Thursday, 31 May 2012

Grow your own lettuce

There is one crop that most of us can grow what ever our circumstance as well as grow it nearly all year round. That crop is lettuce, which can be grown in a big garden or in a bucket as well as everything in-between If you are really organized and you have a greenhouse or polly tunnel, you can grow your own lettuce pretty much all year round. Lettuce is are quite a bit hardier than you might think and you can get special winter varieties to see you through the colder months. In the winter time they slow right down (they can take up to ten weeks) though so you have to be patient and sow well in advance of when you hope to harvest. What you need is to be patient and organised – then you can be sure of having your own lettuce on the table and what a treat it is. Unfortunately the lettuce is prone to all sorts of pest and diseases which means the lettuce that you buy in the local store can be sprayed as much as eight times in its short life. The growers want a fast turnaround and high yields so the plants are grown very close together with lots of extra nitrogen and often under plastic, which makes them prone to fungal diseases. In addition, because it is grown fast commercial lettuce is often rather tasteless. Many of these pests can be over come if you leave space round each plant so that there is plenty of air. In addition, there are many ways to keep slugs away from you crop You might want to try different varieties for taste and seasonal growth. Even an everyday variety like Little Gem has more taste and texture when it is grown slowly. Lettuce seeds will keep for a year or two. One of the secrets to growing lettuce successfully is to sow the seed little and often. It is far better to sow a few plants once a week than a big batch once a month. You are much more likely to get a steady supply of tasty salad rather than a boom or bust glut. It also pays to grow several different varieties. It makes your salads more interesting and because different varieties grow at different speeds, your harvest will be more spread out. You can get packets of lettuce mixed seed now, which are handy, if you have limited space. I have found these to be very handy and use them all the time. What you get is an interesting and well-balanced blend.

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