In late winter, as we thumb through seed catalogs anxiously awaiting the next gardening season, it can be tempting to buy seeds of every vegetable variety that we haven’t tried growing yet. As gardeners, we know that just one tiny, inexpensive seed can soon become a monstrous plant, producing more fruit than we can even eat and most of us only have feet to work with in the garden, not acres.
While some plants take up a lot of room in the garden, lettuce takes very little space and can be grown in the cool temperatures of spring, fall, and even winter in some regions when very few other garden veggies are growing. You can also plant different varieties of lettuce in succession for a longer season of harvesting fresh leaves and heads. One excellent lettuce to try in the garden for a long harvest is Parris Island cos lettuce.
Parris Island Lettuce Info
Named after Parris Island, a small island off the eastern seaboard in South Carolina, Parris Island lettuce was first introduced in 1952. Today, it is celebrated as a reliable heirloom lettuce and is a favorite romaine lettuce (also called cos) in the southeastern U.S. where it can be grown in fall, winter, and spring.
It can be slow to bolt in the heat of summer if given a little afternoon shade and daily irrigation. Not only does it offer a long growing season, Parris Island cos lettuce also reportedly has the highest nutritional values of any lettuce.
Parris Island lettuce is a romaine variety with dark green leaves and a cream to white heart. It forms vase-shaped heads which can grow up to 12 inches (31 cm.) tall. However, its outer leaves are usually harvested as needed for garden fresh salads or a sweet, crisp addition to sandwiches, rather than the whole head being harvested at once.
Growing Parris Island Cos Plants
Growing Parris Island cos is no different than growing any lettuce plant. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden and will mature in about 65 to 70 days.
They should be planted in rows set about 36 inches (91 cm.) apart and thinned so that plants are no closer than 12 inches (31 cm.) apart.
Lettuce plants require about an inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week for optimal growth. If growing Parris Island cos lettuce during the hot summer months, they will require extra water to prevent bolting. Keeping the soil cool and moist with layers of mulch or straw will also help it grow through difficult weather.
Keep in mind that like most lettuce types, slugs and snails can sometimes be a problem.