It is easy to grow gourmet greens in your garden or in pots on your patio and you can have fresh greens for your salads in just a few weeks. Combine them with home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and herbs to make amazing dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, do not forget about spinach, a tasty green that can be eaten either cooked or raw.
Fact: Thomas Jefferson grew 19 varieties of lettuce in the gardens at his Monticello estate in Virginia.
Crispheads are your typical grocery store heads of lettuce, such as iceberg. They are slower to grow and widely available. For the home garden, instead consider growing one of the other four.
Also known as bibb lettuce, they have a small, soft head and sweet leaves.
Also known as looseleaf lettuce, they do not form a head, instead they produce separate, thin, delicate and tender leaves in various shades of green and purple. Their leaves can taste sweet or spicy.
Known for being used in Caesar salads, they have an elongated head with sweet, crisp leaves.
Is high in vitamins and minerals, with an excellent flavor and is easy to grow.
How to plant:
Most lettuce varieties like cool temperatures plant them early with your carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and before you plant tomatoes and peppers. They will take well to some frost; therefore there is no need to worry about cold nights. You can also plant them in late summer, when it starts to cool off before fall. Temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit are perfect for growing lettuces.
Lettuce can be planted in rows or squares with 8-12 inches between each plant. You should plant two to four plants per person, every week for several weeks. This way you will have a continuous harvest of fresh leaves for one to two months or until the head is too heavy for the plant.
Lettuces are green leafy plants and they need nitrogen to make their leaves green. Therefore, you should fertilize lettuce plants when you first plant them and then once every month. Also water them regularly, do not let them dry out or wilt.
Lettuce grows quickly therefore they are less susceptible to insects and diseases. However, you will have to worry about aphids and slugs. A simple solution to this problem is to pick or wash them off when you harvest.
You can harvest leaf lettuce anytime you like, even days after planting them in your garden. Their leaves will be smaller and have a sweeter, more delicate flavor. Just use a pair of scissors or tear loose the leaves you want for your salad. As long as you leave the plant in the ground it will continue to develop new leaves.
Butterheads and romaine lettuces should be harvested by cutting the whole head from the plant when they have reached your desired size. However, if you wait too long to harvest them heat and age will make the leaves tough and bitter.
- Burpee Home Gardens