Posts Tagged ‘lettuce’

Growing Lettuce from Sowing to Harvest

June 17th, 2019 | News | 2 Comments

Growing Lettuce from Sowing to Harvest

It’s quick-growing, fuss-free and can be grown just about anywhere. What are we talking about? Lettuce of course! Whether you’re growing it for sweet, firm hearts or for a pick-and-mix of leaves, you won’t want to run short of this dependable staple. If you fancy growing more of it you’re in the right place, because here’s our sowing to harvest guide to lettuce! Read on or watch the video for more.

Types of Lettuce

Lettuce needs little introduction. Grown for its luscious leaves, there’s a cornucopia of both hearting and loose leaf varieties to explore. Lettuces that form dense heads for harvesting whole include creamy butterhead types, upright romaine and cos lettuces and the classic, crunchy iceberg. Loose leaf lettuces can be harvested whole or a few leaves at a time, ‘cut-and-come-again’ style. Choose from the classic salad bowl lettuce, handsome oak leaf types or any number of other colourful leaves that’ll brighten vegetable beds and ornamental borders alike.

Where to Grow Lettuce

Sow lettuce in batches for a continuous harvestGrow lettuce in any well-drained, fertile soil – soil improved over time with plenty of compost is ideal – or grow lettuces in pots or tubs of potting soil. Lettuce prefers a bright, open position with good air circulation to promote strong, disease-free growth.

Lettuce is a cool-season crop, so in hot climates you may get better results growing it in a cooler, shadier spot, especially as the young plants start out. Either way, lettuces don’t take long to reach maturity, which makes them an excellent choice for growing in-between slower-to-establish crops such as corn or leeks.

When to Sow Lettuce

Make the earliest sowings under cover from late winter to grow on in greenhouse or hoop house beds for a super-early harvest. Then from early spring, it’s time to sow for growing outside. You can use our Garden Planner to check exactly what months you can sow in your area. The Planner uses your nearest weather station to ensure the accompanying Plant List is tailored to your location.

Sow in batches, about once a month, for a continuous harvest. The last sowing of the season, made at the end of summer, will be of winter lettuces. These hardy plants will happily sit out the winter, often with little or no protection in milder climates, to give the first outdoor harvests of spring. Or plant winter lettuces under cover for a reliable supply of leaves throughout the winter.

Direct Sowing Lettuce

Sowings may be made directly into prepared soil or into module trays of multipurpose potting soil. To sow direct, remove any weeds then rake the soil level to a fine, crumbly texture. Mark out shallow drills, 8-12 inches or 20 to 30cm apart, using a stringline as a guide if this helps. Then, sow the tiny seeds in clusters – a pinch of seeds every 4in or 10cm. Backfill the seed drills, label with the variety and water.

Thin the seedlings once they’re up to leave the strongest plant at each point. Then a few weeks on, thin again to leave plants  8-12 inches – or 20-30cm – apart.

Sowing into Plug Trays

Young lettuce plants are ready to go into the ground once the roots have filled their plugsAlternatively, sow into module trays of multipurpose potting soil. Fill the trays, firm the potting soil then sow a pinch of about 3-5 seeds into each plug, onto the surface. Cover the seeds with the very finest layer of potting soil, then water the trays by placing them into reservoirs of water so they can soak up moisture from the bottom. Remove the trays once you can see surface is damp. Continue to water whenever the potting soil dries out at the surface. Starting lettuces off in plug trays stops slugs from annihilating seedlings, while giving an arguably neater result at planting time.

The young plants are ready to go into the ground once the roots have filled their plugs. Space them 8-12 inches or 20-30cm apart in both directions. Carefully remove the plants from their plugs then dig a hole for each lettuce plant. Firm it in, and once you’ve finished planting water to settle the soil around the roots.

Caring for Lettuce

Encourage early or late-season lettuces by laying row covers or horticultural fleece over plants to trap valuable warmth. Low polythene hoop houses or tunnels are another excellent way to cheat the seasons.

Water plants in dry weather to ensure robust growth and to prevent your lettuce from bolting, when plants quickly go to seed. Use a sharp hoe to decapitate weeds as they appear, or hoik out the occasional intruder by hand.

Slugs aren’t a major problem when ground is kept weed-free and watering limited to a thorough soaking once or twice a week, but extra measures to keep a check on slugs include beer traps and the removal of shady hiding places like old pots.

How to Harvest Lettuce

Harvest whole heads of lettuce in one go by simply pulling up the plant from the ground. Lift them just before you need them for best taste and the freshest leaves.

Or enjoy your lettuces over a longer period by cutting just a few leaves from each plant at a time. Called cut-and-come-again harvesting, taking leaves like this not only prolongs the cropping period – so individual plants crop for anywhere up to two months – it will also give you many more leaves. Simply cut or twist the leaves from the stem, taking care not to damage it. Leave the central leaves untouched to grow on for the next cut.

With so many leaf shapes and colours, lettuces are a genuine joy to behold! How do you grow yours – in containers, in serried rows, or among other crops? What are your favourite varieties? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

How to Save Seeds from Beans, Peppers, Onions and More

August 28th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

You’ve sown it, grown it and harvested it. But how can you take your vegetable growing one step further?

Easy: by saving your own seed from this year’s crops to sow next season.

When you come to think about it, saving seed is the ultimate in self-sufficiency; it’ll save you money and closes the loop on your growing but, above all, it’s delightfully satisfying.

Read on or watch the video to find out how to save those seeds.

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What to save

Some vegetables are easier to save seed from than others. Especially suitable candidates include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, which can all be saved at the same time they are harvested or very soon afterwards.

Some biennial crops, such as onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, beetroot and chard are also worth saving, though you’ll need to overwinter a few plants from one season to flower and set seed the next.

What not to save

Avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants readily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.

The same goes for F1 hybrid which, because they are created from two separate parent varieties, simply won’t come true to type. For this reason, only ever save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties. F1 hybrids should include ‘F1’ in the variety name on the seed packet.

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Saving bean and pea seeds

Peas and beans are the easiest of the lot. As the end of the season approaches leave some pods to dry out on the plants. You’ll be able to see and feel the beans swelling within their pods. They’re ready to pick and collect when the pods themselves turn leathery or crisp to the touch.

You can get a lot of seeds from just a few plants, which makes saving these seeds very worthwhile indeed. Shell the pods to reveal the beans or peas inside, then discard any very small, misshapen or damaged seeds. Save only the best clean seeds. Spread them out onto newspaper to dry out on a warm windowsill for 7-10 days.

Fava beans, or broad beans, can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.

Saving lettuce seeds

Lettuces produce literally thousands of seeds on each seed head. You may find you need to stake the plants as they stretch out to flower.

Once the plant displays its fluffy seed heads, pull it out of the ground and hang it upside down indoors to dry. After a few weeks like this the seed heads can be rubbed between the palms of your hands to coax the seeds free.

As with any vegetable, it’s important to choose the very best plants to collect seed from. This way you will actively select for those plants that perform the strongest and are best suited to the conditions in your garden.

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Saving pepper and tomato seeds

The seeds of tomatoes and peppers are ready when the fruits themselves are good for eating.

Wait until sweet peppers and chillies show their mature colour, then simply scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out on paper to dry out for a week or more before storing.

Before drying and storing tomato seeds, the pulp around them must first be removed. This isn’t difficult, but there is a specific process to do this correctly. See more on our blog for tips on how to do this.

Saving onion and leek seeds

Onions, leeks and shallots set seed in their second year. These plants cross-pollinate, so you’ll need to overwinter more than one plant of the same variety to flower the following season. The flowers are beautiful though, and provide welcome food for local bees and other pollinators.

The seed heads are ready once they have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting. But if you need the space, you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier. First, check the seeds are ready by opening up a seed pod to observe the seeds inside. If the seeds are black, then you’re good to go.

Leave the seed heads to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated place, such as a greenhouse. Once they’ve turned a straw colour, simply rub the seed heads between your fingers to release the seeds.

How to store saved seeds

Dry seeds can be cleaned before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separating out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.

Seeds should be stored in paper envelopes labelled with the variety and date.

Store them somewhere cool, dry and dark until you’re ready to sow in spring.

If you have any top tips for saving seeds, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Urban Gardening: Growing Lettuce & Salad Leaves in Containers [video]

August 2nd, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Urban Gardening - Mixed Green Salad (Nation of Gardeners)


With smaller gardens it can be tricky to fit in everything you’d like to. Cut-and-come-again salad leaves are quick and easy to grow and small enough to fit into almost any container, making them perfect for gardeners with limited time or space. This video offers advice on doing urban gardening well.

You will need;

  • Good quality potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Container with drainage holes

The best salads for containers are loose leaf or mesclun salad varieties.

  1. Fill the container with potting soil, up to 1 inch/2cm below the rim and pat down to ensure a level surface.
  2. Sprinkle the seeds thinly and evenly over the surface of the compost, then cover these over with a fine layer of potting soil.
  3. Pat down the potting soil to ensure the seeds are in place.
  4. Water the container carefully using a watering can, fitted with a rose to avoid washing the seeds out.

To care for your salad seedlings:

  • Move the container into a bright space, or if you’re gardening in a hot spot, such as on a balcony or roof terrace, dry to choose a cool and shady corner.
  • Check daily and water as necessary dependent on weather conditions.
  • Once the seedlings begin to germinate, you will need to thin them out a little to ensure those remaining have at least an inch between one another.
  • The leaves are ready to cut about 4 – 6 weeks after sowing, harvest little and often by using a sharp knife or scissors to cut away the largest leaves every few days. This will in turn stimulate new leaves.

These are just a few tips on getting started with urban gardening and growing salad leaves in containers. The video below offers further advice to taking care of salad and lettuce leaves. You can also browse Mr Fothergills salad seeds here on the online shop. If you have any tips for urban gardening, do let us know in the comments.

Urban Gardening: Growing Lettuce & Salad Leaves in Containers

Nation of Gardeners results: Mixed Green Salad Leaves

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Mixed green salad leavesThese Mixed Green Salad leaves can be grown all year round and are quick to grow in containers, on the windowsill indoors or outside during winter in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.  These leaves are perfect as a cut-and-come-again crop or for growing on to full lettuce heads.

As long as the plants have plenty of light and are kept frost-free, they will grow successfully to provide salad leaves year-round.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Mixed Green Salad Leaves in December 2013 as part of a windowsill growing challenge during the colder months of the year.  The table below charts their progress.

 

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 December 20 December Sown on North East facing windowsill. Very quick growth, etiolated seedlings moved to greenhouse after 10 days. Tastes like cress.
Renfrewshire 28m 16 December 20 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 31 December: Fairly good germination but several seedlings collapsed so not many surviving
North Devon 30-50m 12 December 15 December Sown indoors on South East facing windowsill. Although quick to germinate, they haven’t established into full leaves, still thin seedlings.
Worcestershire 55m 28 December 3 January Sown indoors on a South facing windowsill.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 18 January 23 January Sown on North facing windowsill.
Ceredigion 131m 6 December 9 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.  1 January: first picking, good flavour.
Bristol 55m 10 December 14 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 26 December: first picking
Suffolk 6m 7 December 10 December sown in propagator and then placed on West facing windowsill once germinated. Very leggy seedlings.
Hertfordshire 150m 8 December 14 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.
Surrey 58m 27 December 30 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 4 January 2014: Seedlings looking very strong & healthy
Pontypridd 157m 15 December 18 December (indoors)23 December (outdoors) Indoor sowings on North facing windowsill were quick to germinate, started to get ‘leggy’ so cut back. 31 December: first picking. Not bitter – tastelessOutdoor sowings were slower to germinate but the seedlings looked much stronger.
Buckinghamshire 66m 27 December 29 December Sown indoors on an East facing windowsill.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 31 December 2 January Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill, overshadowed by trees.
Derbyshire 241m 14 December 17 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill. 30 December: thick mat of seedlings by end of month, but not big enough to pick.

Nation of Gardeners results: Mixed Red Salad Leaves

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

mixed red saladThese Mixed Red Salad leaves can be grown all year round and are quick to grow in containers, on the windowsill indoors or outside during winter in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.  These leaves are perfect as a cut-and-come-again crop or for growing on to full lettuce heads.

As long as the plants have plenty of light and are kept frost-free, they will grow successfully to provide salad leaves year-round.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Mixed Red Salad Leaves in December 2013 as part of a windowsill growing challenge during the colder months of the year.  The table below charts their progress.

 

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 December 20 December Sown on North East facing windowsill. Very quick growth, etiolated seedlings moved to greenhouse after 10 days. Tastes like cress.
Renfrewshire 28m 16 December 20 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 31 December: Fairly good germination but several seedlings collapsed so not many surviving
North Devon 30-50m 12 December 15 December Sown indoors on South East facing windowsill. Although quick to germinate, they haven’t established into full leaves, still thin seedlings.
Worcestershire 55m 28 December 4 January Sown indoors on a South facing windowsill.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 18 January 23 January Sown indoors on a North facing windowsill
Ceredigion 131m 6 December 9 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.  1 January: first picking, good flavour.
Bristol 55m 10 December 14 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 26 December: first picking
Suffolk 6m 7 December 10 December Sown into propagator at 22 degrees C and then moved to went facing windowsill once germinated. Very leggy looking seedlings.
Hertfordshire 150m 8 December 14 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.
Surrey 58m 27 December 30 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 4 January 2014: Seedlings looking healthy but slightly behind green & spicy seedlings
Pontypridd 157m 15 December 19 December (indoors)23 December (outdoors) Indoor sowings on North facing windowsill were quick to germinate, started to get ‘leggy’ so cut back. 31 December: first picking. Not bitter – but plants very youngOutdoor sowings were slower to germinate but the seedlings looked much stronger.
Buckinghamshire 66m 27 December 29 December Sown indoors on an East facing windowsill.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 11 December 16 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill, overshadowed by trees. Got very ‘leggy’ indoors so moved them to a south facing lean to greenhouse, with full sun when it’s not raining most of the day.
Derbyshire 241m 14 December 17 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill. 30 December: thick mat of seedlings by end of month, but not big enough to pick.  23 January: started to damp off. 2 February: All lost