Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a wonderful annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It can be quite pricey at the supermarket so should definitely be on your ‘Grow Your Own’ plant list.
Lettuce is generally a rich source of vitamins K and A, though the nutritional quality varies, depending on the variety and as a rule of thumb how dark the greens. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled.
Instead of a generic looking Iceberg lettuce, grow your own lettuce for a wide range of textures, colors, and flavors to make your next salad something interesting to taste and look at!
My Favourite Types of Lettuce
- Rocket (Arugula) has dark green leaves and a peppery flavour. The leaves can be long and spiked or shorter and more rounded, but they all share that dark green colour. Wild rocket is much stronger in texture and flavour. It is more hardy and will self see profusely if left to its own devices.
- Belgian Endive These tight, compact heads are packed with flavour and crunch. It tends to have a bit of a bitter edge, so use them sparingly raw with other salad greens.
- Butter Lettuce is much less compact than iceberg lettuce and it’s soft floppy leaves are wonderful in salads and wraps.
- Dandelion Greens most gardeners don’t even have to try to grow these – they pop up everywhere! Some folk really love the sharp, bitter hit of raw dandelion. Blanch and braise this dark leaf or add it raw to salads for a hit.
Also grow Cabbage Lettuce, all The Year Round will be found a good variety and Cos Lettuce, Paris White is a reliable kind to grow.
How to Grow Lettuce
In general, salad greens are cool weather crops, at their best in spring and early summer before high heats and long days make them bolt and turn bitter.
Lettuces are small plants, so perfect for containers but equally as good in the vege patch. Dress the land with quality fertiliser before sowing the seed in deep in drills, in March. Drills should be 1 ft. apart. Sow fortnightly until the middle of August. Water in dry weather to keep the seeds moist while they germinate and start to grow. They also like to be kept moist, so water them well, especially on warm days.
Thin out to 9 in. apart when the plants are about three weeks old, give a second application of plant food, being careful not to let the manure touch the foliage. Lettuce transplants readily in showery weather.
Lettuce Growing Tips
- For Warm-weather growing plant heat-resistant lettuce cultivars
- Happy lettuce will need a lot of water to grow big and crispy
- Make successive sowings every few weeks to extend your harvest
- Lettuce can be harvested any time after true leaves form
- Growing lettuce gives quick results and requires little effort so perfect for gardening with the kids