How to Grow Lettuces
How to Grow Lettuces
An indispensible crop and the epitome of summer, though they can be grown nearly all year round. No garden should be without a few.
Nothing in particular but avoid land that is too firm or waterlogged. Plenty of organic matter leads to rapid growth and the tastiest lettuces.
12-24 lettuces per 10ft (3m) of row; 24 if the thinnings are eaten. Time from Sowing to harvest 9-12 weeks in the summer.
I’m not going to be drawn into the trap of recommending any varieties by name. I simply go by what it says in the seed catalogue and what it looks like in the picture. Modern varieties can be large, small or intermediate, crisp or butter-head, or hybrids of the two. However, the greatest advance has been in the so-called ‘exotic’ varieties. These are all the colours of the rainbow, hearting or pick-over cos or round. You name it, there’s a variety to suit. They can be grown in flowerbeds or containers. A thoroughly versatile crop and one that you should never be without.
Sow January/February in heat for planting outside later Alternatively, sow January/February in a frame for planting out later. A third way is to sow March to July outside in situ.
Sow in thein pots or trays according to the number required. Sow thinly outside half an inch deep in drills 9-12in (22-30cm) apart (12in (30cm) for large, crisp varieties). The most economical way to sow outside is to sow a pinch of seed at the recommended spacing. Single the seedlings to one per station when the strongest one can be seen.
Only sow as many as you think you’ll be able to cope with. This may be as few as 6ft (1.8m) of row every fortnight in the summer.
Only transplant those raised early in heat or frames, and never after May for fear of bolting. Plant firmly, but with a trowel, not a dibber. Butterheads should be planted 9in (22cm) apart, crisp at 12in (30cm).
Those sown in situ should be thinned first to half the above planting distances when large enough to handle. Water in well and keep them growing fast.
Once the plants are touching, every other one should be removed to leave the final spacing. The thinnings can be eaten. Keep down the weeds and always give plenty of water.
Pests and diseases
Sparrows can play havoc with seedlings. Slugs andcan also be troublesome. Botrytis ( ) can seriously affect overwintering varieties. It is important to keep an eye on young lettuce seedlings for the aforementioned reasons.
Test for maturity (how solid the heads are) by pressing down gently with the back of your hand. Cut when ready.