How To Grow Lettuce
How To Grow Lettuce
There are a few things more delightful than being able to make a salad by walking out to your own garden and lettuce is a key ingredient in many salads. Linsey Evans walks you through all the steps to growing lettuce successfully: from soil content to thinning, the proper amount of water and how to protect your lettuce from common problems like bolting and predators.
Growing lettuce is not quite as easy as some people would have you believe. It does not like hot, sunny conditions, which will cause it to bolt and go to seed. It also needs lots of water.
I have had most success with the cut-and-come again types of lettuce, which don't form a head. You just harvest the leaves when you need them. Leave them and they will re-grow.
You can sow lettuce seeds indoors, eight to ten weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Transplant the seedlings to the garden when they are about four inches tall. Grow lettuce in full sun or partial shade.
Lettuce prefers well-worked, well-drained soil that is moisture retentive. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting and again as a top-dressing mid-season. Lettuce prefers a soil PH of 6.
0 to 6.8. Sow lettuce seeds a quarter of an inch deep.
Thin at leaf lettuce seedlings to stand six to eight inches apart and head lettuce twelve inches apart. Space the rows eighteen inches apart. Lettuce must be thinned.
Lettuce that is too crowded will bolt and go to seed. If you water the soil carefully the day before thinning, the thinnings can be planted out to give a slightly later crop. Thinnings can also be picked and eaten.
Sow a short row of lettuce every fortnight to ensure continuity of cropping. If you sow a lettuce seed all at once, the plants will all mature at the same time and you will have about a week to pick them before they go to seed. If not grown quickly enough, the leaves become tough and leathery.
So, use plenty of organic matter when planting and some fish blood and bone. Give them a top-dressing of sulfate of ammonia. Keep lettuce beds evenly moist but not soggy.
Don't let plants dry out. Regular, even watering is needed to form heads. Avoid splashing muddy water on plants.
Use a light mulch to keep muddy soil off the leaves. The best time to water is in the early morning. Too much sun will cause lettuce to become bitter and bolt and go to seed.
Use shade cloth to partially protect the lettuce from warm weather. Protect lettuce from frost with cloches or row covers. Lettuce can be attacked by aphids, cutworms, slugs and snails.
Spray aphids with water. Put a collar around each plant to discourage cutworms. Trap slugs and snails in beer traps.
Lettuce has no serious disease problems. Early in the year bird, sparrows, and pigeons love lettuce and will reduce a crop to stumps. Protect with fleece, chicken wire or something similar.
Enjoy your lovely, delicious, lettuce crop. .