As you can see I grow some of my lettuce in a hanging basket which is lined with an old fleece, I like bright colours. Last year I bought a somewhat more tasteful coir liner which the blackbirds removed most of in about 10 days to line their nests with, so I decided to put an old fleece to good use. There are a few radishes growing at the back of the basket as well.
Growing lettuce this way certainly avoids problems with slugs and snails! I don’t grow any lettuce in the ground now after being forced into discovering the benefits of growing it in containers when I only had a patio garden.
Growing lettuce is quite easy but there are a couple of tips it is helpful to know.
Lettuce is a cool weather crop, seeds rarely germinate at temperatures above 20°C which of course can cause problems sowing them in June, July, August and nowadays sometimes in September too. With fast maturing crops such as lettuce it is best to sow a few seeds every couple of weeks to keep your supply constant (technical term – successional sowing). Their preferred temperature for the best germination is 15 – 18°C, so rather than sowing seeds in a bed (unless it is out of direct sun) it is much better to sow them in a seed tray or pots that can be put in a position where the sun does not reach them. If you have to sow in a bed, do so first thing in the morning after a cool night and immediately rig up something to stop the sun heating up their bit of soil, an upturned cardboard vegetable tray or a bit of plywood resting on bricks or a double layer of fleece for 10 days or so until the seeds are up. I think I might try putting my next lot in a tray underneath my shed.
Once the seeds are up at this time of year you are still going to have to keep them out of constant direct sunlight – now you know what to put in those shady corners. Or you can plant them out under taller plants that will provide shade for them either shrubs or slow maturing vegetables with lots of foliage like kale or turnips or better still under your strawberries which are recommended companion plants for lettuce.
These are growing in a long plastic planter and it is in the sun for about 3 hours a day. When the seeds were first sown I put them under shrubs where they got no sun at all. If you are growing anything in these long tubs it is a good idea to tie a bit of string right around them in the middle if you intend to move them when filled. They tend to sag in the middle and soil/plants can be dislodged or evicted. Growing in this one I have flat leaved parsley, cut and come again lettuce (variety – Salad Bowl), land cress and oak leaf lettuce, it is right outside the kitchen door, if it is very hot I move it a few feet over into more shade.
Lettuce do not like being transplanted once they get past the smallish seedling stage, really they need to be transplanted for the last time when they are about 2″ or 5-6cm tall. If you do transplant them at a later stage they do tend to bolt which means instead of growing into nice lettuces they start producing seed stalks rather than leaves and the remaining leaves tend to get hard and tough. If possible sow them where you want them to grow and if they are overcrowded gently pull a few out, without disturbing the others if possible. You can of course eat the thinings.
Lettuce does like moisture retentive soil but does not like very rich soil as it can cause rotting at the base of the stems, so don’t grow it on top of this year’s manured bed, for the same reason it does not need feeding.
You can have lettuce growing nearly all the year round by using cloches or a greenhouse in the autumn and winter and by starting seeds off indoors late winter and early spring.
Slugs, snails and aphids will be fighting you for control of your lettuce so check them often, millipedes and cutworms can also be a problem.
I have done a post in the last couple of days about autumn and winter alternatives for lettuce here