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nes
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Over-wintering Lettuce

I'm starting to play my garden for next year (I know it's July! :P but it will take me all winter to decide what I want to do). Because I am planning on trying some garlic overwinter I thought I'd also try some lettuce.

What are the benefits of over-wintering lettuce? versus starting it in the spring?
(I planted mid-April and got edible lettuce first week of June, but was still really small)
What should I cover the lettuce with?
We get allot of snow here, am I really going to be successful?

I'm zone 5a and I've read it can be done but I'm a little sceptical :?
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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rainbowgardener
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overwintering lettuce

Not something I've ever done, but maybe I'll think about trying it this year. Here's a little reference I found:

WINTER LETTUCE. Few gardeners overwinter lettuce, which is a shame because winter lettuce is often the tastiest. It requires little effort in Zones 5 and higher, and you can be successful if you plant the right varieties. Plants that survive the winter will rapidly develop new growth as spring approaches and the days get longer and warmer. And you'll get fresh lettuce long before the earliest spring-planted crops are ready.

Select only varieties bred for short day lengths and cold temperatures. Sow your winter crop in late summer or fall, so plants can set roots and develop true leaves before the bitter cold arrives. The lettuce will perform best in a cold frame, where you can harvest it through the winter. If you don't have a cold frame, use other covers to protect your plants.

Even the most cold-tolerant varieties go into a form of "hibernation" showing little or no growth after freezing weather settles in. However, when temperatures climb to about 45 degrees, the lettuce will bounce back with full vigor. Just be sure to harvest before it gets TOO warm--day lengths of about 14 hours and temperatures over 70 degrees trigger bolting.

Top picks for Winter: Butterhead--North Pole, Artic King; Romaine--Brune D'Hiver, Winter Density; Looseleaf--Winterwunder

https://reviews.ebay.com/YEAR-ROUND-LETTUCE_W0QQugidZ10000000001458598

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Kisal
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Hmmm ... that sounds very interesting! I think maybe I'll give it a try, too. I don't have a cold frame, but I'm sure I can rig up something that would work. Great idea! :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

cynthia_h
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I'd recommend that you look at your local library for a copy of Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest. Coleman's book came out just a few years ago (three? four???) and discusses how to harvest veggies and herbs from your cold-climate garden all through the year.

It is still available for sale, but whenever possible I like to check out books at the library before giving them space in the house.

Cynthia H.
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nes
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Thanks cynth! I'll keep my eye out - but I'm pretty rural so I'm not sure they'll have it :?

I'm going to keep looking into the winter lettuce, I'm bummed no one has tried it at all before though?

My main concern is the lettuce getting to wet under the snow and just rotting.
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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applestar
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Ah - the way Elliot Coleman does it in the book, he has a large movable closed end tunnel (big enough to walk around in, with a door) and grows the lettuce in there. Then when it gets freezing cold, he puts a floating cover supported by wire over the lettuce. He might have said he also puts a light weight floating cover directly on the lettuce on coldest nights (Layers, you know).

I'm always a bit skeptical of my ability to keep plants alive when I can't rely on Mother Nature to do a fair share of the work. EC's involves a irrigation system (that won't freeze -- I believe his winter tunnel gets positioned against his kitchen, so that part of the tunnel is covering the brick patio or something -- memory a little vague here -- so they just walk right out to it and the water access is also under protective cover), not to mention a tunnel structure that won't get blown away. So although I've been eye'ing up the project, I haven't tried it yet.

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nes
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There is a preview of the book on google books :)
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

cynthia_h
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I think Coleman's full-on, fancy set-up is as you describe. But I've read a couple of articles (in the alas now-dead magazine "Kitchen Garden") based on his book, with interviews :D, and there are good instructions for building ventilated cold frames. No walk-through hoop house! :)

The photo I really liked was snow up to the depth of the cold frame's walls with very dense salad greens showing through the glass top of the frame. That said it all.

Cynthia

Wsmith
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I like idea of being able to grow lettuce and other vegetables through the winter. Though I think it is an evaluation of the return on investment that would keep me from doing it.

I think it surely can be accomplished to grow lettuce through the winter in zone 5 but what all would it take to do that and is it economical. Maybe coldframes or row covers to extend the season might work best and be worth the effort where a full blown greenhouse with layers of row covers as described in a previous post might be more effort than it is worth to be able to grow fresh garden greens in the middle of winter.

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nes
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Those were my most recent thought on the whole thing w.s. I'm starting to think it may be easier to go with a row cover and then grow lettuce indoors for the winter right through until early spring.

I'm still intrigued with trying to keep some lettuce alive outside for early spring. Maybe a 2x4 and plexi-glass box... but I've got to sort this out with my garden plan for next year too, because I'm switching my row direction and the lettuce will be on top of my current cucumber plot :D.
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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applestar
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An alternative that I read about and am going to try this fall is to let some lettuce go to seed -- YES let it bolt and flower and all :shock: -- this fall and scatter the seeds where you plant to grow lettuce in spring. The lettuce is supposed to sprout way earlier than you would think to sow seeds yourself.

I imagine that you'd want to prep the bed before scattering seeds, and you may get better results if you protect the seedlings that emerge with floating covers, etc.

I think the problem here is timing I have some spring lettuce that I've allowed to go to bolt, just to see what happens. Am I the only one that's never seen lettuce flowers? :roll: They're just starting to form buds and these were started from seed around beginning of April. I have some lettuce starts right now but not necessarily ones that I'll want to grow in spring.... I also have some lettuce seedlings that have just started to grow true leaves.

I guess if none of my growing lettuce makes the window for seeding the bed, I'll just have to scatter some seeds from packets. :lol:

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Kisal
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Scattering the seed in the fall sounds good, but I doubt it would work in my area. Once the rainy season starts in the fall, small seeds can get washed away or buried too deeply to survive. Weeds certainly seed themselves successfully in the fall, but I think they probably put out millions of seeds. The same survival rate for seeds I actually planted might leave me with very few plants. :(

I'm working on getting a cold frame built. Found an old storm window out in the garage earlier today that should work for the top. :D
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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nes
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Well I do have a ton of 2 year old seeds I should use up (That will teach me to buy the BIG packet of Grand Rapids - waaaay too much lettuce! :D). Perhaps I`ll try that, it sounds in theory that it should work unless we had a really warm fall.
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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gone cuttin
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I have let the luttuce go to seed for the past two years and have been happy with the results. I don't harvest the seeds, but just let them dry and fall back in the same bed. Then in the spring when the seeds germinate I just move them to the new bed. They do seem to come up very early and I move them in clumps.

One of the problems is that seeds do travel to strange spaces sometimes quite some distance. But they are very easy to pull out and take to transplanting very well.
McClure Ranch

cynthia_h
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Here is a description of how to build a Coleman-inspired, low-tech, low-cost cold frame for longer harvesting seasons:

https://gardendesk.blogspot.com/2009/02/step-by-step-how-to-build-cold-frame.html

Cold frames are a centuries-old method of having fresh produce available in months when it ordinarily wouldn't be expected. (So were hot beds, but I'd rather not drag this thread too far off....)

Maybe the photos of cold-frame construction will inspire someone here.

Cynthia

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