After a year when I never did get around to cleaning up the lettuce from one of my beds, I made some observations on how beneficial my laziness actually was. If you don’t need space in your garden for another crop, there are several benefits to leaving your lettuce to go to seed after bolting. For our own garden, I take a “cut and come again” approach to harvesting lettuce. This allows the roots and enough leaves to remain that when the summer heat becomes oppressive, the leaves turn bitter, and if left, will quickly bolt and produce seed.
Here are 7 reasons why you should let your lettuce go to seed:
7 Reasons To Let Your Lettuce Go To Seed
The pale yellow little flowers clustering at the top of the plant are interesting as well as lovely. Frankly, when my garden is more beautiful, I find that I’m apt to spend more time in it which, in turn, decreases my workload. It’s easier to weed a weed-free garden than it is an overgrown one, don’t you know?
Of course with the mass of golden petals brings the lure of the pollinators to your garden which is a great benefit to all your other plants whose propagation depends on their continual visits to your garden.
Allowing the lettuce go to seed serves to attract the bees at no extra expense while you work on incorporating other ways to encourage pollinators.
Feeds the Soil Life
When you leave the photosynthesizing plant in the ground, the nutrient exchange between it and the soil life continues and your soil will continue to improve.
Reduces Soil Compaction
Anytime you leave a plant in the ground the roots will continue to aerate the soil, allowing oxygen and water to enter the earth.
Reduces Soil Erosion
Particularly if you don’t use a mulch to cover the soil, the roots work to hold the soil structure intact and reduce erosion. Before we moved into our new home, the previous owner had a pond dug at the bottom of the property. It never held water. The reason was they never dug beyond the topsoil! At the garden site, I need only dig down a few inches to hit solid clay. It has all washed away down to the bottom of the hill. Hopefully, through composting, lots of manure, hay mulching, and cover cropping we’ll rebuild the topsoil. But in the meantime, I also have to be very proactive not to literally let my efforts run downhill.
When lettuce goes to seed, it will drop to the ground and spring up when your stalks are dying back. If you let your spring greens go to seed, your fall garden will come to life right on time. Since lettuces are light feeders, I’ll allow them to re-seed in the same spot once. Next round, I’ll manually harvest the seed and sow them in a new, rotated location.
Those 4-foot tall lettuce stalks will add more mass while providing aeration to your compost pile. Obviously, the more material you put in your heap, the more compost you’ll make. And it’s important to keep a decent airflow in your pile. An airless pile can’t support the soil critters that do the work of decomposing. Lettuce stalks will do a great job at aeration!
What ways are working to improve your garden?