If planted correctly Crawford lettuce can germinate in a hot soil
right along with okra (center dark green plant)
What can you easily plant using seed in November. My favorite
crop is spinach planted using transplants in late October. I have
described how to use these in flower beds at:
as well as just planting them in a vegetable garden at:
Even though spinach is much more nutritious than lettuce as shown
sometimes spinach grows slow and transplants are hard to find.
The next best greens crop is Crawford lettuce. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
is without doubt the world's most popular salad plant. Both its common
and its Latin name are based on an easily noticeable characteristic-it
has a heavy, milky juice. The word "lettuce" is probably derived
from the Old French laitues (plural of laitue), meaning "milky,"
referring to this plant. The Latin root word lac ("milk") appears in the
Latin name lactuca. Although its culture was widespread in ancient times,
it is neither so old nor was it so widely grown in prehistoric times
as a number of other garden crops. Cultivated lettuce is closely related
to the wild lettuce, L. scariola, from which it was doubtless derived.
Wild lettuce is now widely scattered over the globe, but it originated
in inner Asia Minor, the trans-Caucasus, Iran, and Turkistan.
Lettuce was doubtless among the first garden seeds sown in every
European colony on this continent. Loose-leaf lettuces are still
popular for home gardens because they are so easy to grow. Since, however,
the loose-leaf form is highly perishable after harvesting, it is now
rarely grown in the United States for sale. Lettuce is an annual plant
that requires a relatively cool climate for good leaf and head growth.
Hot weather causes it to become bitter and hastens the elongation
of its stem into a tall seed stalk. The stems or "cores" of
head varieties elongate too soon if grown in too warm weather, either preventing
heading or causing the heads to be loose and of poor quality.
I mentioned the variety of lettuce named 'Crawford' because it
had its beginning right here in San Antonio. At a monthly meeting in the
early 80's, San Antonio Men's Garden Club Double Life Member Marshall
Crawford stood up during a "Show-and-Tell" session with a lettuce
plant he had just harvested from his garden, roots and all. Marshall said he
had been growing this variety of lettuce for a number of years and he thought
"it was a pretty good lettuce for the San Antonio area". It was
named after Marshall Crawford and is a reliably reseeding lettuce for this
The 'Crawford' lettuce is an heirloom black-seeded romaine cos
type lettuce that sports 10-inch heads of slightly savoyed green leaves
with blotches of reddish brown toward the margins. It has a wonderful
non-bitter flavor, loves the winter garden climate, stands up
to heat well and will self-seed (for my brown-thumb friends, you must
let the lettuce flower and form seed in the spring before reseeding will
occur the following year!) and sprout the following fall when temperatures
are ideal. Obviously, gardeners who want the lettuce to reseed cannot
cover the area in mulch. If you use lots of mulch, you should collect
the seed and sow them in the fall on exposed soil. 'Crawford' lettuce can
be growing in pots and flower beds as well. When the lettuce finally
bolts (flowers) and goes to seed in the spring, it is very attractive
with the yellow flowers on a tall spike.
Marshall Crawford got the seed from his father-in-law John Wesley
Van Houtan, a mechanic and long-time gardener from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Marshall's wife Irene said her father was born in 1900 and was
a wonderful backyard gardener. He grew the lettuce and saved seed
from the best plants each year for as long as she could remember. Irene
is not sure where her father originally got the seed, but suspected it
came over with her father's family from Europe and had been passed
down from generation to generation.
In the October, 2005, issue of the Men's Garden Club of San Antonio
monthly newsletter, Horti-Bull, was a write-up about how to best
grow Crawford Lettuce. It read: The Chinese have been using similar
seed germination methods in Yunan and Sechuan Provinces for over 40
centuries. Lettuces as a group are easy to grow and Crawford is
both the easiest lettuce to grow and the best tasting lettuce, year in
Lettuce needs rich soil and plenty of moisture. Nothing much
bothers lettuce in the way of bugs and disease as long as you remember
to space the plants far enough apart and keep it growing rapidly by providing
plenty of water and plant nutrients.
You should make three or four succession plantings to ensure
a longer harvesting season. Make the first planting in early October to
be ready for Thanksgiving. Make the second planting in early November to
be ready for Christmas. Make the third planting in mid-January and the
fourth planting in early February. The final two plantings may produce
bolting plants from which seed can be saved. How soon it turns hot in
spring determines when the lettuce will flower. Temperatures above 80
degrees F. induces seed stalk initiation and tends to cause bitterness.
Lettuce bed preparation is similar to that for any vegetable.
Use 2-3 pounds of 19-5-9 slow-release fertilizer per 10 feet of row. Compost
and manures can also be incorporated into the planting bed.
The books state that lettuce prefers 50-60 degrees F. for best
germination. Well, kiss that idea goodby! This is South Texas.
You are going to need a method that gives you a decent seed germination
with soil temperatures approaching 90 degrees F. Here is how to accomplish
1. Level out the row with a rake. Rows should be a minimum of
12 and preferably 18 inches apart.
2. Dig a 3 inch trench down the middle of the row with a hoe.
3. Take a five gallon bucket of water, or a hose, and fill the
trench with water.
4. Repeat step #3. This insures a complete soaking of the planting
bed and pre-irrigates the bed so the seed will not have to be "watered
5. Rake enough soil back into the trench so the soil is level.
You will need to do this while the trench is still soupy wet. Wait 5-10
minutes until the water has soaked in before you plant your lettuce seed.
6. Plant 3 or 4 seed (in clumps) every six inches down the length
of the row on top of the wet soil. Just as you drop the seed, flick
your wrist a little so the seed spreads out to about the circumference
of a silver dollar.
7. Do not cover the seed except to use some dry soil with a little
compost mixed together and apply a very light layer. Covering
is actually not necessary. DO NOT WATER!!
8. Press the lightly covered seed with something flat-bottomed
like a pink mason jar to make sure you establish capillary action between
the seed and the wet soil below the seed. (All theat water you poured
in the row acts as a reservoir for the seeds sitting on top of it.) You
do not want to water on top of the seed because crusting of the soil
might prohibit maximum germination of seed.
Crawford lettuce seed will sprout in 3-7 days. At the 4 or 5
day point, if it hasn't rained, give the row a good watering. Once the plants
are up, you will need to thin them to one plant every six inches.
Well watered and well spaced lettuce growing in well prepared beds
should have few if any problems. Around the 50-day point, you can start
eating every other plant so the remaining plants are at least 12 inches
You will want to choose a couple of the best plants each year
and save them for your seed plants. Seed plants are going to need at least
18 inch spacing. Always taste a leaf of each lettuce plant you are
thinking of saving for seed and save only the best tasting, strongest,
best looking plants for seed.
Order Crawford Lettuce seed directly by sending a self-addressed
envelop with a check for $2 made payable to Dee Emory to: Dee
Emory, 2830 Bee Cave, San Antonio, Texas 78231