Summer Salad Tips: Your Simple Guide To Growing Lettuce At Home

From healthy wraps to tasty salads and greenery in your burgers, lettuce is a summer staple, and it’s incredibly easy to grow. There are loads of different varieties to choose from and various growing methods for all garden sizes and experiences.

  • Types of lettuce to grow
  • How to grow lettuce in pots and other spaces
  • When to harvest your crop
  • Lettuce-packed recipes

Read on, grow your own and start enjoying this homegrown greenery today…

Lettuce is one of those vegetables that are just perfect for summer. They’re full of good vitamins to sustain our healthy summer habits, have a high water content, and just look bright and green and summery, don’t they? So why not grow your own?

Types of lettuce to grow

Iceberg, romaine, baby gem – there are loads of different varieties of lettuce and salad greens to choose from, but they’re all just as easy to grow and the next one. Loose leafed options are best for containers, but all kinds will do well if looked after right:

  • Little gem, or baby gem as it’s known, is a good choice for any amateur veg growers out there. You see results fast, and it’s on the sweeter side flavour-wise. What’s great about this variety is that it can be grown close together – it doesn’t need a lot of room at all, so you can pack your containers full or plant in any size garden for a good harvest.
  • Moon red is another kind of little gem, but it grows burgundy leaves instead for a splash of contrasting colour in your bowl.
  • All The year Round is exactly as it sounds – you can grow it all year round! It has looser leaves and needs a touch more room to spread out, but it’s just as tasty.
  • Salad Bowl is a bit of an award-winning variety on both sides of the pond, winning RHS awards and All-American Selection trophies. It is most likely down to the fact that it has a good life span and keeps growing even more after you harvest leaves.

How to grow lettuce in pots and other spaces

Due to its typically compact nature, lettuce is ideal for growing in containers. In fact, you can get year-round planters for indoor or outdoor use if you fancy some consistent greenery. The seeds only need planting 1.5cm under the soil and about 10cm apart. You might need to thin them out once they reach a more mature height and have 4 or 6 leaves, but they still only need about 15cm on either side.

Top Tip: Make sure your soil is moisture retentive and mixed with good quality fertiliser – you can buy specific potting mixes for vegetables if you fancy an easy option.

But when is the best time to grow lettuce? The best time to sow and grow depends on your climate. In milder areas, you can sow lettuce seeds from March to September to harvest nearly all year-round. The key is to keep the soil moist and sow little, but often to avoid wastage.

Your lettuce is likely to need protection too. So, how do you protect growing lettuce?

  • In early spring and late autumn, frost is your biggest concern – you’ll need cloches, polytunnels or fleece to keep the heat in.
  • Sparrows love baby lettuce as well, so think about a chicken wire cover to keep them away.
  • Other common pests include slugs, snails and aphids. Pesticides are your best bet, but for more organic remedies, spray off the aphids with water and use sawdust or straw around the base of the plant.

When to harvest your crop

Another big common query is how long does it take to grow lettuce? The answer is pretty quickly! Some varieties need just 45-55 days to reach harvesting size, but leafier varieties can be picked as soon as the leaves look tasty enough.

The look is one of the more important things when it comes to harvesting. When you leave your lettuce too long in the ground, it can go woody or start to wither and rot. Similarly, sometimes it can look fine, but the taste will be bitter. It all comes back to that little but often sowing method.

Top Tip: Harvest in the morning for tasty, moist leaves.

Lettuce-packed recipes

The obvious choices here are fresh summer salads, sandwich fillers and burger garnishes, but there are loads of uses for your lettuce.

  1. Make a coleslaw

Perfect for a BBQ or buffet and packed full of vitamins and nutrients. It only takes a few minutes to throw together, so why not?

  • Lettuce wraps

Lettuce leaves make the ideal low-carb replacement for bread and tortilla wraps.

Yes, you can add lettuce to soup – it’s a great way to use up all the thicker, less salad-friendly parts of the plant or to use up a bumper harvest.

  • Smoothies and Juices

Smoothies are perfect for packing in your five a day, and lettuce really makes a difference. They can ease the sweetness of fruit and add extra moisture. Plus, if your lettuce is looking a bit limp, but is still good, throwing it in a blender is the ideal solution to zero waste.

  • Grill it

It sounds weird, but grilled lettuce wedges are a perfect accompaniment for your entrée. Just coat them in oil, herbs and spices and throw them on the grill or BBQ. Serve everyone up a wedge with their meal, and voila! 

Lettuce truly is a bit of a wonder. It’s easy to grow, does well in all sunny spaces and can be used in loads of recipes and ways. So, what are you waiting for? Go buy yourself some seeds, and in just over six weeks, you can be enjoying your very own lettuce harvest!

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