Gardening for Beginners: Grow Lamb's Lettuce in Fall
Lamb's lettuce is the winter queen of my garden. It just doesn't seem to mind the colder temperatures. Grow lamb's lettuce late in the season too!
So many new gardeners found their way to my blog and other platforms this year! I'm beyond excited that you want to ask me for advice about how to get started on your own garden projects at home. The best part is that I know how many wonderful experiences you have in front of you. It starts now!
One of the most common questions that beginners ask me is about what they can sow right away. It's fall now and we don't have quite as many options if we want to sow new seeds outside. But, one vegetable comes to mind. Lamb's lettuce!
I know that a few of you don't appreciate my reminders about sowing more seeds late in the season. If you have a smaller garden and grow mostly for fun, it might seem a bit unnecessary. How can we possibly get anything when we start so late? This is actually one of the greatest (and most fun) challenges of my job: Trying to explain that it's possible to grow all year round, even in a colder climate. I hope these pictures of my lush green leaves will inspire you to give it a try!
Lamb's lettuce is also called corn salad or field salad, or mache in the supermarket. It's one of the best leafy greens to grow late in the year. Use it in your salads or put it on your sandwiches.
The pictures show the lamb's lettuce I'm growing in my cottage garden on Oak Hill. I did the sowing on August 21 which is quite late here for us in zone 3.
Hardy and fast-growing
I often think about lamb's lettuce as the winter queen of the leafy greens. This is a low-growing plant, not overly bothered by wind and rain. Hail might be an exception though, but a thin layer of snow is usually fine. The lamb's lettuce can deal with freezing too, as long as it doesn't freeze and then thaw many times over. Or of course, if the temperatures are very low all winter long.
But if I can grow lamb's lettuce in fall and winter here in zone 3, I'm sure you can do it too!
Grow lamb's lettuce in fall
Did you know that you can actually grow lamb's lettuce almost all year round? The seeds are very cold-hardy and can stay dormant in cold soil for a long while.
Simply sow your lamb's lettuce in your beds outside, raised beds, the greenhouse or in pots. Just scatter the seeds on top of the ground or do it in rows and put a little soil on top. You don't need to water the seeds outside now in fall, nature will take care of it. If you grow lamb's lettuce in the greenhouse, you can just water the soil carefully after sowing.
When will the seeds germinate then? Well, they might just get there already in fall with the right temperature. But don't sweat it if they don't. Just wait for early spring. The soil warms up when the sun gets stronger in late winter and early spring. Remember to cover the seeds with fabric or a lid. You can actually do it a bit sooner than you expect. Nature knows what it's doing and the seeds can germinate in cold soil too.
Harvesting lamb's lettuce
You can harvest lamb's lettuce leaf by leaf, or pick the entire plant at once if you want to. A summer sowing can be harvested in fall and later. If you decide to grow lamb's lettuce in fall instead, then you might be able to pick the leaves in winter. Late (and cold) fall sowings are on the other hand ready in spring.
So, there's no need to stop sowing new seeds just because it's fall. You can grow lamb's lettuce basically all year round!
Lamb's lettuce has a really pleasant nutty flavor. If you haven't tried it before and are more used to eating regular lettuce, then it might taste a little strange in the beginning. But just take the time to get used to the flavor and try to find suitable combinations that work for you. I especially enjoy eating it together with rapeseed oil and lemon. It tastes great unseasoned too though!
I just wanted to finish by saying that growing late vegetables actually does pay off. Some people seem to think it doesn't and don't at all like the thought of growing late in the season. Don't listen to them! You have more options than you might think. Most people with a garden don't actually use large portions of it in fall, which means that they could grow plenty of late leafy greens there if they wanted to. So if you want to get plenty of food, sowing plenty of seeds throughout the year is the solution. The newly harvested leafy greens are a welcome addition to the stored vegetables I grew earlier in summer. Try to grow lamb's lettuce late in the season too!