Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Seed Count: Approx. 500 seeds
Days to Maturity: 45 Days
Description: Black Seeded Simpson lettuce was first introduced in the late 1800s, and is still one of the most delicately tender loose leaf varieties around. This heirloom's juicy sweet leaves are perfect for salads and sandwiches. The large plants sit upright with its appealing, light green, curly, wide leaves that boast amazing flavor too! Black Seeded Simpson has adapted to many climates, and is perfect for spring sowing. It's pretty heat, drought, and frost tolerant, and did well in South Florida. However, as with other lettuces, I still wouldn't plant it when you know the summer heat will roll in. This loose leaf variety bears early, and is extremely productive, making it great for small space gardens and container growing. Plus, you'll be able to harvest baby greens from this variety in less than a month!
How To Grow
Sowing: Lettuces grow best in cool weather, so the first crop can be direct sown when the soil temperature reaches at least 35 degrees. Direct sow the seed in rich soil and full sun, spreading them as thinly as possible in rows 1-2' apart. When the seedlings begin to grow, thin them to 8-12" apart. Succession crops can be grown for fresh lettuce all season in areas with cool summers or warm winters; this is accomplished by planting a new crop every 2 weeks.
Growing: Since lettuce has very shallow roots, it needs adequate moisture in order to stay tender and sweet, so keep the soil evenly moist. Applying mulch helps conserve moisture and control weeds. For companion planting benefits, grow lettuce with onions, cucumbers, or carrots. The crisper the lettuce head, the less heat tolerant they will be. However, lettuces can tolerate cold, but should be protected from the wind. If leaves begin to wilt, plants need more water. Hand weed as necessary, but be careful with their shallow roots.
Harvesting: Lettuce retains its crisp sweetness when harvested early in the morning. Most types of lettuce will produce a second or even third crop after being cut, if the weather stays cool. Leaves can be gathered all season until the main stem of the plant starts to grow, at which time the leaves will grow bitter. To harvest the entire plant, cut it right above the surface of the soil. Lettuce will bolt when weather is too hot. To avoid selecting negative traits, gather seed from the plants that are slow to bolt. After the stalk flowers and produces pods, the pods will turn light brown and split open; in order to prevent seed loss, shake the head of the stalk into a bag every day. Store for up to 3 years.