There are a few key things that must be done if a gardener in Southwest Idaho wants to be enjoying fresh garden lettuce in the middle of August.
Buy the correct variety. A few years ago, I discovered summer crisp lettuce. The previous link is for Nevada summer crisp, the kind I have growing now; but Johhny’s Selected Seeds has several varieties of summer crisp available. I grew another of them earlier, but only planted Nevada the last time around. Both have been delicious. The close-up photo to the immediate left was taken this morning around 10 AM, after several weeks of constant high temperatures. (Just for clarification, the photo was not altered in any way.)
Plant in mid to late June. At this time of year, it is usually still cool enough for lettuce to germinate well. I had plenty of lettuce in the spring and early summer from both volunteer lettuce seedlings and succession plantings every three weeks or so. But the plants that were already closer to maturity did tend more toward bolting when the heat hit. Not so with this planting.
Water regularly. Lettuce needs water or it can become bitter. This August lettuce has been watered about 4 times a week with overhead sprinklers, because that happens to be my set up this year. However, it should be noted that we had pressure problems for about three weeks and didn’t know it. Parts of the lawn went brown, but this variety of lettuce is still sweet and juicy. It may be close enough to a sprinkler that it didn’t suffer too much water deprivation.
It is very satisfying to have lettuce in the garden at the same time that my tomatoes are finally ripening. The Nevada summer crisp lettuce is not a light, leafy lettuce, but neither is it a tasteless, stiff ice berg lettuce. I find it is perfect for my easy summer evening hamburgers; it will have an important role in tacos tonight, along with the now arriving gorgeous tomatoes. I still have several heads of it out there!