How To Grow Lettuce From Seeds

Lettuce is one of the simplest plants to grow and a great addition to your edible garden. With judicious sewing, lettuce from seed can be grown in your garden all year round, providing a rotating crop and a constant source of food for your kitchen.

Lettuce comes in a number of varieties with different growing conditions, but the rule of thumb for growth is six to twelve weeks for a loose-leaf variety, and eight to fourteen weeks for a tightly packed lettuce.

The seeds for lettuce are incredibly fine and very difficult to sew evenly. When planting lettuce, sew the seeds as thinly as you can into rows about 20 centimetres apart. Be prepared to thin out the resulting seedlings – no matter how hard you try, the tiny seeds will cause overcrowding. Cover the seeds in a thin layer of soil and follow instructions for watering.

If you decide to begin your seeds indoors, plan ahead before you begin. Although people will tell you that transplanting seedlings is fine, lettuces are fairly delicate and hate being moved. A solution for this is to plant out the seeds in either peat pots or an old cardboard egg carton – both of these can simply be planted along with the seedling when you’re ready to take it outside.

Lettuce likes cool weather and lots of water, but at the same time likes sunlight and doesn’t enjoy drowning. Make sure your soil is full of nutrients and drains well, then water your plants regularly to keep them moist. In hot weather, consider putting a shade over the plants.

Thinning out of the crop can be done in stages until the plants are at the correct spacing. Give each plant room to grow to its adult size without being overshadowed; the exact spacing will vary between varieties. Water the plants the day before you thin each time.

Lettuce develops a thick, flowering stem and goes to seed if the plant isn’t picked after its heart is formed. Once it is apparent that the plant is fully grown, you have five to seven days before it goes to seed.

Like any plant, lettuce is vulnerable to pests as it grows. However, lettuce is a delicate plant and absorbs many pesticides – something definitely to be avoided when it’s a plant you’re going to eat. Slugs can be dealt with via slug pellets, but there are a number of other, more natural solutions to deal with this problem. Try placing a barrier around the plant, such as a plastic bottle with both ends cut off, and removing slugs by hand in the evenings. If the problem needs a commercial solution, consider nematodes; these are a naturally occurring organism which are sold at garden centres and eat slugs from within.

Root aphids are greyish coloured aphids which live in the roots of the plant. They are noticeable because they cover the roots with white powdery patches, and cause the lettuce leaves to yellow and wilt. To prevent an outbreak, remove the affected plants completely, putting them in the bin rather than the compost.

There are a couple of different diseases lettuces are prone to, most of which relate to the general health of the plant. Mildew and grey mould frequently affect crops in cool, humid weather, the former affecting only some leaves with dead spots and white mildew which can be easily removed. Grey mould occurs in damaged areas of the plant, causing a red-brown rot covered by grey mould, and it is best to dispose of the affected plant if this occurs. Water plants during the day to prevent these diseases.


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