A quick and easy crop to grow Lettuce is ideal to grow both in containers and the veg plot. There are so many different types of lettuce to grow and much fresher than the supermarket bags which seem to have such a short shelf life. By growing your own lettuce you can pick and eat when you want and you will surely find that your lettuce keeps longer and freshed in the fridge.
Lettuce is easy to germinate, although the seed is quite small to handle. Germinate in early spring, March or April in a warm area either under glass or with some gentle heat in a propagator. Once germinated the seedlings needs 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.
You can also sow direct into a container outside or the veg plot in late April, May and June keeping an eye on the weather. Depending on the summer you can sow throughout and when growing lettuce it needs regular sowing; fortnightly is a good rule of thumb and easy to remember. Sow 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 they 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 on late into the season into September & October if cloche protected. 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 such as 'Little Gem' , 'LolloRosso', 'Salad Bowl' There are literally dozens of different type of seeds and plants to buy. I find rocket really easy to germinate and grow, and not so attractive to the slugs. Also shown in the images above are red and green Little Gems, and mini icebergs all easy to grow.
Problems when growing Lettuce
Growing lettuce is easy, so they are tagged green wheelbarrow .
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 main 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.