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5/9/2012 5:22:42 PM EST
|How to Grow Lettuce in your Garden
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Lettuce - often the beginner gardener's graveyard. Watch the gardening TV programs, read the glossy gardening magazines - it all seems so easy!
Sometimes it is, and sometimes it just isn't. Read on to see the information you need to successfully grow lettuce where you live.
Many varieties of lettuce are supremely suited to cooler climates - they are a vegetable for cool conditions, and they need lots of rain. They dislike hot conditions.
There are four basic types, cos (also called romaine), leaf (also called loose-leaf), crisphead, butterhead and stem (also called asparagus lettuce).
What kind of Lettuce do you like? What kind do you buy in the Grocery Store? This is the kind that you should look for seed on. You can find them at Loews and HomeDepot or any store that has seeds.
How to Grow Lettuce Position and Soil Type
Lettuce is not fussy about soil type as long as it is able to hold water. Their ideal is a soil which is well-drained and well-dug.
Clay soil which has been broken down with lots of peat is excellent. Do not apply fertilizer or nutrient rich compost to the soil, this will cause rot.
The key success factor with lettuce is to site them in a poition which avoids the full blast of the sun in the middle of the day. Lettuces bolts if the weather becomes too hot or if there is a shortage of water.
Some varieties of lettuce are more resistant to bolting than others. The varieties Fatima and Dolly (butterhead lettuce) are both slow to bolt. Check your seed packet to see the early varieties.
How to Grow Lettuce - Inter-cropping
Because lettuce prefers cool conditions (great for Arizona Winters) they are ideal vegetables for inter-cropping.
That is growing them near to other vegetables which crop at a different time, normally later. Plant lettuce where runner beans, broad beans, peas, brussels sprouts broccoli or sweet corn will provide them with shade in the hottest part of the day.
If you do grow lettuce near taller vegetables, take care that they are not deprived of water. Lettuce need lots of water to mature quickly and larger crops may take the lion's share of moisture.
If this is the case, water the lettuce well in dry conditions.
How To Sow Lettuce
Sow every three weeks to ensure a continuous supply rather than a glut at one time - lettuces do not keep well in the ground when they have reached maturity.
Use a trowel to dig out shallow drills (half inch) deep, each drill being (1ft) apart from the next. Sow three or four seeds every (6in).
The seeds can be sown in a continuous row, although this will require more seeds and more thinning out later.
Cover the seeds with soil, firming it down with gentle pressure. If the soil is at all dry, water well. The seedlings should begin to appear in 7 to 14 days time.
Gradually thin out the seedlings until they are (10in) apart.
The sowing process is the same for all lettuce at all times of the year. Where sowing in autumn for spring harvest. This of course depends where you live in the Country.
Caring for lettuce
The key requirements are water and weeding. Both can be greatly assisted by laying a covering of organic material (or black plastic cut to allow the seedlings through) around the plants, this will keep the soil moist and stop the growth of weeds.
It will also provide a slow but steady stream of nutrients.
Harvest lettuces as soon as they mature, they will quickly bolt if left in the ground too long. When the heart of the lettuce begins to form a point and grow upwards, it is beginning to bolt and should be picked immediately.
The easiest way to harvest them is to use a sharp knife or a scissor. Cut the bottom leaves all around the lettuce, and leave the middle smaller ones alone. They will soon mature into larger leaves. Also additional new shoots will soon grow to replace the harvested ones.
I like to eat my lettuce in two particular ways. First they are excellent on a sandwich with a little mayo, or they can be eaten with Cream and a little Vinegar and a little salt and pepper, or you can add other vegies and cheese, like Cucumbers and tomatoes or hard boiled eggs to them.
You then have a great Chef Salad with a lot of Vitamins and minerals with log calories. Add your favorite dressing and you got an excellent meal.
Hmmm, I wonder if you have ever made yourself a Home Made Chef Salad?
When it gets hot and they bolt save the seeds in a small contain in your Frig for next year. Or sprinkle the seeds in a certain place in your garden and next year when it gets cool again you will have all kinds of volunteer lettuce. You can thin it out so you have a lettuce patch in a certain area.
Pests and Diseases of Lettuce
Lettuces have a few enemies which may not kill the crop, but they will slow down growth and make the plants less healthy.
The pests are, lettuce root aphid (yellowing and decaying roots), lettuce root maggot (maggots present on the roots), greenfly and slugs.
All of these can be treated using chemicals from your local garden centre. However, a few basic precautions should prevent them in the first place.
1.Weed the bed - weeds provide a home for pests and diseases.
2. Remove harvested lettuces from the ground completely, do not leave the stump in the ground. It will rot and attract the attention of pests, root aphid in particular.
3. Provide them with sufficient water especially in dry periods.
4. Do not grow lettuce in the same beds as has been previously used for chrysanthemums. Doing so will increase the risk of root maggot.
Send me your comments.
Have you had success growning Lettuce?
Have you saved your lettuce seeds?
Roland in Phoenix
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|Great information Roland! Thank you for sharing!|
|Good information Roland. I am surprised to learn you can grow lettuce in Phoenix. I'm in AZ too, but the SE corner.|