Winter Lettuces are varieties of lettuces that can be sown late in the season. They will tolerate cold and low light levels and still provide leaf pickings for the salad bowl right through winter and into spring. These hardy types are often the most popular lettuces because they have robust flavours, crisp leaves and good textures.
Winter lettuces mature in around 50 to 60 days when grown at optimum temperatures but the lettuce will slow down in cold weather, a trait which gardeners can use to their advantage. In cold weather a lettuce can stand fresh and ready to be picked for two or more months and it won’t go to seed. If you can protect the crop from very cold or wet weather and if you get the timing right it will stand in perfect condition right through winter.
Lettuce Meraviglia d'Inverno is truly a ‘Marvel of Winter’, it is a beautiful Italian lettuce, a compact butterhead type that is very resistant to cold. This is a lovely looking lettuce, compact and tender with an open head and pretty ruffled green leaves.
From one of the coldest regions of Italy this lettuce is hardy to around minus 10°C (14°F). Suitable for late sowing and, if given protection in the harshest weather can be harvested throughout winter and into spring.
Sown from July right through to December at fortnightly intervals to ensure a regular supply, it matures in around 55 days.
This remarkable marvelously hardy lettuce will stand in perfect condition right through winter and can be harvested from September right through to March.
Prepare the site:
A rich soil is excellent for lettuce, but the crop will also do well in average garden soil. The best crops are grown in soil that is deeply enriched with well-rotted manure and is well-fertilized before planting, especially with high nitrogen--leaf-stimulating--fertilizers such as 10-8-4, cottonseed meal, or blood meal. Lettuce doesn't do well in very acidic soils, and some say the pH shouldn't be lower than 6.5.
Lettuce is about 95 percent water. It develops rapidly if the growing season is cool and moist. It can grow from seed to salad in about 1 month in many regions, and only a little longer in others. Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable, with an ideal temperature of 10 to 16°C (50 to 60°F); it does poorly in hot weather, and is tolerant to some frost and light freezes.
Sowing: July to December for harvesting September to March.
Lettuce germinate at surprisingly low temperatures The perfect temperature for germination is 4 to 16°C (40 to 60°F) rates decline above 20°C (68°F). The perfect temperature for growth is 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F)
Sow at a seed depth of 6 to 12mm (¼ to ½in) Seed will germinate in 7 to 14 days.
Sow seeds in short rows about 30cm (12in) apart. To do this, make a shallow trench with a cane about 1.5cm (½in) deep. Space the rows 20cm (8in) apart.
If you are sowing directly into the soil, (if you do not have a problem with slugs!), water the drill before sowing to cool the soil down. A shaded part of the garden is ideal. If birds are a problem in your garden, spread netting to prevent them eating the seed.
Tip a small amount of seed into your hand, take a pinch and spread thinly along the trench. Cover with soil, label and water. When the seedlings are about 2cm (1in) tall, thin them out to give them space to grow, 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in). Replant or eat the seedlings. Make successional sowings at 14 day intervals.
The key to tender and tasty lettuce is rapid growth, however lettuce has a relatively shallow and compact root system that doesn't absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil very efficiently, which can slow the growth. To encourage fast growth, add plenty of finished compost before planting and again as a side-dressing a week or so after seedlings appear or transplants are planted. Give supplemental feedings of compost tea every few weeks until harvest.
In very cold weather protect with fleece. In summer a mulch of grass clippings, salt hay, clean straw, or the like, will keep weeds out and the growing soil moist and cool. The plants need almost constantly moist ground, watering is essential if rainfall is scant. This is particularly important when the lettuces are one or two weeks away from harvesting, as dry soil now will cause the plants to put their energy into producing flowers. Wash off minor aphid infestations. If there is a heavy population grow nasturtiums near the lettuce, or use an organic solution.
Harvesting: 50 to 60 days
Autumn sow for baby leaf after 6 to 8 weeks; protect with cloches and it will heart up in around 10 to 14 weeks.
For the best lettuce experience, pick early in the morning and refrigerate for eating the same day. This gives the maximum amount of flavour, freshness and nutrients.
The butterhead's are not a regimented, orderly lettuce: each will have its own unique appearance and character. Harvest all lettuce in early morning for the maximum carotene and best taste and refrigerate immediately. Harvest as soon as they are big enough for the salad bowl. The harvest is over when a central stem starts to form. This is the signal that the plant is getting ready to bolt and the leaves start to get bitter.
Avoid following radicchio, endive, escarole or artichoke.
All brassicas (except broccoli, but especially radishes), beat, carrot, cucumber, onion family, pole lima bean, strawberry
Meraviglia d'Inverno translates as Marvel of Winter
Also called Meraviglia d'Inverno San Martino, 'San Martino' is Italian for 'Saint Martin'.
'Monte San Martino' is a mountain of Lombardy, in the Bergamo Alps
- Additional Information
Seed Form Natural, White seeded variety Seeds per gram 900 seeds per gram Common Name Marvel of Winter, Butterhead, Winter variety. Family Asteraceae Genus Lactuca Species sativa var capitata Cultivar Meraviglia d'Inverno Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Soil The crop will do well in average garden soil. Ideally aim for a pH of less than 6.5 Time to Sow July to December Germination 7 to 14 days at 10 to 16°C (50 to 60°F) Harvest September to March Time to Harvest 50 to 60 days to maturity. Growing Period Very hardy, so very good as a wiinter variety, but can be grown all year round.