Multiple flavours, textures and colours of the lettuce plant will never leave your salads boring. The good news is they are so very easy to grow.
You will find two main types of lettuce in the market.
- Heart lettuces – lettuces with a dense centre
- Loose-leaf lettuces with no heart and open leaves
How to choose seeds for sowing
So, are you going to buy lettuce seeds? You will get diverse seed types in the market.
For instance, there are three types of hearting lettuces:
- Butterhead lettuces: these are open shaped and get mature quickly because they are resistant to poor growing conditions.
- Crisp head types: its crisp and curled leaves produce large hearts. Moreover, they are bolt-resistant. Iceberg lettuces are an example of this group.
- Cos types: they come with oblong head and upright shape
- Salad leaf mixes and loose-leaf lettuces: these don’t grow densely. So, they are the perfect choice if you want to grow in containers and small spaces.
When should you sow the seeds?
The sowing time depends on the harvesting time. Let’s discuss different sowing times one by one:
To harvest in spring, sow the “winter density” cultivars from September to October. You should grow these cultivars in an unheated greenhouse. Besides, you can also sow them in mild areas in a cold frame or under cloches.
High soil temperatures prevent the germination of some cultivars. So, you must be careful with summer sowing.
- Sow in the evening during hot spells
- Use cold water for watering
- Shade area to lower down the temperature
For autumn/summer harvesting:
To get lettuces in summer, sow the seeds from late March to late July outdoor. However, if you want to get an earlier crop, you can sow in early February in seed trays.
Afterwards, you can transplant the plants outdoors under plastic tunnels and cloches in early March.
For early winter harvesting:
To harvest plants in early winter, sow the seeds in early august outdoor. Moreover, you must protect the plants with closed cloches from the onset of September.
How to sow the lettuces
Here’re the tips for sowing lettuces:
- Choose a sunny place.
- Choose soil that can retain moisture.
- Cover the sowing location with fleece, plastic tunnels and cloches. It will protect the seeds from cold if you have sown them earlier or later.
- Water the plants regularly if you want to sow in growing bags and containers
- Sow the seeds thinly in a depth of 0.5 inches
- Ensure a distance of 1 ft between the rows
- Ensure cropping continuity by sowing the short rows every fortnight
- Start thinning out seedlings once the first leave appear. Make sure there is only plants are at a distance of 1 ft. You can also use the thinned out seedlings for salads preparation.
- Water the dry soil, preferably in the morning
- Protect the seedlings with chicken wire or fleece to protect them from sparrows.
The harvesting time for lettuces starts in late spring and stays throughout the winter. The formation of a firm heart is the indication that harvesting time is there. You can cut the firm heart at the base through the stem.
On the other hand, you can harvest the loose-leaf varieties once the leaves are of appropriate size–large enough to be eaten. You can either cut a whole lot of one plant or few outer leaves from each plant.
Lettuce root aphids
In mid to late summer, these pests cause sudden wilting and death of the older plants. These aphids eat roots. That’s why you might not notice them.
However, you can consider a lot of ants around the plant as an indicator of aphid presence. Why it so? Basically, ants love the honeydew produce by aphids.
- Prefer sowing aphid-resistant lettuces
- Keep watering the lettuces well.
- Dig the plants, remove the aphids and replant them in fresh mulch.
- Cover the lettuces with Enviromesh from June until August. In this way, aphids will not reach the roots.
Slugs and snails
These eat young seedlings, leaving a slime trail in the soil around your crop and on leaves.
You can use biocontrols, copper tape, sawdust and beer traps to control the slugs and snails.
It is a fungal disease that appears as discoloured or pale patches. Plants mostly get infected with grey mould in damp conditions. Its Spores enter plants through open flowers, wounds or damaged tissue.
Mould is more vulnerable to ripening fruits. Its black resting spores can damage the plant throughout the winter.
- Remove the infected parts of the plant
- Clear the infected debris present on the plant.
- Avoid overcrowding of seedlings and young plants.
- Reduce humidity inside greenhouses by ensuring proper ventilation
It is the production of the premature flowering stem before the harvesting time. It is also known as a natural process to produce seeds and reproduce.
- Prefer to sow varieties that are resistant to bolting
- Never miss the right time of sowing
- Water the soil at the appropriate time and keep the compost moist
Did you know you can do so much more with lettuce than just making a salad? Check out 40 recipes from the website Taste of Home
There are so many varieties of lettuce that it is difficult to know where to begin! We have created a selection for you to peruse, and you may find one or two surprising varieties. Check them out:
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