If you give lettuce what it needs, you can be successful and provide your family with baby greens that will rival those store-bought clam shells of salad greens. Lettuce has different needs than microgreens, so keep that in mind.
Grow Lettuce For Winter Harvest
All lettuce is a good source of vitamin A and potassium, although the darker green leaves have higher concentrations of the provitamin A compound as well as beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium and iron. In fact, both leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce scored higher than kale in a ranking of nutrient density (source) making them a ‘powerhouse’ vegetable.
Garden lettuce is far superior, in both taste and vitamin A content, to supermarket brands.
It’s easy to grow – and delicious when picked fresh.
It can grow all season long with succession planting (i.e., sowing one small crop at a time) and choosing varieties for different seasons. With regular watering, shade from hot sun, and succession planting, you can enjoy homegrown lettuce almost year-round in much of the country. Read here for more tips and where to buy quality garden lettuce.
How To Sow
Sow between late August and mid-November. Regular sowings will ensure that you have a good continuous crop.
Sow seeds in short, shallow rows. Cover with soil, label and water.
If a sharp dip in temperature is predicted (particularly overnight), consider covering your seeds with a cloche or fleece to protect them.
Grow Winter Salad
Many people grow their own salad in the summer, but strangely winter salads have never quite taken off in the same way. The good news is that the growing methods used are very similar and that, with a few small adjustments, you can grow tasty salads in the garden all year round. Choose from hardy varieties of your favourite summer lettuce, or experiment with more unusual winter salad crops such as Texsel greens and salad burnet. For a continuous supply, sow a few seeds every four weeks. Winter salads traditionally have a strong, robust flavour that can sometimes be a little bitter. If you find that your salad leaves are too bitter for your tastes, try blanching the leaves by covering the plants with an upturned flowerpot. Left like this for a few days before harvesting, the leaves will become paler and less bitter.
Just your regular garden soil. pH of 6.5 is best. Good drainage and high level of organic matter for best results.Choose a sheltered sunny spot in the garden and prepare the soil by digging over and mixing in well-rotted manure or garden compost. This will add nutrients and help the soil retain moisture.
Rake to leave a fine finish. Alternatively prepare a container mix of potting compost and John Innes and use a window box or pot.
Time to harvest depends on the varieties you’re growing but will average between three and six weeks depending on how warm it is.You will know when it is time to harvest your leafy salad greens when the leaves have reached the size of the leaves you would typically see in a garden salad. Harvest leaves from cut-and-come again lettuces when plants are about 5cm (2in) high, or allow the plants to grow to about 15cm and cut the whole head off leaving a 3cm (1in) stump – a new plant should soon re-sprout.