Lettuce Red ,Gardeners can select from a large variety of lettuces that are easy to grow, highly productive in limited space, and virtually pest and disease free. Lettuce is definitely one of the more “”care-free”” crops.
For maximum lettuce production, it’s wise to select a site where the soil drains well, yet retains some moisture. The soil should also be rich in nitrogen and potassium, The best way to accomplish this is to work in plenty of organic matter (compost, rotted manure, or leaf mold) that will loosen and enrich the soil. Strive for a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Most lettuce varieties mature in 45 to 55 days, allowing many gardeners to plant two or even three crops. But looseleaf and butterhead leaves can be harvested at just about any time in their development. Heading varieties take longer to mature. Romaine takes 75 to 85 days and crisphead 70 to 100 days.
Sowing Your Seeds
Many varieties can be sown all year round but lettuces are cool weather plants and don’t grow well in the heat of summer. If you choose to grow them in summer make sure they have some shade from the hot afternoon sun. You could grow them on the southern side of a bush or place some shade-cloth over them.
Lettuce seeds can be sown directly where you want them to grow, but the problem with this is that it leaves the emerging seedlings vulnerable to the hoards of pests that just love to eat them. It is far better to sow the seeds onto fine soil in a seedling tray or a pot, then just cover them lightly with fine potting soil. They must be sown very shallowly or they won’t come up as they need light to germinate.
Use good potting soil from your garden supplier in your tray or pot, not soil out of your back yard, and water them gently after sowing. Keep them moist but not wet and they will emerge in about seven days.
Most people like to sow a few seeds every couple of weeks so there is always some ready-to-pick lettuces in the garden. This protects you from the problem of having a lot ready at once, then nothing.
When your seedlings are big enough to handle, around the two or three ‘true’ leaf stage (about five centimeters) you can plant them out where you want them. They are really useful plants as they grow just as well in large pots as they do in the ground. They will even put up with dappled or part-shade.
Be gentle with these tender plants and water them in well after they are in the ground
Pests, Diseases and Problems
The main pests of lettuces are slugs and snails. These can be controlled by picking them off on wet evenings or mornings then crushing them underfoot. A better alternative for those who don’t like to kill them by hand is to buy or make a plastic snail and slug trap. This is a shallow bowl that is half filled with beer or a sugar and yeast solution, the snails and slugs crawl in overnight and drown.
Harvest depends on the type of lettuce you are growing. For heading types you should pick the plant when the head is tight and full-sized. Butter and loose leaf types can be harvested one leaf at a time. Just go out to the garden and pick the amount of leaves you need, leaving the plant in the ground to keep growing.
Depending on the variety it can take anywhere from 6 to 14 weeks from sowing to become ready for harvest.