While green lettuce, such as ‘Little Gem’, is a traditional main ingredient of any salad, the fancy leaves of ‘mustard’, ‘spinach’, ‘rocket’ and ‘mizuna’ provide extra colour, texture and flavour to modern picnics. If you are not keen on tight heads of lettuce then the loose-leaf type that you can cut are well worth trying.
Soil and position
A bright sunny sight is best, although most lettuce will put up with light shade. Soil that has been fortified with some organic matter and supplementary plant food will grow a good crop if kept clear of weeds that could otherwise swamp the seedlings. If you have little garden space to spare, you can grow salad leaves in a Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Giant Planter or a Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own gro-sac for potatoes and root vegetables. Simply cut open the bag and sow seeds.
There are hundreds of different lettuce varieties, herbs and greens to create a salad to your liking. Here are some lettuce names to conjure with.
- Cos types: ‘Lobjoits’, ‘Little Gem’, ‘Winter Density’.
- Crisphead types: ‘Webbs Wonderful’, ‘Iceberg’.
- Butterhead types: ‘All Year Round’, ‘Buttercrunch’, ‘Avondefiance’.
- Loose leaf: ‘Salad Bowl’, ‘Lollo Rosso’, ‘Bergamo’.
- Herby leaves: ‘Coriander’, ‘Green Oak-Leaf’, ‘Rocket’, ‘Corn salad’, ‘Lambs lettuce’, ‘Parsley’, ‘Red Mustard’, ‘Spinach’, ‘Greek cres’s and ‘Mizuna’.
Starting in April, sow seeds every 3 weeks to provide fresh salad throughout summer and autumn. Don’t scatter the seed over a wide area as you may not be able to distinguish your salad crop from weeds. Unless you are sure of what things should look like when they germinate, grow mixed leaves in straight lines. Take out a shallow drill just 1cm (½in deep and water immediately. Sow seeds thinly on this moist soil and then cover with more soil.
If you are using a gro-sac, or planter, place it on a sunny patio, take out enough compost to reduce the level by 1cm, and water the bag thoroughly. Scatter seeds over the exposed compost area and then cover with the compost you removed initially. Water whenever the compost feels dry.
Keep the soil moist at all times, but not soaking wet. To encourage fast growth that is tender and full of flavour feed plants in garden soil every 3 weeks with a solution of Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Concentrated Liquid Plant Food. Feed Giant Planters every 2 weeks starting 8 weeks after the seeds were sown.
Cut headed lettuce with a knife when they are large enough for the kitchen, but use scissors to trim the outer leaves of herbs and loose leaf-types of lettuce.