Growing Homegrown Lettuce
The key to sweet lettuce is frequent and regular irrigation
Tempted to try growing your own lettuce? Here are a few tips to ensure it comes out sweet and crisp
Homegrown lettuce adds up to beauty and nutrients in one relatively easily-grown package. The really delicate types don’t travel well – that’s why lettuce you grow tastes and looks better. Did you know that head lettuce (which is tougher and can survive packing and transport) was bred by Burpee so city dwellers could have salads?
Water Your Lettuce
The secret to really good-tasting lettuce: grow it quickly. This is achieved by frequent and regular irrigation! Mostly water, lettuce must not dry out lest its leaves grow bitter and tough. As your plants size up, water may be inclined to cascade off the leaves and away from the base of the plant – you must ensure it gets to the roots.
Lettuce leaves deepest in colour contain the most plant-based phytonutrients, and what a choice you have in that department – from deep-red ‘Merlot’ and ‘Darkness’ to almost-black ‘Sea of Red’. Breeders have been having a field day with dark hues, making your bowl of vitamins a work of art too.
Somewhat more tolerant of less watering are plants of the chicory family – escarole and endive in particular. They grow like weeds especially when sown in July, providing lots of tender greens until hard frost, even overwintering in some cases.
How to Grow Greens
A fast and easy way to grow greens: raise baby leaves known as “cut and come again” or mesclun. Many blends are available, perfect for broadcasting in the garden or growing in any size container – plastic “clamshell” types with lids are great for germinating and growing lettuce.
Allow leaves to reach about 10 cm (4 in.) before harvesting, leaving 5 cm (2 in.) to regrow. Depending on soil fertility and sunlight, you can expect three to five scissor-harvests from your crop. Greens prefer soil rich in organic matter, and benefit from a generous sprinkling of complete organic fertilizer at planting time.