Crop Talk: A Season of Lettuce Production at High Ledge Farm
No matter where you grow, our high quality lettuce varieties mean a consistent supply all season long. I really like that we offer all the classic market standards, as well as a number of specialty varieties that are exciting visually or offer a unique eating experience. Together they make up an interesting, complete collection that works well on my farm, and can help you succeed on yours.
This is how my lettuce season works at High Ledge Farm:
Red Tide is one of my favorites for spring, a fast grower that holds well in the field and has good resistance to bottom rot. It has a taller habit, so produce departments can remove some bottom leaves and still have a nice big head. I do 4-5 successions of it, stopping around mid-June when I switch to more heat-tolerant varieties. New Red Fire is another workhorse red suitable for all slots. It’s consistent, packs out well, has real weight to it (great for wholesale), and it holds well post-harvest—a great variety overall.
Waldmann’s is a great commercial green that does well in most slots. When it starts to get really hot I switch to Bergam’s Green, which has some Summer Crisp bred into it for exceptional heat-tolerance, though it looks like a regular green leaf to customers.
Optima is my favorite butterhead for spring and summer planting. It has a really big frame, and the thicker (though still very tender) leaves are more rugged post-harvest than other varieties. You can cut it, dunk it 3 or 4 times, pack it and it still looks nice at market, which is rare for a butterhead. Mirlo also does well in the spring and summer, with more of a blond-green color and thinner, more delicate leaves.
For romaines we offer some key commercial varieties like Green Towers, which is very reliable and forgiving, and gets really large so you can trim it for hearts. I also really like Arroyo, a refined, newer romaine great for hearts that offers the complete downy mildew resistance package growers need (especially out west). For minis, the Rhazes and Spretnak are some of my favorites. They have similar growth rates and good weight, and look really nice together.
I plant the Summer Crisps Magenta & Nevada on my farm every cycle—they do well in the cold, in the heat, and have good bottom rot resistance – very forgiving. Nevada is one of my favorite varieties in the world; the eating quality is amazing, and it’ll easily hold 7-10 days post-harvest without any loss in quality. It also has a “tell” where the top starts to close in, then peel back when it’s about to bolt; you can harvest at this stage and there’s no bitterness to it. It’s great if you have a hard time with successions and having lettuce every week, since it can fill the gaps between successions thanks to its impressive holding ability and shelf life.
If you want to take the guesswork out of salad mixes, try our Gourmet, Yankee Hardy or DMR Blend (the latter two are great if you have high DM pressure). You can also get all the baby lettuce and mustard components from us to make your own custom mixes—we list the DM race resistances in the catalog, so you can design a mix with the resistance you need.
When fall rolls around I want to avoid diminishing returns, so I have a secret: I wait until my late greenhouse tomatoes are done, then dig up head lettuces from the field and transplant them in the greenhouse. I grow on about 700 heads with no added heat, and have a tender, beautiful crop right in time to crush Thanksgiving markets. It is extra work, but since I keep on my schedule of planting every 10-14 days all season, I can just go out to the field and select the right-sized heads for transplanting (and it brings a valuable crop back into production). Magenta, Ansar, Rhazes & Spretnak all do really well with this at 6 inch spacing.
Lettuce is a profitable crop for me and allows me to establish a clientele that I see every week, which in turn drives sales to other crops. High Mowing's selection of proven market standards and cutting-edge new varieties is sure to catch customers' attention early in the season and keep them coming back for more!