Seed Count: Approx. 500 seeds
Days to Maturity: 50 Days
Description: Merlot lettuce is a loose-leaf type lettuce with intense burgundy colored leaves, and a bright green center. The upright leaves are crisp, wavy, frilly, and waxy. The leaves have a brilliant sparkle, and are my go to variety to plant in my front yard garden for its ornamental qualities. It is supple, and smooth in texture, and earthy in flavor, leaving you with the most amazing mouth feel. This lettuce is one of my favorites to grow outside in Florida, because it is extremely slow to bolt, however, that makes collecting seeds from it quite difficult because mine never bolted, even in my hot zone 10b. If that wasn't great enough, it has amazing cold tolerance as well. The more sun it's exposed to, the more intense its burgundy color gets. It's quite possibly one of the darkest red leaf lettuces available. Merlot is the perfect variety for cut and come again lettuce, and a great colorful addition to any salad. The leaves are best harvested young, as baby leaves, and does not improve with age like Merlot wine. Plus it is resistant to downy mildew! It is an absolute must have in any garden.
How To Grow
Sowing: Lettuce grows well 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 10-12" 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 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. Lettuce will bolt when weather is too hot. To avoid selecting negative traits, gather seed from the plants that are slowest 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.