Since it’s starting to get hot outside and we want to be sure that we have lots of lettuce around when the tomatoes are ready, how do we cool our gardens down to ensure a continuous lettuce harvest? For starters, I always think it’s a good idea to keep the sun off your lettuce. Even if it’s under 80 degrees. But you’ll definitely want to keep the sun off your lettuce if it’s over 80. Somewhere between 80-85 degrees is where lettuce has a very hard time germinating. You have a couple of options. The first is to start your lettuce seeds inside-where it’s cool, and then transplant them outside when they’re ready. This is a great way to do it and to ensure a continuous harvest all summer. But it does require a little more work on your part. The other way is to direct seed right into the garden soil. When you’re hot what do you need? A little more water, and you sure could go for some extra shade. It’s the same thing with lettuce. If you cover it and give it a little more water, you’ll be able to grow lettuce all summer long-right through the hottest part of the year. You can see how I do it with this picture of shade cloth. I have it draped over the lettuce and it’s attached to my PVC ribs by large binder clips. One of these days I’m going to put a thermometer under there to see how much cooler it actually is under the shade. I know it’s significant enough to enable me to grow my lettuce all summer long. You can buy shade cloth at a lot of garden supply stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. It comes in a large roll. I end up cutting the roll into pieces to fit my garden needs. As mentioned earlier, I try to keep the hot sun off my lettuce even when it’s not overly hot. Try this little experiment yourself when the temperature is over 80 and also again when it’s under 80 degrees. Cover some of your lettuce with shade cloth while you leave other lettuce uncovered. Then come out and look at them at the end of the day when it’s time to snip salad for dinner. Although the lettuce that’s uncovered will be ok, you’ll notice that the covered lettuce is more crip, not wilted at all, and fresh looking. Your uncovered lettuce will be less colorful, dry, and slightly wilted-maybe very wilted if it’s really hot. That’s why I cover mine. What if you don’t have the money to buy shade cloth? No problem-use an old bed-sheet. Make sure it’s white or light yellow in color though, as a darker colored fabric will heat up your garden.
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