help!

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Greener Thumb
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If you want to plant more lettuce, choose a more heat tolerant variety. Black seeded simpson is a common one that always does good for me. If you work the old stuff back into the ground, I'd make sure it's buried so as not to attract slugs and other pests to your new seedlings. If you don't go with lettuce, you can plant anything there :)

You're about 2 months, give or take, early for planting fall crops I believe. Usually august is the time to get fall crops started.

As for the cukes, a lot of times cukes get curly and narrow at one end when there is poor pollination. Basically half of it got pollinated. It happens. The cucumber is still edible, just roll with it. This is what you get when you aren't selecting from the "picture perfect" choices at a food store. :wink: Shouldn't taste any different than a straight one.

USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32.

Failure is only a fact when you give up.

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Super Green Thumb
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Even the so-called "heat tolerant" lettuces don't do real well for me in the summer. I pulled my lettuce, spinach, broccoli and planted beans where they were. The beans are fast growers and I will still have time when they are done to plant lettuce back for a fall crop. When I take the beans down, I will cut them off at ground level, leaving the roots in the ground. Beans are nitrogen fixers and most of that nitrogen is in the roots, so leaving the roots enriches the soil.

Last year I planted spinach and broccoli seed, in mid-October. That was too late to get a fall crop from them, but they over wintered in the mild winter we had last year and did great in the spring. It was the best crop of spinach I have ever seen. Definitely doing that again this year, although if we have a really hard winter, it may not work as well. (Then again, really hard winters may be a thing of the past.)

(I'm in zone 6, looks like you might be also)

I wouldn't bury the lettuce in your garden. Start a compost pile!
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When and what to plant depends a lot on your climate. For me to get a second crop of anything, I have to plant by July 4. Frost comes mid September, and winters are such that no garden plants overwinter.

I think you can plant more lettuce, but you have to keep it damp until it germinates. Here in this dry climate, that would mean lightly mulch it and sprinkle it every day. You can't plant the small seed very deep so you have to go to pains to keep the top of the soil damp until it comes up.

Peas or beans planted now would give you a crop.

Please note that most of us give our location on our dope. It sure helps when requesting info. Gardening is not the same in Florida as in Utah. :)
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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I'm sowing soybeans for eating green shelled (edamame) after lettuce this year. I think rainbow and jal are right that legumes are good succession to leafy greens and vice versa.

For next time, another good way to utilize the space is to sow carrots and onions along with the lettuce, then as the lettuce are done, carrots and onions can take over the space. Or sow/plant warm weather crop like summer squash or watermelon, or sweet potatoes nearby a couple of weeks before the lettuce will be finished. They will grow over the lettuce spot after the lettuce are done.

When trying to plant more lettuce, I would look for a shadier spot like under tomatoes or behind corn, etc.

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Greener Thumb
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Another ideas is to start your lettuce outside, but in a cell tray. Keep this in a shadier spot so that it doesn't dry out as fast. You can even loosely cover with cling wrap. Keep the moisture in but let the heat out.

Then when it sprouts, move it to the garden. This is what I have to do. The top 1/4 of soil dries out in 20 minutes around here.

USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32.

Failure is only a fact when you give up.

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Super Green Thumb
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I have found that bitterness and bolting of lettuce is partially a function of the age of the plants. IMO it is better to do two or three successions of lettuce, rather than a single early planting. In the past I've successfully grown sweet lettuce all through the summer. But during the hot weather, over 90 degress, the lettuce was grown in planters which were moved into morning sun only locations.

Also as others pointed out, some varieties tolerate the heat better than others. Finally, other salad greens can be grown quite easily through the heat of the summer. We always keep a bed of arugula growing year round. During the hottest parts of the summer and the coldest parts of the winter, arugula becomes our salad green of choice. There are other suitable candidates such as malabar spinach, young Swiss chard, etc.

Finally, I generally keep a succession of plants growing in all of my beds. My lettuce is still growing and being harvest, but the other day beans were placed between the plants. By the time the beans sprout and overtake the lettuce, it will be time to snip or pull the lettuce plants. When the beans are through, I'll squeeze in a couple rows of garlic for the winter. All of my beds are treated that way, with a wide array of inter planting and succession planting, such that most beds are in production year round.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.

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Super Green Thumb
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You have gotten such great advice, I'm a little reluctant to "get my oar in" on your questions, littlekrb.

You seem to be asking, "After lettuce is gone, what will I use in my salads?"

I'm really not that much of a salad or even a raw veggie eater. Yes, I do enjoy a salad but, unlike Hendi_Alex can't really go some of the other things raw. So . . . I stir-fry.

Maybe not with Hendi_Alex's arugula but even its relative the radish is pretty darn good sliced up in a stir-fry. Kind of takes the place of water chestnuts :wink: . Lettuce, too! My grandmother's "wilted lettuce" may have been my 1st introduction to the good stuff that can come out of a garden. You can also do that with lettuce that is just a little past its prime . . . or, let's just say "full grown."

If you think about it, whatever you are putting on a salad as a dressing, pretty much, can go into the skillet with the veggies in a stir fry. So, you have oil - start with that. A little shake of seasonings and/or minced herbs - some bacon bits, maybe. Splash on a little vinegar - you are done!

Taking this direction, you can grow things like bok choy a little later in the season than lettuce. Even as the bok choy begins to flower, those flower buds and the stalks are usually nice & sweet. Of course, broccoli is much the same thing. There's one that I like to grow that can get big and make nice flower buds - Senposai. It even seems to run later & can take more heat than the broccoli.

Of course, beets/chard/that family including something called Perpetual Spinach, can be cooked in a skillet or wok. Probably my favorite veggies are the little, baby beets. Even tiny thinnings from the beet row are tasty.

Like Applestar, I mix my plantings - calling it a "salad bed" no matter how I'm using the plants. I use succession plantings as do your other responders but like JAL_ut, I don't have a whole lot of time for that. Still, that July 4th deadline is quite a ways off and I'm always poised to get the seed for more salad greens in the ground by the end of August. It's greenbeans and summer squash by July 4th and, not just lettuce but more of the small varieties of bok choy & other Asian greens after the August heat.

Cucumbers? You can just cut off that shriveled tip after harvest or remove the fruits that don't look like they are developing properly. In a short time, you will have more cukes taking their place and, hopefully, developing properly. They like a lot of water which kind of sets them apart from some of the others in that family. Best of Luck!

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

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