I want to share some lettuce growing revelations, because home-grown lettuce and greens is a worthy mission.
From years of attempting to provide a continuous supply of greens for my family, I have found 3 devotions to make this work more easily. I've not really seen these written elsewhere, so I hope that I'm offering something of unique value in lettuce growing land.
1) Seedlings in ground are happier and more stable than seedlings in punnets.
Sow direct in good ground in the warm season and keep nice and watered. The seedlings are so tightly nestled that they stay small, until you are ready to give a few of them their own space. As long as you water them regularly (ours are just outside our front door), they won't get stressed, and they'll be there even after a couple of months to transplant and let them fill their lettuce potential. We move about 20 at a time every few weeks. And have seedlings, complete with kikuyu and clover, to give away in recycled Indian takeaway containers. New is new longer when its happy.
2) Old lettuce can make new lettuce faster than new lettuce can.
When harvesting for salad, or you see that your soft hearting lettuce is thinking about going to seed, break 3/4 of the lettuce off, leaving the base and a few leaves intact. Keep the water on for a good soaking once or twice a week, and within two weeks you'll have an entire new salad's worth of greens put out in 4 to 6 smaller shoots. This fills the gap while the new seedlings planted weeks ago are promising, yet still only palm-sized. Old is faster than new, sometimes.
3) Old lettuce can also make surprise new lettuce.
At the end of the old lettuce, allow them to flower beautifully and go to seed. If you allow a bit of mulch and moisture there's a very good chance of seeing a impossibly packed group of new seedlings come up a few months later. Always a surprise and always a delight. The bonus with these guys is that somehow the slugs don't seem to target them as much, because the ground has not been recently disturbed. This is often the source of our first lettuce of the early spring, as all attempts to transplant yummy little seedlings are, well, yummy to slugs. Old is surprisingly new.
If you haven't grown lettuce from seed, but are interested, you can see my Play by Play on growing your own Lettuce from seed.
But for you who just said 'Seeds? Grow? Oh, I've never been any good at that.'
This is for you.
Seeds exist to do one thing, fulfill the promise of who they are. They don't need much from you.
Can you get them started inside by giving them a bit of dirt and keeping the top moist? Yes
Can you give them a bit more space once they are ready to leave your loving nursery and bust into a bigger world? Yes
Can you celebrate each new leaf, give them water now and again, protect them from a few slugs, the dog, the kids? Yes
Can you resist eating them until they've grown nice and big? Yes
Can you imagine a salad of sweetness and vitality, colour and light that grew because you said yes?
Please don't tell me you're too busy. It's the plants that do all the work, they are generous like that. They're just need the opportunity.
Hope you're having a sun-kissed, but not burnt January with plenty of great summer food and outdoor time.
With love, Green Salad Bowl, Bex