Hi Guys and welcome back.
Well it’s that time of year where it has been another very busy day in the tunnels. I managed to do a lot of potting on of the Dalias which I grew again this year, from last years flowers!! I also dug over a large planter which had previously had winter vegetables in it. I needed to get it ready for the lettuces to go in which I started about 6 weeks ago in some seed trays. I almost always start my lettuce in trays and then pot on and eventually find a final growing place for them. You can of course plant your lettuce seeds straight into the ground which is pretty much the same process as the seed trays…. So how do you grow lettuce?
Lettuce can be a little difficult to germinate so it’s a good idea to sprinkle a good amount onto the soil so that you have a good chance of getting some seeds to germinate. Another problem with lettuce not germinating is when the seeds are too old (more than 1 year) or the temperature is too high which happened to me earlier this year when the tunnel temperature reached 95 degrees.
Lettuce seeds are very tiny so it is a good idea to tip a few into your hand and then sprinkle liberally over the soil. If you are growing in seeds trays or indeed straight into the ground, you will need to cover the seeds with about 1/2 inch of soil or compost, water lightly with a mist spray making sure that the seeds get a good soaking (without drowning them!)
Always use a good quality seed compost to start your seeds and if growing straight into the ground make sure the soil has enough nutrients by adding some fresh compost before sowing.
Your lettuce seedlings should take between 5 and 10 days to germinate, all depending on the climate, temperature and variety of lettuce you are growing.
If growing in seed trays, you can ‘prick out’ your seedlings carefully and transplant them into either small module trays, cell trays or small pots. If however you are growing your seedlings directly into the ground, you will need to ‘thin out’ the seedlings a couple of times during their growing season. The thinnings can be used as baby leaf salad. Like all seedlings, lettuce seedlings are very delicate and will break very easily if not handled with care.
Let your seedlings re-establish themselves in their new cell trays etc and then plant out into their final position once the roots have filled their cells. It will depend on the variety your growing as to how far apart to plant them so always read the packet. Carefully firm the soil around your lettuce seedling and water well.
Lettuce does not need too much care but cannot tolerate being too hot or dry so always make sure you water well or you will find it reaching for the stars – bolting (going to seed). When growing in a poly tunnel try to shade the area your growing your salad leaves in to help stop your leaves bolting.
The biggest enemy to your lettuce is the snail and slugs. Use organic pellets, lay bait traps (beer) or use some egg shells or other rough gritty barrier around your lettuce. Aphids can also be a problem so keep an eye out for them and use an organic spray which should be available in any good garden centre. Alternatively you could make your own with neem oil, garlic, washing liquid and water.
When picking lettuce, you can either pick a few leaves off at a time or pull the whole head. If you decide to take the whole head, remember to cut just above the ground and watch it grow back again!
If your anything like myself and don’t like waste then you will find it hard to throw away lettuce, but unfortunately we can never eat it all. The best advise is grow little and often. I usually sow new seeds when the seedlings are ready to transplant – every 2 to 3 weeks. This way you will always have lettuce for your table and if you have a poly tunnel there is not reason why you can’t have salad leaves all year round.
Health Benefits of Lettuce
Not only is your lettuce very low in calories – 100g would be less than 15 calories:) It is also full of vitamins A, B-complex, C and K, essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fibre. If you want to get the best nutritional value from lettuce then choose Romaine which is excellent, Iceberg lettuce, on the other hand has the lowest nutritional value. Also the darker the green, the better the lettuce is for your health as it indicates the presence of folic acid and beta-carotene.
I grow a wide variety of lettuce but also grow other healthy greens such as spinach, rocket, beet leaves, mustard, cress and many others so that my salad is not only really tasty but also very healthy. I will share growing other salad leaves with you in a later blog.
I love my salads and eat them most days, its healthy tasty, full of great healthy nutrients and hardly any calories…..so whats stopping you 🙂
Please feel free to ask any questions and hopefully I can help you enjoy your gardening as much as I do.
Thank you for tuning in and look forward to sharing more interesting gardening tips next time.