Grow Guide: Lettuce
Perhaps one of the most common and most loved vegetable plant to grow, the humble lettuce plant is ideal for both beginner and experienced gardeners alike. The great thing about lettuce is that there is such a broad range of varieties to choose from, each with different colours, textures and flavours. There are two main types of lettuce plants, heartening lettuces and loose-leaf lettuces. Hearting lettuces have a dense centre, while loose-leaf lettuces have open leaves and no heart. An easy plant to grow that gives off great produce, whoever said salad was boring?
Lettuce plants love loamy fertile soil, be sure the soil is not too soggy or dry but nicely moist. The best type of soil is one that contains feed or organic matter, this should help establish the plant quicker. They also like loose soil so be sure to lighten your soil by shifting grit or sand through it. Lettuce plants also love the part sun so be sure not to have it in a shaded area or in a place that receives full sun. They are suitable for any container or bed but we would recommend something elevated and off the ground to avoid pests like slugs. Try them in a bot or a raised bed, this makes it easier to defend the lettuce from whatever pests come their way, namely rabbits, snails and slugs.
How to Plant
Ensure the lettuce plants are well watered when being planted, this help the plant establish better. Water the plant when it is dry and refrain from watering during midday, early mourning or late evening are optimal watering times. If you see the leaves burning, use a mister to keep them looking and tasting fresh. Provide good space between plants to allow the heads plenty of room to grow, plant loose-leaf lettuces about 8 inches apart and hearting lettuces 12-15 inches apart. We also recommend using a feed, try using a generic tomato feed once every week or two for great results.
Lettuces are ready to harvest once the head has formed. It is better to cut off the leaves rather than to pull them. Remove the outer leaves first before you remove the inner leaves. The best time to harvest is in the mourning. We strongly recommend you continue to harvest the plant to prevent it from bolting. Lettuce leaves can be refrigerated for up to 10 days, just wash and dry the leaves and place them in a resealable bag in the refrigerator.
To deter common insect pest like slugs and snails try using organic methods like coffee grounds, eggshells or pistachio nutshells. We recommend natural methods in a bit to not harm any beneficial wildlife. You can also try copper tape or make your own beer trap. Alternatively, use organic slug pellets over the cheaper generic kind. Do not use salt to deter slugs and snails, this method can damage your soil.
Plant your lettuces at different times to ensure you have a constant flow of delicious produce. Use salad leaves in everything from salads to sandwiches and get healthy.
Bolting: while plants do not ‘run away’ physically, their growth may run rapidly, and this is basically what this phrase means in the gardening world. Plants, mostly vegetable or herds, are said to bolt when their growth goes rapidly from being mostly leafy based to being mostly flower and seed-based. Plants bolt due to hot weather – a survival mechanism in the plant.