Can anyone give me some guidelines as to when to plant lettuce (Buttercrunch and Black-seeded Simpson) in zone 5? I know they can take some cold, but I don't want to push it too much.
Around here it is about the first half of April.
Buttercrunch is a head lettuce and black seeded simpson is a leaf, so they get started at different times since the buttercrunch will take much longer to mature and you may want to opt for starting it indoors. According to the Grow Guide (nifty toy) the buttercrunch sould be started the last week of Feb. The leaf lettuce: sow outside 2 weeks before to 3 weeks after last spring frost, which falls around May 31 for my zone 5 area, though yours may be different.
Here is a link that might be useful: Growing veg info
I use the Winter Sowing method, and mine went out in January and early February. The containers are like min-greenhouses. The spinach and lettuce I did like this last year, germinated great and survived many below freezing nights. See the link for more info. Or for even more info, check out the Wintersown.org website.
In early fall I direct sowed some more lettuce and spinach, and put a row cover over the young sprouts. I went out and checked today, and they are ALL still alive. We were below zero quite a few nights, so I am both amazed, and pleased.
Here is a link that might be useful: How to Winter Sow
I'm a bit south of you in northern connecticut. I start my lettuce indoors about now, and try to get it out by late March. However, I protect against frost by tossing up a piece of clear plastic supported by pieces of PVC bent in hoops. I use old milk gallon jugs, filled with water, placed in and around the plants to retain the day warmth at night. With this setup, it can even snow and the plants are fine. Also, since it acts like a mini greenhouse, the lettuce grows faster.
I use black seeded simpson also for my first lettuce. Pretty hardy stuff with just a little protection.
Thanks for all those great suggestions.
I don't grow head lettuce at all, but when I lived in Denver CO, I had a neighbor that was picking lettuce while I was putting in my spring garden. He told me he scattered the seeds on top of the snow. Have you ever heard of that method?
As long as you don't have a garden area that gets a lot of water run off which would wash the seed away, you can sow the lettuce seeds now. As soonergrandmom noted, you can even sow them right on top of the snow. Don't expect them to germinate any time soon, but they will (mostly) survive and germinate as soon as they can.
The only disadvantage of this method is you will want to sow rather heavily to account for some seed loss and if you like sowing everything in neat rows with equal spacing it's not likely to work out. But if you don't mind a patch style sowing that you thin and eat as it grows this method does work.
As for myself I usually sow seed mid April in zone 5 Wisconsin for the regular garden and whenever I get around to it in March for containers. The containers I allow to germinate indoors and then put outside regardless of weather. I only bring them back in if temps will drop below freezing.
I'm one of those who says plant outside now. I rarely have snow cover (this winter has been exceptionally snowy, although yesterday the garden was clear), so this time of year, the February thaw, I usually plant a few lines of lettuce, carrots, parsley, spinach, etc. If the ground is frozen, I run a line of seeds on the frozen soil, then cover with compost or potting soil. I sometimes cover with a row cover, especially if we are expecting wind. Snow is a bonus, watering the seeds in without any danger of runoff washing them away. All of these seeds will sprout much earlier than the gardening books give them credit for.
Oh, we aren't in any danger of seeds rotting in wet soil here, I live in an alpine desert climate. Mucky wet spring soil might make my technique less successful.