Friday, 22 March 2013
I've decided one of my salad challenges for this year is to grow as many lettuce varieties as I can, ready for the publication of my planned Factsheet* later on.
The idea is to grow as many of the Tried and Trusted lettuce varieties last year's Salad Challengers helped compile, then provide a visual guide and as many lettuce facts as I can muster. So far I've found around half of those listed**. Then naturally whilst I was out searching - because such is the way with seeds - a number of other varieties found their way home too ;)
A couple of weeks ago I sowed 22 varieties***. Just the simple act of sowing them has me intrigued. Why are some lettuce seeds black and others white****? They split into about half white to half black in my sample and as far as I can tell it's nothing to do with whether they're a type of cos, iceberg, or whatever.
I sowed them indoors and popped them into a propagator on the windowsill. The soil's too cold outside for sowing and it won't be warm enough to plant them out in the cold frame outside until late April or May. Most of them germinated in 4-6 days, well within the 7-10 days given on most seed packets. I have a couple of no shows - Crisp Mint and Tamburo. Crisp Mint was a bit of a dodgy prospect anyway because I opened the packet a couple of years ago. However, Tamburo was all shiny and new, so I'm currently conducting a germination test to see if I have a duff packet.
As you can see, despite being on a sunny south facing windowsill in March, my lettuces are rather leggy. However, I'm not going to throw them away and start again because we had a top tip from Alys Fowler in #saladchat on this very thing last year: just bury the stem up to the leaves when pricking out and they should come out OK in the end. That won't solve my problem of where to put them all though!
All this legginess means I've been pondering grow lights again. The pukka thing is hideously expensive, though I'm told eBay is the place to find a bargain if I go down this route. Alternatively, Antjon posted recently about a DIY solution he's rigged up for his geranium seedlings using a full-spectrum SAD lamp for around £10.
It's got me wondering whether all SAD lamps are full-spectrum and if a daylight bulb (which I have already) is the same thing. We've also been chatting on Twitter and Arabella Sock and Alex Mitchell - who already have SAD lamps - are having a go to see what happens. As we've now reached the spring equinox, I'm saving my experimentation for later in the year. I must also remember to try John Harrison's tip re using aluminium foil as a reflector to maximise available light.
How's your salad coming along? Link to your salad post's URL in Mr Linky below. BTW I've answered question 5 from last month's Salad Days: pre-soaking makes no difference to pea seed emergence rates. It does allow me to assess seed viability though, so I'll continue with this practise.
* = in the meantime, this article from the University of Illinois has lots of information.
** = they are: Black Seeded Simpson, Dazzle, Freckles, Iceberg, Little Gem, Lobjoits Cos, Lollo Rosso, Marveille de Quatre Saisons, Red Salad Bowl, Relic, Salad Bowl, and Tan Tan
*** = Note to self: must sow more thinly next time - just 1 or 2 seeds per module will do
**** = it seems it's a genetic factor, just like bean colour. This paper also says there are a few yellow seeded varieties too.