ABOUT THE PLANT:
Description: Lettuces can generally be placed in one of four categories: looseleaf, butterhead, crisphead, and romaine. Bibb is a butterhead type. It forms a loose rosette-shaped head with light to medium green, cup-shaped leaves. The leaves are soft, tender, and buttery in texture.
Origin: Lettuce originated in the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia. A historical marker in Frankfort, Kentucky notes that Bibb lettuce is named after John B. Bibb who developed this variety in Kentucky in the 1860s.
Usage: Great for wraps, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. The individual leaves can also be used as little 'cups' and filled with other foods such as chicken salad.
Interesting facts: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic records show lettuce being grown over 6000 years ago. It is estimated that the average American eats about 30lbs of lettuce a year!
HOW TO GROW:
General requirements: Lettuce is a cool-season crop that grows well in the spring and fall in most regions. Lettuce can be grown for a fresh harvest all season long in areas with cool summers or warm winters. Plant succession crops every 2 weeks. Lettuce prefers loose soil rich in organic compost, moist and well-drained. The plants have shallow roots and respond best to consistent, shallow watering. It grows best in full sun, though high temperatures will cause it to bolt and go to seed. The seeds can be put directly into the garden, in containers, or started indoors and transplanted later. Because lettuce seeds need light to germinate, place seeds directly on top of the soil and cover lightly by "sprinkling" fine soil over them. Expect germination in 7-14 days.
In the garden: Sow seeds directly onto cultivated soil, at a soil temperature of at least 35 degrees F. Seeds will not germinate in soil temperatures above 75 degrees F. They should germinate in 7-14 days. When 2 or 3 true leaves have appeared, thin to 10-12 inches apart. Or, plant 1 inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Thin to 10-12 inches apart. Use the thinnings in salads. A layer of mulch will help keep plants clean and retain moisture.
In containers: Use professional potting soil for planting in containers. Bibb lettuce needs to be about 10-12 inches apart whether seeding directly or transplanting. Do not allow the soil to become soggy. Use containers with drainage holes.
Transplanting: Start indoors in trays or cells about 1 month before the last frost date. Before transplanting, the seedlings should be 2-3 inches tall and must be hardened off, or acclimated, to the outside environment. To harden off, place the plants outside in the sun for 2-3 hours the first day. After the first day, increase the amount of time outdoors by a couple of hours each day until your lettuce plants can finally be left out for 24 hours. The hardening-off process can take 7-10 days. Once your lettuce plants are hardened off they will be ready to transplant into your garden or outdoor container. It is best to transplant on an overcast day or later in the day when the sun is less intense. Remember, the root system is shallow and you want to prevent transplant shock. Set plants 10-12 inches apart and to the same depth as they are in the tray or cell that they are coming from. Water thoroughly.
Leaves: Harvest the larger outer leaves when they reach 4" or more. It's best to harvest early in the morning to keep them crisp and sweet. Continue harvesting throughout the growing season. Alternatively, harvest the entire head by cutting it about an inch or 2 above the crown. New leaves will form and you could have another harvest or 2 during the season if it remains temperate.
Seeds: The plant will mature and bolt and start to produce flowers in about 55-65 days. Wait until the flower heads are fluffy and dry before harvesting. Hold a bag under the flowers and shake them into the bag. Do this daily until most of the mature seeds are collected. Or, cut off a stem of flower heads and shake them inside a bag. Seeds can be separated from the chaff and other debris by sifting through a metal mesh strainer. Seeds are better if collected from plants that are slower to bolt. Store them in a cool, dry place for next season's planting.
Common names: Bibb, Limestone lettuce, Boston Bibb
Latin Name: Lactuca sativa
Growth habit: Upright herbaceous plant with small to medium-sized loosely formed rosette-shaped heads
Life cycle: Annual
USDA Zones: 3-12
Seeds per Ounce: 20,000