Started two new lettuce beds in Garden #2 to succeed early spring hoop house lettuce which was seeded mid Apr. with first successive harvest beginning in Jun. Expect to get 4- 5 weeks of harvest from current planting if the weeds don’t overtake us. Summer lettuce is very tricky as it tends to” bolt to seed ” Once soil temperatures reaches the 80s and the summer sun lingers in the sky for 13- 15 hours, leafy greens are stimulated by heat and light to send up flower stalks to produce seed for the the fall generation of seedlings ; hence the euphemism bolting to seed. Bolting greens go through hormonal changes and tend to taste hot and bitter. Continuous harvesting from the same plants helps slow bolting down but eventually the plants call to reproduce overcomes our attempts to frustrate its nature. Consistent moisture from sweat hoses and shading with shade fabric also helps keep lettuce productive.
Thwarting the native weed population is a greater challenge. Nature abhors a vacuum when fertile soil is left bare and zillions of weed seeds waiting in the soil race to germinate filling an ecological nichewith greenery. There are several strategies to deal with weed seedlings and the best ones are timely prevention. I put chickens out on old salad beds to clear them of plant residue,weeds and soil dwelling bugs. Chickens do a good job churning up the soil if they are confined to a movable space adding their droppings for fertility. I may then cover the area they leave bare with black landscape fabric to kill and rot what remains. Next I pull back the fabric, till with a small mantis tiller, grade beds flat and thickly broadcast annual rye grass to over whelm and out compete the native weed seeds. Chickens will graze on the rye to keep it low and will continue to grow through the fall and winter. Landscape fabric is placed on the beds in late fall or winter killing and rotting the rye, and when soil temperatures are above 50 degrees, I roll out 4 ft. wide brown craft paper on the bed and cover to about half an inch sifted Earth Care Farm USDA certified organic compost. Compost is graded level and I seed the bed with a four row pin-point seeder. Will then water with three 100 ft. length sweat hoses left in place side by each and reduce watering as seeds germinate. First harvest cutting is timed for 4-5 weeks if all goes well.