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'Garden Ferns' heirloom lettuce can take the heat.

Updated on June 9, 2014

Delectable Elongated Loose Leaf Lettuce

The slender loose leaves out last most other lettuces by two or three weeks before bolting.
The slender loose leaves out last most other lettuces by two or three weeks before bolting. | Source

Look for this lettuce

lactuca sativa 'garden ferns'

Garden Ferns is an Italian looseleaf lettuce. It's what we will have heaped in our salad bowl tonight. Tender, juicy, perfect to mix with outher loose leaf lettuces.

You can keep snipping off the tender outer leaves or let the plant mature to heavy rosettes of mild tasting juicy leaves. Either way, Garden Ferns may become your favorite home grown lettuce.

Garden Ferns is a sweet, delicate lettuce that does not keep well after being picked. The spiky green leaves are mild flavored, requiring the lightest of salad dressings. This loose leaf will hold on longer than most lettuces, extending the lettuce season by a couple of weeks in spring and in fall.

It is flavorful enough to be the only lettuce in your salad bowl, but it's long slender leaves add texture and shape to any mixed greens or mesclun mix. Garden Ferns indented, ruffled leaves are as tasty as they are pretty.

Eating Garden Ferns lettuce is the privilege of the home gardener and a rare few market gardens. These tender leaves should be eaten soon after they are picked. The ferny lettuce leaves are tender and delicate, making them hard to transport or store.

Baby Garden Ferns Italian heirloom lettuce

One of these baby Garden Ferns plants will be thinned and added to the salad bowl. The other will have room to mature into a heavy rosette.
One of these baby Garden Ferns plants will be thinned and added to the salad bowl. The other will have room to mature into a heavy rosette. | Source

How to plant lettuce

Clear a planting spot in full sun. Remove any garden trash, uncomposted plants or weeds. Use a hoe or a trowel to loosen the soil. My favorite garden tool for this is a Cobraheard weeder. Then make the ground smooth and level.

Either broadcast seed, sprinkle a few seed in the newly worked soil, or make a shallow row and thinnly sow seed. Using garden soil, potting soil or compost to about 1/8 inch, lightly dust seed, covering it with soil.

Gently firm newly planted soil with the palm of your hand by pressing down lightly. Water in the lettuce seed with a small watering can with a rosette. A light application of water is best. Using a hose will wash away all the seed.

To harvest

Keep soil moist but not wet. Thin seedlings by hand or snip off at ground level with small garden scissors. Once plants are thinned, you can either harvest lettuce by pulling up whole plants or removing only the outer leaves of each plant.

Saving Heirlooms

To collect seed allow the plant to go to seed, meaning let it bloom and flower. As the flowers mature they produce seed. When that seed is mature, each flower produces a little puff of fluff, kind of like dandelions do.

That little fluffy parachute is meant to carry the seed away from the mother plant and reproduce else where. These little seed are small and black.

Heirlooms are open pollenated. So, it's easy to collect true seed that will reproduce more plants just like the parent plant. Garden Ferns is an heirloom, passed down for many generations in Italy before Renee's Garden imported it for home gardehers in America.

Hybrids will not produce seeds like the original plant that you bought. Seed may be sterile or produce any number of mutations.

Garden Ferns lettuce is suitable for both spring and fall gardens. It's pretty in containers, too. Once you taste it, you'll understand why it became an heirloom, loved for generations.

I bought my seed from Renee's Garden.

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