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Lactuca sativa
Iceberg lettuce field
Habit: herbaceous
Lifespan: annual or biennial
Features: edible
USDA Zones:
Sunset Zones:
[[{{{domain}}}]] > [[{{{superregnum}}}]] > Plantae > [[{{{subregnum}}}]] > [[{{{superdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{superphylum}}}]] > Magnoliophyta > [[{{{phylum}}}]] > [[{{{subdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{subphylum}}}]] > [[{{{infraphylum}}}]] > [[{{{microphylum}}}]] > [[{{{nanophylum}}}]] > [[{{{superclassis}}}]] > Magnoliopsida > [[{{{subclassis}}}]] > [[{{{infraclassis}}}]] > [[{{{superordo}}}]] > Asterales > [[{{{subordo}}}]] > [[{{{infraordo}}}]] > [[{{{superfamilia}}}]] > Asteraceae > [[{{{subfamilia}}}]] > [[{{{supertribus}}}]] > [[{{{tribus}}}]] > [[{{{subtribus}}}]] > Lactuca {{{subgenus}}} {{{sectio}}} {{{series}}} sativa var.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Lettuce. The lettuce plant is botanically Lactuca saliva (which see), which is probably derived from Lactuca Scariola. It is an annual with milky juice, and has been greatly developed for its root-leaves These leaves, much enlarged and modified, comprise the most popular of the plant salads. It has been in cultivation for more than 2,000 years, according to De Candolle. The varieties are many; in 1889, "Annals of Horticulture" listed 119 varieties offered by American dealers. The two general forms are the head lettuces and the cluster or open-leaf lettuces. There are also spring lettuces and summer lettuces, the latter being developed to withstand more heat, for lettuce usually thrives best in the cool weather of spring. Of late years, kinds specially adapted to forcing have been secured, as the growing of the crop under glass has now assumed large proportions.

The lettuce plant is quite hardy to cold, comes quickly to edible maturity, is not much subject to disease or insect injury and, though it quickly succumbs to dry hot weather, is generally of the easiest culture. Even a farmer's wife, who, because of household cares, cannot take the time to plant a garden or even to gather and prepare a mess of peas or beans, can make and care for a planting of lettuce, and a few heads cut in the early morning and placed where they will be kept cool are a most appetizing addition to the noonday meal. From 1 to 2 yards of row to a person should yield an abundance for as long as a single planting is usable and a family supply may be grown in the smallest village yard or even on the back of a city lot; and, because of coming to the table in better condition, may be superior to any obtainable from the market.

Hundreds of different varieties and strains have been developed, varying greatly in habit of growth and character or product, ranging from those with but a few upright-growing narrow, smooth, thin leaves, and which soon shoot to seed, to those with many thick broad, smooth, crumpled or savoyed leaves, either clustered together, or overlaying each other so as to form a round head like that of a cabbage.

Varieties differ greatly in adaptation to cultural conditions, some giving fine returns when grown under glass but are hardly usable when grown in the open garden. They also differ greatly in color, tenderness and other qualities of the leaf. In some varieties, like the Prize Head, the leaf is mottled with red and brown and so tender that they are often so broken and torn apart by a heavy rain as to be unsalable, while the light green more tender-looking but really tougher leaves of a nearby planting of Grand Rapids are uninjured. There are varieties that form very broad white midribs which, when the green portion of the leaf is cut away, make quite as beautiful salad for table decoration or to eat from the hand as the finest celery or witloof.

There are many forms of Cos lettuce that are seldom grown in this country because they do not thrive in our bright sunny days, but do much better in the cloudy weather of England, where our most popular American sorts are considered coarse and weedy. All varieties require for the best development well-drained but moist cool friable soil, and thrive best in cool moist weather. They cannot be grown to perfection in the heat of midsummer. Even more than with many vegetables, it is essential to the most successful culture of lettuce that the soil be well enriched from previous dressings rather than recent applications, and if only coarse and fresh manure is available that it be well shaken apart, evenly distributed through, and well mixed with the soil. The most experienced Boston growers hardly expect a full crop until after the second or third manuring. Hardwood-ashes and bone- meal usually prove the most profitable artificial manures. Plantings for the first crop can be safely made as early as the soil can be put in friable condition. In many lots of seed the outer seed-coats are very hard, resulting in slow germination, and it may be advantageous to soak the seed for twenty- four hours before planting. Drills about 16 to 24 inches apart and evenly about 2 inches deep should be made and while the soil is still fresh and moist twenty to forty seeds to the foot should be evenly distributed and covered with not to exceed 1/2 inch of fine earth. Any greater depth, particularly on heavy soils, lessens the chances of a good and even stand. Some varieties are more sensitive than others to deep covering. Many successful growers in planting the Grand Rapids do not cover the seed at all except by washing over a little earth with a watering-pot and then shading with a board supported 1 or 2 inches above the row and removed as the plants germinate and start into growth. As the plants appear they should be thinned so as to prevent crowding and replanting should be made every fifteen to thirty days in order to secure a succession. With common facilities it is impossible to grow good lettuce in the dry heat of midsummer, though plantings in early autumn often furnish that of the very best quality.

In villages, plantings of lettuce for sale in the immediate vicinity often prove very profitable, the great essential to success being a rich well-drained soil, the use of good seed of a suitable variety, the gathering of the crop in early morning when the leaves are cool and stiff and handling it with as little exposure to sunshine as practically possible.

In the recent years, hundreds of acres from Washington southward have been devoted to growing lettuce for shipment during the late winter and spring. In the northern sections, sash-covered frames with a single hot-water pipe along the front to guard against severe freezing are used. Farther south similar frames without provision for artificial heat but covered during the colder nights with sash and mats are used, and still farther south frames with only canvas curtains; or the crop is grown in sheltered fields with no artificial protection. All such plantings, however, are liable to become unpalatable or even killed by long-continued cold. The great essentials to success are a rich soil, even moisture, the fullest possible exposure to sunlight and first of all the use of pure seed of a variety like the Hubbard Market which is hardy and adapted to that cultural method and will stand shipment long distances and exposure in the market without loss of attractiveness.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

The growing of lettuce seed.—In few vegetables is the satisfaction from a planting more dependent upon the varietal character and quality of the seed used, and fortunately the quality of most of that on the market is very dependable. Up to about 1865 most of the seed came from Europe, though comparatively small quantities were grown in Connecticut, New York and Michigan. About that time persons began to grow lettuce seed in California and the amount produced has increased until today not only the greater part of that used in America is grown there but large and constantly increasing quantities are sent to Europe. While small plantings of especial lots, of which little stock seed is available, are grown from started plants which are set in place in the field, the greater part of the crop is grown from seed sown in rows about 30 inches apart and the least typical plants pulled out until three to five plants to the yard are left. Many stocks grow such large and solid heads that they have to be pulled apart in order to let the seed-stalks shoot up and often the lower leaves of the plant have to be pulled away to prevent the seed-stalk rotting at the base. As soon as the seed begins to ripen, the plants are cut and laid on large sheets onto which the earlier ripening seeds fall and the later ones are threshed off. The yield of seed varies greatly with the variety and the grower's success in securing it with little loss from birds or from shattering in the field and while harvesting, and commonly runs from 500 to 1,000 pounds to the acre. The growing of seed requires special experience and skill.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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  • Standard Cyclopedia of HorticultureCH

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