Growing lettuce

A quick and easy crop to grow, Lettuce is ideal to grow both in containers and grown in the veg plot. There are so many different types of lettuce to grow and home grown is so much fresher than the supermarket bags of lettuce, which seem to have such a short shelf life. By growing your own lettuce you can pick and eat when you want. Your home grown lettuce keeps longer and refreshed in the fridge. 

Lettuce is easy to germinate, although the seed is quite small to handle it will germinate in temperatures from 10-20 degrees. Early spring in March or April  is a good time to start lettuce, in a warm area either under glass or with some gentle heat in a propagator. Once germinated the seedlings, if bunched together will need thinning, which means reducing by pulling out extra seedlings to leave several well spaced seedlings and removing the other seedlings which are over crowding the main plants. The seedlings can be planted outside in late April, early May.

Lettuce can be direct sown into a container outside or the veg plot from late April on wards throughout May and June.  It is a good tip when growing lettuce to sow/plant out regularly; fortnightly is a good rule of thumb and easy to remember. By sowing at intervals you can avoid gluts. Sow the lettuce seed just under the soil surface and always water after sowing. When growing Lettuce it is important to keep a watch on the small seedings after germination because, if there is a dry spell, the seedlings are prone to drying out and will die.

It does take a bit of time to sow, and thin out lettuce seedlings, and if this is too time consuming it is easy to buy suitable plug plants from the garden centre/on line and plant out in the same way.

Lettuce can be grown late into the season into September  & October  especially protected by a cloche. Lettuce is not hardy so all early and late plants need frost protection.

When growing lettuce there is a great choice all the favourites, loose leaves, cut and come again, lollorosso, iceburg and rocket along with various more exotic mixes available and all grown in the same way. There are so many varieties on the market its hard to chose, picking a AGM (Award of Garden Merit) is always a good starting point.There are literally dozens of different type of seeds and plants to buy. Rocket is really easy to germinate and grow, and generally not so attractive to the slugs. 

Green-wheelbarrow-on-background-colour-50px

Growing lettuce is easy, so they are tagged green wheelbarrow  . 

Problems when growing Lettuce

The main  problem when growing lettuce is with slugs. When growing lettuce an eye to the slugs is essential. Tender growing lettuce shoots are caviar to the slugs, so protect. Tips on how to beat the slugs- in the veg garden I prefer either organic slug pellets, beer traps  and often a combination of the two can be most effective. 

Apart from slugs, the other  problem when growing lettuce is that it can bolt,  which means is to flower and go to seed prematurely which puts and end to the lettuce as it is inedible, usually very bitter in taste. Bolting is caused mainly by the long days of light and heat, so it tends to occur mid summer and during a hot sunny spell. Bolting is hard to avoid, but you can improve the soil do it retains moisture and mulch once the small seedlings or plants are established to retain moisture  and so  reduce the chances of bolting . Also regular sowing or planting  every fortnight should mean there is another crop  to come along soon.  Lettuce prefer slightly cooler conditions so Lettuce  is one of the few veg which can be grown in partial shade.

I grow lettuce with little or no slug attention, because of two factors. An abundance of frogs in the garden and the use of raised wood beds made from railway sleepers which are quite rough. Slugs dislike sliding over rough surfaces.

Best Lettuce to grow

The RHS have released the results of their recent 2017 trial of coloured lettuces which information is always handy to know when selecting which varieties to grow. Numerous varieties were planted out and trialled at RHS Wisley in Surrey  and there was quite a change around with only one cultivar 'Amaze' retaining its AGM. Having grown 'Amaze' numerous times it is really good and is illustrated top left. Those lettuces which did well and were awarded the AGM are: 'Edox' which is said to be slow to bolt; 'Feska'is a frilly lollo rossa type; 'Pigale' compact with centre heart; ' Rosdale' is more upright and similar to a cos style of lettuce; 'Sahim'is greener in the heart turning red at the outer leaves, 'Saxo' is all red  and 'Navara' is similar both oak leaved types. 

One of the plus points about growing red lettuces is not only are they great to eat but they look really attractive especially planted alongside green lettuce as illustrated in the above centre image.