I know I am not a gardening blog. Well, I’ve always had a gardening section but it stands to reason that if you’re a food blogger, growing your own food is like a dream right? It’s been ten years in the making of successful crops for us. We always say “we never stop learning when it comes to gardening!”.
If there is one thing we can do well – it is growing lettuce!
In case you’re wondering why we have wrought iron small fencing in there, it’s because we use it to elevate placing a tarp over the beds when we either have danger of frost or hail here in Oklahoma. I really don’t worry much about frost with lettuce, as this buttercrunch survived the entire winter but hail? Yes, that is a worry here in tornado alley.
We actually start our seeds in the fall many times and then thin and transplant them in the spring upon finding them under a covering of fall leaves, but seriously anyone can grow lettuce! It’s easy!
Lettuce is a cold weather crop so plant your seeds when the soil temperature is above 40º. You can also plant a second crop it in the fall 8 weeks before your first expected freeze date for another crop.
Lettuce grows so fast that you might want to stagger your plantings by planting a row one weekend and then planting a second row the next, etc.
The soil you plant in should be loose and well-drained and you should till or rake it up loosely before you sow the tiny seeds so they’ll have the best chance of germination. You should dig a trench with the back of a shovel handle about 1/4-1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle your seeds down the trench and then lightly cover them with soil.
Lettuce grows quickly as well so it’s a rewarding cool weather crop to try! You can grow it in a large pot or in a traditional garden setting. Just sprinkle the seeds, thin and keep them watered. Whole head lettuce like Buttercrunch or Romaine need to be thinned but some gourmet lettuces like Mesclun Mix or Gourmet Blend don’t need to be – just follow your seed packet directions.
Once the sprouts come up, thin whole head lettuce to what your seed packet recommends or leave it thick if it’s the salad bowl or spring mix variety.
And instead of pulling up the entire head of lettuce, just pick the outer leaves, gently snapping them off at the bottom of them, leaving the center leaves to regrow – you can keep picking the same head for a long time that way! )The exception to this rule is Buttercrunch. I’ve learned that with Buttercrunch you need to snap it off from the center down as far as possible but still leave the outer larger leaves for regrowth.) We cut our spring mix starting at one end with scissors and continue down the row harvesting it. This gives it time to regrow and you have an endless supply!
I once saw Jamie Oliver plant them in plastic bags and coffee tins and he ended up with a lettuce garden done with the utmost ease and tiny amount of investment.
I also love to sprinkle spring mix in a large pot just outside my back door on the patio for a quick salad dinner when I don’t have time to go to the garden. It’s super pretty in spring too!
With those large organic tubs of lettuce ranging between three to five dollars nowadays, we estimate we get hundreds of dollars of lettuce each year!
Lettuce doesn’t like heat and will send up a center shoot usually when the heat comes. This is called “bolting” and within days the plant is usually worthless, however, you can search for heat resistant varieties or cover them with shade fabric to extend your growing season longer. If you plant in pots, move your pots to a place where they will get morning sun but afternoon shade to help with heat.
Our favorite varieties are these so far:
Buttercrunch – YES! Great for lettuce wraps or sandwiches!
Oakleaf – soft and tender and yummy!
Almost the same basically – Salad Bowl blend.
Even if you think you don’t have room or you can’t grow lettuce, I encourage you to try! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!