How To grow Winter Lettuce

Lettuce in Autumn growing outside without winter protection

Although we eat fewer salads in winter,  it is still nice to pick fresh leaves, and perfectly possible to grow lettuce throughout autumn and winter with very little effort. 

Lettuce grown during autumn and winter falls into two types. Late summer sown lettuce and rocket planted out late in the veg plot,  which will withstand light frosts which may occur during October and November. Lettuce is hardier than it appears, and late sown lettuce will survive cold and light frosts without protection, which means it can be cropped all through autumn.

This is shown in the image left where there is rocket and lettuce outside the cloche, as well as inside. The lettuce outside will cope with low temperatures and frost.   The lettuces outside the cloche were eaten first, leaving those under the cloche for consumption in late autumn and winter.

You can also sow the 'cut and crop' again type rocket, into a container is handy, which means it can easily be covered or moved into shelter if bad weather threatens. In common with Lettuce, Rocket will also tolerate light frosts and spells of cold down to around -5degrees.

As the more serious cold kicks in, lettuce does need some winter protection. Looking at the images below, there are two types of sowings of lettuce. In the background, the tall lettuce at the far end of the cloche (protected because bad weather is expected,) is summer sown lettuce and in the foreground is the newer winter lettuce. 

When planting a late crop of lettuce, or winter lettuce, whether from seed or as small plug plants, covering with a cloche will help raise the temperature as autumn sets in and produce sturdy plants. 

Even though it is sold as winter lettuce, if there is a spell of low temperatures, frost and snow, winter lettuce requires cloche protection. Winter lettuces are tough but not indestructible. Varieties sold as winter lettuce illustrated here are Winter Purslane, Corn Salad, Land Cress and Winter lettuces ' Density' and ' Winter King'

Once the plants are established take the cloche off in milder days to allow air circulation, to prevent the soil from getting mold, and to allow watering.

At the back of the image on the right below is red leaved lettuce, which is the same as illustrated above centre in late summer as a large seedling. It was planted out in the veg plot in the late summer. Some of the plants had cloche protection and some didn't and it has cropped for several months providing a continuous supply of lettuce. 

Given that lettuce is expensive in the shops, especially over winter this makes it an easy to grow economical crop. We are also being asked more and more to consider the potential greenhouse effect when selecting food, and no air miles is good.