How big is too big?

Well, today’s topic is the size of your lettuce transplants. Last week I put in some smaller starts that I had grown indoors for about a month. Today the big boys went in. These were lettuces I started in a plastic bin in December. I had already taken two cuts of these guys for delectable baby greens, but since it’s only early February, and we have plenty of cool weather before us, I decided to get these characters out from under the lights (more on the light system next post) and into terra firma (though I suppose that is a logical contradiction on a rooftop garden). I did harden them off a few days outside, including the last two nights out, then I scooped up lines of three varieties: Red Rosie, Jericho, and Dancine and brought them up to the roof. When I say lines I mean a narrow trowel’s scoop of soil, which of course included the plants’ roots. After my bed was prepped up on the roof (with a beginning-of-the-season, how-do-you-do mix of equal parts bloodmeal, kelpmeal, and glacial rock dust) I teased the roots apart, trying to leave at least some soil on each plant’s roots if I could. I had made no effort to thin these guys because, as you recall, my original intent was to just let them grow thick in the bin and cut them for salad. Some of the transplants had a pretty intact root ball with a good amount of soil, and others, barely anything. I really didn’t fuss much about the lesser-rooted ones. It’s a Darwinian world up there on the rooftop, where plants have to sink or swim on their own merits. If the tiny-rootballed lettuce die, then there’s more room for the beefy-rooted ones. All that said, I would have never tried this stunt in the summer, because there’s a lot of leaf mass on those plants and with all that root disturbance they would have all gone belly up as soon as the sun caused the leaves to start their transpirational pull. As it is, with mostly gray skies and with a low sun angle even on the sunny days, I expect most of those transplants to make it and to speed ahead of last week’s planting due to their greater maturity. So I guess there you have the answer to the question. How big is too big? Why it all depends upon the season. Apologies to anyone from the east coast reading this because you are probably looking out at mountains of snow right now ready to clobber the guy going on and on about transplanting lettuce in early February!