Q:Hi. I live in a townhome community and I am trying container gardening this summer. I have started lettuce seedlings this spring that will be ready to transplant soon. I know lettuce can be tricky so I started more seeds than I needed and I think all of my seeds grew! I need to thin and transplant the lettuce. Do you have any recommendations for container gardening for head lettuce types ( I have iceberg), spacing, and how to prevent it from going to seed in the summer heat etc? Thanks, Mrs. Ashton
A:Grumpy hopes you’re up to the challenge, because ‘Iceberg’ types of lettuce are the hardest for home gardeners to grow. This is because they demand cool weather (around 60 degrees) in order to form large, firm heads. In warm weather, they quickly bolt (go to seed) and heads often rot or split. Given the fact that it is May, unless you live way up north, you’ve already missed the party. You can try shading your plants during the afternoon, but it may not make a difference. Ideally, you’d want to set out transplants as soon as possible after your last freeze.
As an alternative, why not try the much easier leaf types, such as ‘Oak Leaf’ and ‘Red Sails’ or butterhead types, such as ‘Bibb’ and ‘Buttercrunch’? They don’t form big heads, but they tolerate warmer temperatures before bolting. You can also sow rather thickly, then thin the seedlings and use them in salads. But don’t wait. Summer is almost here.
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