Fresh Lettuce

Among the easiest vegetables to grow, lettuces are ideal for pots, where they can be more easily protected from marauding slugs and snails. The widest selection is available in seed form, and the cut-and-come-again types are ready to pick just a few weeks after sowing. Try a mix of lettuces for different textures and tastes.

Lettuces are not only delicious when picked fresh from the garden, but they also make decorative features in pots. Fill a container, large or small, with some multi-purpose compost and sow your seed thinly on the surface. In small containers, try to sow about three or four seeds of butter, Romaine, and iceberg, which form a heart, or just sprinkle cut-and-come-again varieties more densely; you will not need to thin these out. Sow a few pots each week for a continuous supply of leaves throughout the summer, but remember that seeds will not germinate if the temperature is above 77°F (25°C). When heart-forming varieties reach an inch or so in height, thin them out to appropriate spacings, which will be given on the packet of seeds, or leave them a little closer.

CARING FOR LETTUCES

Keep your lettuces well watered at all times, especially in hot weather when you will have to water daily, and move pots to a slightly shaded spot in the height of the summer. Lack of water or too much heat will cause the plants to “bolt” and produce long flowering stems—the leaves then become bitter. However, do not allow the compost to become waterlogged or the lettuces will rot. Most multi-purpose composts contain enough nutrients to sustain lettuces for a few weeks, but after that, give them a boost with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer formulated for leafy crops. The main pests to look out for are slugs and snails. Inspect plants every few days and pick off any culprits.

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