My lettuce is growing upwards rather than outwards, what does this mean?
Sounds like your lettuce is ‘bolting’ (running to seed) which is where the plant suddenly starts to grow flower stems, simultaneously stopping all useful growth of the vegetable itself. Once the flower shoots form, growth is slowed significantly as the plant puts all it’s energy into reproducing. This translates into bitter almost inedible lettuce. Not good! Here’s what to do about it……</p>
Firstly, Running to seed, or bolting, is a natural part of the plant’s lifecycle. It’s the plants highest priority to create seed and reproduce. Plants will bolt pre-maturely mainly due to a range of averse growing conditions. Basically the plant is sensing somethings not right and is trying everything it can to fullfil it’s duties of perpetuating the species! The gardeners job, therefore, is to persuade the plant to put off flowering for as long as possible….
Here are the most likely causes and the solutions:
- Dry Conditions. Simply put, your lettuce is thirsty. Hydroponic Lettuce roots grow very well submerged completely in water. Use the rubber resevoir plugs provided with your vertical grow system to raise the water level in the resevoir to the base of each mesh pot in the channel. This will stop the plant from any shock and prevent bolting.
- Hot Conditions. Although most lettuce’s can be grown all year round, they’re typically a colder climate vegetable and are best sown early autumn or late summer. Avoid direct mid-day sunand try to plant the lettuces along side taller plants to ensure they receive some shade.
- Not harvesting regularily. Lettuces can be kept from bolting by regularly picking the outer leaves and keeping them from maturing properly. This ‘cut and come again’ approach to harvesting can extend the time they produce for up to 10 weeks. A plant in the very early stages of bolting can be revived by cutting the main stem back significantly. If you’re lucky, the plant will start to re-grow foilage to aid photosynthesis before continuing with seed production. However if not caught early enough, theres not alot you can do to stop it. Even if the main stem is cut, the leaves which grow back will be course and bitter… Just toss the plant and start again (unless you want the seeds)
- The most general advice, applicable across the board, is to make regular sowings. By Sowing a few lettuce plants every two weeks or so during the summer, you’ll guarantee a perpetual crop of lettuce throughout the summer months.