Nothing compares to the fresh salad from a garden and the foundation of a good salad than the lettuce. The lettuce picked is fresher, crisper, and tastier than one purchased at the supermarket. But how do you grow the best garden lettuce? It is usually effortless, but the most crucial factor is light. It is not just the intensity of light, but the number of hours and the amount of time the lettuce uses in the shade. The quality of light for the lettuce often influence more when compared to quantity.
How Much Sun Does Lettuce Need?
If you are growing lettuce in the garden, it is paramount to plant it in a place that gets some shade. Lettuce doesn't grow well in direct sunlight because long-term contact is harmful. Some types of lettuce, such as Red Sails and Green Star, can tolerate a lot of heat and sun; however, most will need some shade.
Provided you are not planting the lettuce in a place exposed to direct sunlight for the entire day, it will grow well. It should get about 6 to 7 hours of sun a day, and the rest should be half or fully shaded. If the lettuce is exposed to excessive sun and heat, it will bolt.
What Happens If The Lettuce Gets More Sun?
As mentioned above, if the lettuce is exposed to a lot of sunlight, it will bolt. In this case, excessive sunlight and heat will put pressure on the lettuce. Therefore, the lettuce blooms prematurely, producing seeds that multiply before death.
Bolting for the lettuce is terrible because it makes it grow thin and tall instead of leafy and big. Rather than solid and green lettuce leaves, you end up with tall and thin plants with some low-quality leaves once they bolt.
What is Bolting?
It is the reaction to stress that happens when the lettuce gets excess sunlight. When a lettuce bolts, it blooms very early and turns into a seed, trying to multiply before it dies. Once started, this process cannot be reversed.
As the lettuce bolts, it becomes long and thin rather than leafy and wide. It remains edible, but it does not taste like a healthy plant. The bolted lettuce depletes the sugar stored for the energy required to bloom, so it doesn't taste very pleasant.
Only because you don't want to eat the lettuce that bolt does not mean you cannot use it. Even though this isn't the proper salad, you can still add it to the smoothie. Fruits and other vegetables can mask this bitter taste, and you get the same nutrients and healthy vitamins.
How To Protect The Lettuce From Excessive Sun
Too much sun is the main reason for lettuce bolting. That's why it's important not to receive much of it. If lettuce starts to bolt, it cannot be turned over. Nevertheless, there are many ways to prevent it from occurring. This include:
1. Start the lettuce early in the season
The easiest way to prevent the lettuce from bolting is to plant it early in the season. Lettuce is a cool season plant that will grow much better if planted early in the season. Even though the ideal temperature range is about 16 °C to 18 °C, lettuce germinates at temperatures as low as 4 °C. So, it is always a good idea to start growing it early in the season.
2. Use shade covers
Another way to protect the lettuce from the excessive sun is to use e covers. These shade covers are ideal for any garden as they protect the plants from sunlight and heat during the hot summer days. Also, they allow water and air to pass through. Typically, this is good for the lettuce as lettuce requires little sunlight.
With the help of a shade towel, you will grow lettuce together with other cool-season crops during the hottest summer days without worrying about excessive sun and heat and bolting. Another great benefit of using the shade covers is that they protect the lettuce plants from small animals and strong winds that want to nibble them.
Shade covers are available in different sizes and shapes and various intensities depending on the needs. This means that it shades the sunlight according to your needs. For instance, some covers offer only 10% of the shade to the plants, whereas others provide about 90% shade. Typically, when growing lettuce, 30-50% is enough.
3. Plant heat resistant types
Some types of lettuce are resistant to sun and heat naturally. They come in four main types; Crisphead, Leaf, Romaine, and Bibb. Also, it depends on personal preferences about the kind of lettuce grown. Each of the four lettuce types has different seeds, which are more tolerant to heat and sun.
What To Do Once The Lettuce Bolt?
Once the lettuce starts to bolt, there's not much that can be done to stop it. Catching it early in a bolting phase allows the leaves to be harvested before they turn bitter. Nevertheless, if the lettuce is skinny and tall, it is probably very late. Even though lettuce is not tasty, there are a few ways to use it.
The easiest way to use the bolted lettuce is to compost it. When you compost it, like all other vegetables that have bolts, it breaks down quickly and supplies nitrogen to the compost pile. This feeds the microbes, leading to additional nutritious and healthy compost to the garden during the next growing season.
b) Seed collecting
Another way to use bolted lettuce is to collect lettuce seeds. When lettuce bolts, it eventually grows into flowers. Each flower has a pod. The seeds will fall off the plant and disperse through the wind to grow in other places if left alone. However, collecting them before they spread is simply enough.
Hold your horse until the flowers are fluffy and dry when you are ready to harvest the lettuce seeds. Then cut off the entire stem of the flower and then shake the flower upturned over the bag to make the seeds fall inside. Squeeze on the bag gently to single out the seed pods from the seeds. When finished, pour the pods and seeds onto a tray or plate. Then blow out the seeds carefully. The seed pods are light enough to fly while the seeds stay in the container. However, you are likely to lose some seeds in the process.
The lettuce is fresher, crisper, and tastier when picked from the garden. When growing it, it does not require much sunlight. This will depend on the intensity of the sunlight it receives. Therefore, the sunlight quality is far essential when compared to the quantitative sunlight hours the lettuce receives. Typically, six to seven hours of direct sunlight a day is the best thumb rule for growing lettuce.