Lettuce is a staple in our spring garden. We enjoy eating salad every day, sometimes as simple as having a bowl of leaves with a little dressing. You don’t always need to add tomatoes, cucumber and peppers, especially if they’re really expensive at the supermarket, as they are now. In autumn, I planted quite a few different varieties which kept us going during the winter. I have found that our best lettuce grows in winter and spring, when temperatures are cooler. As the weather becomes warmer, it starts bolting to seed or becomes quite bitter, which usually happens some time in December. This is a shame, as salads are a summer staple but we cope with the problem by making greek salads in the warmest months, which don’t require lettuce. By then, we have heaps of tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, so this works out perfectly.
Unlike a lot of other veggies, lettuce requires very little care at all, making it perfect for new gardeners.
In August, I started sowing and planting more lettuce in the garden at fortnightly intervals. A few days ago, I sowed and planted another round. I will put in some more plants around mid-September and also in October. I like to plant lettuce at regular intervals to ensure that we have a constant supply and it doesn’t all mature at once. I grow our lettuce both in containers and in the ground. We prefer the cut and come again varieties of lettuce, as you can pick what you want without having to pull out the whole plant. This avoids waste.
This year, I have been sowing the following varieties: “Degli Ortolani” and “Parella Rossa” from Franchi seeds, “Cut and Come Again” and “Red Fire” from Egmont seeds and “Green Salad Bowl”, “Velvet Red” and “Rouge d’Hiver” from Kings seeds. I also sowed “Cut and Come again” and “Cos” from Yates seeds. I have grown “Cos” from Yates in the past with success and am looking forward to seeing how “Cut and Come again” performs for us. I sowed all of these seeds into punnets with some seed raising mix which I left in our patio. Lettuce germinates fine in cooler temperatures, so I haven’t found it necessary to use a heat pad. I will probably plant these seedlings in the ground once they are mature enough. Last spring, we grew Miners lettuce (Kings Seeds) for the first time, and absolutely loved its flavour. Luckily, it self-seeded merrily during autumn and we have so many productive plants at the moment that it’s not necessary for me to sow more seeds this spring. I also sowed some rocket seeds from the Yates seeds range direct to the ground a few days ago. Our favourite salad involving rocket contains pear, walnuts and blue cheese. It’s simply divine! We also like adding rocket to pizzas so that we have a green topping (olives don’t count!).
The punnets I have been planting into containers are mainly ones that I purchased for 99 cents from Kings Plant Barn during their sale about a fortnight ago. These include the varieties “Lollo Bionda” and “Lollo Rosso” (which you can see from the picture accompanying this post), as well as some mixed cut and come again varieties. About a week ago, I also planted a dozen punnets of rocket, which have grown tremendously. It won’t be long before they’re ready to be harvested. We just pick rocket as we need to, as we do with our cut and come again lettuce. I also planted some Salnova lettuce which I found on clearance at the Warehouse into containers. These plants were even bigger and more established than the seedlings in punnets, so we were eating lettuce leaves from them practically as soon as we had purchased them and potted them up! These are also cut and come again varieties of lettuce and are perfect for beginner gardeners. The plants are very large, making them very easy to start with.
For lettuce grown in the ground, I like to work a little Yates Thrive Natural Blood and Bone into the soil at the time of planting, to encourage the growth of healthy green foliage. I use this product for growing all leafy green veggies, such as kale, leeks, spring onions and bok choy. I normally don’t use an additional fertiliser if growing lettuce in containers, as the potting mix already contains enough nutrients to feed the plants for a few months. I do like to liquid feed both lettuce grown in the ground and plants in containers every week. I used to use Yates Thrive Veggie and Herb Liquid Plant Food, but now that I’m trying to be more organic I’m using Yates Thrive Fish Blood and Bone Plant Food and Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed, which I purchased from Mitre 10 last year during one of their garden club events. There was a sales rep from Yates on hand to provide product advice and these products were recommended to me as a good organic substitute. The last time I was at Mitre 10, one of the ladies who works in the garden centre told me that the next garden club event will be held in November, so I’ve added it to my diary. Indeed, one of the best things about these evenings is the opportunity to get expert advice from all of my favourite NZ gardening companies, including Yates!
What lettuce varieties are you planting in the garden this year? I’m always interested in what other gardeners around the country are growing.