Okay, there is nothing like a salad made with fresh cut lettuce. It is definitely filled with nom nom nom. Usually, lettuce is a spring crop. If it gets too hot it bolts meaning that it develops a flower head and becomes very bitter. This year I had planned on starting lettuce in the garden but as good plans sometimes go, it didn’t work out. So, what is one to do if they procrastinate like I do? Why grow it in a shady cooler location, that’s what. I did this same thing last year and I’ll run you through it. It’s easy and pretty cheap. There are fancier things out there like salad tables, but I don’t want to have to build something and of course they aren’t super portable.
I like things to be easy and quick if possible and this is one of those things. You’ll need a packet of either looseleaf or mesclun mix lettuce seeds, a window box (or other large pot if you prefer. You can also purchase special designed lettuce boxes at places like Gardeners Supply that are collapsible for about $15.00), potting soil, and a few coffee filters.
First, a quick note on potting soil. I can’t stress enough about not buying the cheapest stuff you can find. I did that one year and desperately regretted it, it was filled with weed seeds and other junk, was really heavy and just stunk all around. With potting soil, you do indeed get what you pay for, so shell out a bit more cash for the good stuff.
I usually use Miracle Gro Potting Soil. I’ve always had good luck with it. I also recommend Pro-Mix brand potting soil as well.
Okay, now you’re probably wondering about the coffee filters. Whenever you grow anything in a pot, the container should ALWAYS have drainage holes. Two of the top problems people have when growing things usually is under or over watering. If a pot doesn’t have drainage holes the excess water can’t drain out and than you end up with too much moisture and your roots can rot out….so drainage holes are a must. If the container or pot doesn’t have drainage holes make some, drills with drill bits are your friends. So, with drainage holes we want water to drain out not the soil…so until the roots of the plants can start holding the dirt in place, I use coffee filters to cover the holes. They degrade which is great. Many times over the years I’ve used rocks or something at the bottom to cover the holes, but at the end of the season when you dump the soil into the compost pile you have to dig all the rock out, with coffee filters there is nothing left. 🙂 Bonus, right?
Okay, when you go to put the dirt on the box, make sure to put it over the coffee filters first so that they don’t get moved off the drainage holes. Yeah…I did that once, I was frustrated because of instead of carefully putting a few handfuls in first, I just started dumping from the bag. Yup…bad idead.
Go ahead and fill the rest of the window box with soil. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top of the box or container. The potting soil will settle some once watered, but if you fill it all the way to the top when you initially water it will just pour over the sides of the pot along with possibly seed and soil. So give yourself some space. Drag your fingers through the soil so that you have a “trench” for the seeds to go. Usually lettuce likes a 1/4 inch planting depth. As for spacing in the container, I usually just create two trenches in the soil on each side of the box.
Go ahead and sprinkle seeds into those trenches. You don’t have to be super precise. Once they germinate and get a bit of growth you’ll do a bit of thinning which is creating more space for the plants you keep by removing some in between. Hopefully, I’ll have seeds germinating soon so I can do a blog post about it. Even if you’re start seeds in the garden you need to thin the seedling outs. Otherwise, there is too much competition for light, water, nutrients, and you end up with weak and spindly plants.
Gently cover the seeds with the soil that was displaced when you created the planting trenches. Carefully water. Don’t dump the water on otherwise you’ll end up with a mess trust me. A hose with a watering wand or a watering can with a breaker on the end…you know that thing that makes water come out like a shower.
As for location, you can’t keep this in full sun, otherwise your lettuce will bolt. Keep it in a location that gets a few hours of morning sun, but is shaded during the afternoon which is the hottest part of the day. In about a month to 45 days you’ll be able to start harvesting. Assuming all goes well, I’ll be able to continue to walk you through all of this. It’s easy to read about how to do things, but having someone show you pictures of the the where, when, why, and how always makes it easier.
So hopefully you’re now all excited to get growing. Go ahead, plant lettuce so you too can eat like a rabbit. 🙂