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All about growing Lettuce
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a wonderful annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable.
Lettuce is the most popular and most universally used of all salads, and should be included in every Home Garden. Being quite hardy and frost-resistant, a succession may be preserved the whole year round by regular sowings every three or four weeks. For crispness and other desirable qualities, Lettuce must be freshly cut, and for this reason alone, should be included in the first selection of Vegetables to be grown in the Home Garden. It can be quite pricey at the supermarket so should definitely be on your ‘Grow Your Own’ plant list.
Lettuce is generally a rich source of vitamins K and A, though the nutritional quality varies, depending on the variety and as a rule of thumb how dark the greens. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled.
Instead of a generic looking Iceberg lettuce, grow your own lettuce for a wide range of textures, colors, and flavors to make your next salad something interesting to taste and look at!
Best Soil for Lettuce
A light, rich, deep, fine soil is the most suitable, and the ground must be well trenched, finely broken up and enriched with well-rotted cow or stable manure, thoroughly incorporated therein. The soil must be loose and rich, for Lettuces are crisp only when matured rapidly and allowed to suffer no check during the growing period. This is particularly the case with late Spring, Summer and early Autumn crops.
How to Grow Lettuce
The chief requirements for success are light soil, abundance of moisture, and plant food, thorough cultivation, and room to develop. In general, salad greens are cool weather crops, at their best in spring and early summer before high heats and long days make them bolt and turn bitter.
Lettuces are small plants, so perfect for containers but equally as good in the vege patch. Dress the land with quality fertiliser before sowing the seed in deep in drills, in March. Drills should be 1 ft. apart. Sow fortnightly until the middle of August. Water in dry weather to keep the seeds moist while they germinate and start to grow. They also like to be kept moist, so water them well, especially on warm days.
When the seedlings are about 1 to 2 inches high, thin out to 12 inches apart. When the plants are about three weeks old, give a second application of plant food, being careful not to let the manure touch the foliage. Lettuce transplants readily in showery weather. The discarded plants may be transplanted to another bed and grown on if desired, providing the weather is moist and plenty of water is available. It is inadvisable to attempt transplanting in dry weather during the hot months of the year. When the plants have been raised in a seed bed, thin out as soon as two or three leaves have developed to prevent spindly growth, and as soon as large enough, transplant into rows 18 inches apart, allowing 12 inches between the plants.
While the plants are growing, the ground between the rows and around the plants must be regularly and frequently hoed to keep down weeds. Do not hoe the earth against the plants, and take care to prevent earth getting in or upon them. Should growth appear to be slow, an application of liquid cow or s ta b le manure, or some Nitrate of Soda, scattered dry around the plants, and watered in, will stimulate growth. Be careful how ever, to not let any fertiliser get on the leaves of the plants.
A little lime or soot spread on the ground around the plants will help to keep slugs and snails away, but it must be remembered that rain entirely removes the effect of these substances and frequent renewals will be necessary.
Lettuce can be cut at any time without waiting for the plant to heart, but are best for salads when the hearts are fully formed.
Should the plants be checked during growth, the leaves become tough and bitter. Do not allow the plants to remain too long after the hearts are fully formed, and remember that once cut, Lettuce deteriorates quickly in quality.
My Favourite Types of Lettuce
There are two classes of Lettuce-the Cabbage and the Cos. The former are the most tender and most suitable for growing by the Home Gardener. Of these the best varieties are ”Iceberg,” ”New York,” Drumhead or Malta, Webb’s Wonderful, Neapolitan and Hanson. The Cos varieties are a non-solid type, have longer, narrower leaves than the Cabbage sorts, and do not heart, neither are the leaves so tender. When the plants are two-thirds grown, Cos Lettuce will be improved by having the leaves loose-bound together. The best of the Cos sorts are Trianon or Celery Lettuce, Eclipse and Paris White.
- Rocket (Arugula) has dark green leaves and a peppery flavour. The leaves can be long and spiked or shorter and more rounded, but they all share that dark green colour. Wild rocket is much stronger in texture and flavour. It is more hardy and will self see profusely if left to its own devices.
- Belgian Endive These tight, compact heads are packed with flavour and crunch. It tends to have a bit of a bitter edge, so use them sparingly raw with other salad greens.
- Butter Lettuce is much less compact than iceberg lettuce and it’s soft floppy leaves are wonderful in salads and wraps.
- Dandelion Greens most gardeners don’t even have to try to grow these – they pop up everywhere! Some folk really love the sharp, bitter hit of raw dandelion. Blanch and braise this dark leaf or add it raw to salads for a hit.
Also grow Cabbage Lettuce, all The Year Round will be found a good variety and Cos Lettuce, Paris White is a reliable kind to grow.
Lettuce Growing Tips
- For Warm-weather growing plant heat-resistant lettuce cultivars
- Happy lettuce will need a lot of water to grow big and crispy
- Make successive sowings every few weeks to extend your harvest
- Lettuce can be harvested any time after true leaves form
- Growing lettuce gives quick results and requires little effort so perfect for gardening with the kids