9 Secrets to planting and growing lettuce in your garden
We plant lettuce in the garden and in a pot to enjoy it fresh in our salads. Lettuce is the most popular vegetable we grow in the fall for its cool and tender leaves. In addition, it is the simplest and easiest cultivation we recommend to any novice gardener to begin his or her gardening career. Lettuce is grown almost all year long, as long as we choose the appropriate variety depending on the season we plant and provide them with the right conditions for growth. Even if we have no previous experience with horticulture, it’s worth a try, as the vegetables we produce at home consume them fresh and taste quite different from those we find in the market.
What are the most popular varieties of lettuce?
There are many varieties of lettuce to grow according to our preferences. The most common variety of lettuce is the “romana” which is preferred by most amateur growers. It matures in about 2-2.5 months and is characterized by upright growth of 20-25 cm, with dark green leaves, very tasty and tender. Another well-known variety of lettuce is the “salad” lettuce, also known as the “french” lettuce, which does not form a closed head. French lettuce has loose tender leaves and matures quickly within 55-60 days. Butter lettuce with smooth tender leaves, a closed head and a long ripening period of 3 months is also worth a try. The crispest lettuce leaves are given by the curly lettuce, the famous iceberg, which forms a round head and is extremely popular in North America. Another interesting variety to try is the Chinese lettuce that looks more like asparagus and is harvested for the stems of the shoot rather than its foliage. Note that in addition to lettuce varieties with green foliage, there are varieties of red foliage that are of particular interest.
Under what conditions does lettuce grow?
Lettuce, as a cold season plant, requires a cool environment and is cultivated at relatively low temperatures of 14-19 ° C. Generally it prefers sunny planting sites, although it grows well in semi-arid places. We should be aware that high temperatures cause premature growth of flowering lettuce, while very low temperatures and frost cause burns in the foliage. Some varieties of lettuce are more resistant to high temperatures or winter frost than others. For planting lettuce, the ideal soil is fertile, cool, with a high content of organic matter that ensures good drainage. And if the soil in our garden does not have these characteristics, we can incorporate a sufficient amount of good manure with compost to improve the soil and give it better quality characteristics.
How do we plant and what fertilizer do lettuce need?
Experienced growers start with lettuce seed! Specifically, we sow the selected variety of lettuce, placing the seed at a planting depth of one centimeter. It is important to maintain relative humidity and appropriate temperature in the bed between 15-21 ° C for the germination of lettuce seeds. And when the young lettuce plants have grown three to four true leaves, after 3-4 weeks, they are ready for transplanting into the field. For beginner gardeners, we recommend starting with ready-made lettuce plants from nurseries that are planted at appropriate planting distances: 30cm between lettuce plants and about 60cm between planting lines. And if our garden has very heavy soil and collects water, there is a solution! We cultivate in elevated mounds that help us to drain water better. In regards to lettuce lubrication, incorporate 1-2 tablespoons of well-fertilized manure or organic nitrogen fertilizer around the root every 20-30 days.
Whenever do we water lettuce?
Lettuce prefers the cool soil environment as it has a superficial root system. So, to keep their substrate relatively moist, regular watering is required. The frequency of watering becomes higher, perhaps daily, in times of high temperatures. This is necessary to keep the lettuce cool and tender leaves which make it much more attractive and enjoyable when we eat it. If there is a lack of water, the lettuce leaves harden, begin to bitter, and the flowering stem develops prematurely.
What are the main problems in lettuce cultivation?
Beware of snails, the most dangerous enemy of lettuce eating its leaves. For the treatment of snail, we use ash or iron phosphate fertilizer. Cultivation of lettuce is also affected by migraine and chickpeas, the annoying white mosquito. To treat them, spray with a solution of grated green soap, dissolve 1 tablespoon of soap in 1 liter of water, or obtain ecological fatty acid salts from agricultural shops.
When can we cut lettuce or lettuce leaves?
The lettuce is ready about 2-3 months after transplanting, when it has a head, depending on the variety and weather conditions. At this stage, it has tender leaves that are not bitter in taste. We can harvest the whole lettuce plant by cutting it from the root with a knife. During the winter months, we can also gradually cut off the peripheral leaves of lettuce that have already grown, allowing the central ones to grow further and cut them for next harvest. We prefer to cut lettuce in the morning, as it is cooler and tender then.
How to plant lettuce in a flower pot on the balcony?
If we do not have a garden, we can plant lettuce in a flower pot on the balcony. The cultivation of lettuce in pots is not particularly difficult, as long as we prefer a balcony with a western or eastern exposure. We use low pots or flowerpots, 20-30 cm deep, for transplanting, as the lettuce has a deep rooting system that we have mentioned. We supply a fertilizer suitable for horticulture, enriched with nutrients and place pebbles at the base of the pot for better drainage of soil, that is, to remove excess water more easily. More information on how to grow lettuce in a flowerpot can be found in our detailed article.
And one last secret to growing lettuce
Lettuce can be cultivated and give excellent production if planted with one or more of the following vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, beetroot, onion, garlic, leek, cucumber, beans and strawberry.
Images via: Pinterest