Batavian lettuces for August

Cherokee Red Batavian lettuce sowed in August. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Cherokee Red Batavian lettuce sowed in August.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

This is the hardest time of year for growing lettuce in our part of the world. Lettuce seed needs temperatures below 86F (30C) to germinate. That’s the highest soil temperature that lettuce seed is viable at. Higher than that and heat dormancy sets in. It takes 2.6 days at 86F (30C), which is longer than the 2.2 days at 77F (25C), and equals the time it takes at 68F (20C). Naturally, because these are average figures, varieties vary in their ability to germinate at high temperatures. You’ll want to choose heat tolerant varieties anyway, or they will just bolt (grow up to flower and seed) rather than form a head. Among the heat tolerant ones, the romaine Jericho and the Batavians are best able to germinate at high temperatures.

Cherokee is our new favorite among the Batavians, because of its wonderful dark red color. All Batavians have relatively thick juicy, crunchy leaves, and a heavy head. Our old favorite Pablo, is green tinged with red. (This photo and the Cherokee are of half-grown lettuces, not full-size). Pablo is available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Pablo Batavian lettuce Photo Nina Gentle

Pablo Batavian lettuce
Photo Nina Gentle

Cardinale Batavian lettuce. Photo Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Cardinale Batavian lettuce.
Photo Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Cardinale is redder than Pablo, but less so than Cherokee. Swallowtail Garden Seeds has a selection of seven Batavian lettuces (also called summer crisp lettuces), including Cardinale and a couple I have not tried (Red Ball Jets and Jester).

 

Carioca Batavian lettuce. Credit Johnnys Seeds

Carioca Batavian lettuce.
Credit Johnnys Seeds

Carioca is another red on green, less red than green. It was sold by Johnnys, but is now available from Restoration Seeds

 

Magenta Batavian lettuce. Photo Johnnys Seeds

Magenta Batavian lettuce.
Photo Johnnys Seeds

 

 

 

Magenta is another darker red Batavian lettuce, sold by Johnnys.

Young Sierra lettuce. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Young Sierra lettuce.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

Sierra Batavian lettuce. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Sierra Batavian lettuce.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Among the greener Batavians, we like Sierra from Southern Exposure who rate Sierra as taking 54 days. “Open-headed batavian crisphead with excellent resistance to bottom rot and tip-burn. Leaves are glossy green with reddish veins. Grows in open fashion at first, forming a compact head at maturity. Very tasty, crisp, and juicy. Holds well under high heat.”

Nevada Batavian lettuce. Photo Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Nevada Batavian lettuce.
Photo Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Nevada is an all-green Batavian we really like. It’s available from Swallowtail Garden Seeds who note “outstanding, juicy nutty flavor – it is among the best tasting of all lettuces”

Concept Batavian lettuce Photo Johnnys Seeds

Concept Batavian lettuce
Photo Johnnys Seeds

Concept is another green Batavian that has done well for us. It’s available from Johnnys,  Swallowtail Garden Seeds Like several of the Batavians, at an adolescent stage the head is open, but at maturity it whorls around and closes up.

Loma Batavian lettuce. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Loma Batavian lettuce.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Loma from SESE is a smaller, dense, fast-growing spiky-leaved Batavian. This is one of the varieties I choose when I am a day or two late sowing, and I want fast-growing varieties to make up for my slackness. Ready in 49 days.

Muir Batavian lettuce. Photo Johnnys Seeds

Muir Batavian lettuce.
Photo Johnnys Seeds

We also grow Muir, from Johnnys, who say “the slowest to bolt in our summer trials. . . .  the light green, extra wavy leaves form dense heads at a small size and can be harvested as a mini or left to bulk up into large, heavy, full-size heads.”

Mottistone spotted Batavian letuce. Photo Johnnys Seeds

Mottistone spotted Batavian letuce.
Photo Johnnys Seeds

Another less-typical Batavian is the spotted Mottistone, also from Johnnys. We used to grow this one, but there’s something about spotted lettuce in the summer that just didn’t appeal to people. They thought it was diseased, rather than fancy! it does have good flavor.

Anuenue Bataviasn letuce. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Anuenue Batavian lettuce.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Anuenue, from SESE comes from the University of Hawaii. Anuenue is Hawaiian for “rainbow” (pronounced “ah-nu-ee-nu-ee”).] The seed is able to germinate at higher soil temperatures. We like this one (which is more like icebergs than the other Batavians are) as a change from our old reliables.

 

Lettuce seedbed. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Lettuce seedbed.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

And now, back to how we actually get the lettuce seed to grow in summer. We use an outdoor nursery seedbed, sow the seeds at the end of the day, as temperatures drop, water with cold water, line up ice cubes on the soil covering the seeds, cover the seedbed with shade cloth, and then water daily with fresh-drawn cold water until we get germination. Sunflowers provide shade but also suck up a lot of water, so don’t get too close. Sheep sculptures are optional.

Events I’ll be speaking at in 2015, more new varieties

virginia-biological-farming-conference-2015-richmondLast week I listed four events I’m booked for for next year. I’ll fill you in a bit and tell you about some more I hope to be at. My first is

Virginia Biological Farming Conference  January 29-31 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. Early registration (hurry! ends 12/20) is $130 for members, $190 for non-members. So why not become a member if you aren’t already? You’ll get news all year. Conference registration covers your choice of the 25 workshops on Friday and Saturday; access to the trade show, where you can handle the tools you’re considering buying, and ask questions of the vendors; Friday dinner and Saturday lunch;

There are 3 pre-conference workshops (4 to 7 hours each) on Thursday, for $60-$75: Essential Tools & Techniques for the Small Scale Organic Vegetable Growers by Jean-Martin Fortier of The Market Gardener fame, Urban Farming Intensive with Cashawn Myer & Tenisio Seanima, and Edible Landscaping with Michael Judd and Ira Wallace (of Southern Exposure fame).

I’m giving two workshops: Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests – How to plan sowing dates for continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers, edamame and sweet corn, as well as year round lettuce. Using these planning strategies can help avoid gluts and shortages (3pm Friday); and  Producing Asian Greens – Detailed information for market and home growers. Many varieties of tasty, nutritious greens grow quickly and bring fast returns. This session covers production of Asian greens outdoors and in the hoophouse. It includes tips on variety selection of over twenty types of Asian greens; timing of plantings; pest and disease management; fertility; weed management and harvesting (10.30 am Saturday). I’ll also be signing and selling books.

Bring a dish for the Friday potluck picnic at lunchtime, seeds for the seed swap, a notebook and two pens, a bag to collect handouts and so on, and if you play music, bring an instrument and some songs for the jam on Friday night.

logoThen the next weekend, I’m at the  Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Farming for a Future Conference February 4-7, 2015, at State College, PA. There are extra pre-conference sessions on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th, then the main conference on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I am speaking on Growing Great Garlic (Saturday 3.10 pm) and also on Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables (Friday 8.30 am). I also hope to be doing book-signing and sales.

small-farm-center_bannerFebruary 26-28, 2015 I will be speaking at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference in Charleston, WV. That workshop will either be Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables, or Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests.

2012-festival-slideshowThe fourth booking I have is at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello September 11-12, 2015. Too soon to name the topic.

MENFairLogoAs far as events I hope to be at, there are the Mother Earth News Fairs in Asheville, NC April 11-12, 2015, Seven Springs, PA September 18-20 2015 and Topeka, KS October 24-25 2015


 

Carioca Batavian lettuce. Credit Johnnys Seeds

Carioca Batavian lettuce.
Credit Johnnys Seeds

And meanwhile, this week on the farm we finished our seed ordering and started some shopping for tools and supplies. In 2015 we will repeat our variety trials to try to find a heat-tolerant eggplant variety. We were happy to find another Batavian heat-tolerant lettuce to try: Carioca from Johnny’s. With the addition of a few exceptions, we rely on Batavian lettuce varieties once the weather gets hot, to grow without bolting or getting (very) bitter. the exceptions are Jericho green romaine, De Morges Braun and New Red Fire, a looseleaf red lettuce which nearby grower Gary Scott told me about.

We are also growing some Eden Gem melons alongside our Kansas and Sun Jewel melons (and the individual-serving size Tasty Bites that I mentioned in my last post.

Peacework sweet pepper. Credit fedco Seeds

Peacework sweet pepper.
Credit fedco Seeds

We have high hopes for Peacework sweet pepper from Fedco, a very early (65 day) OP medium-thick-walled pepper “with good flavor and full-bodied sweetness.” We are always on the look-out for fast-ripening bell peppers. Because of the seed-growing business at Twin Oaks, at the end of the season we have tons of ripe peppers, but if you are growing a seed crop, there is no incentive to try to push the planting date early. So our main pepper-focus in the vegetable garden is on earliness and flavor – never forget the importance of flavor!

We are also trying Donkey spinach this year. For years we have been very happy with the reliable performance and productivity of Tyee, but Fedco tell us the producer of Tyee is a Multinational engaged in genetic engineering. If Donkey can replace Tyee we’ll be very happy!