This summer mainstay of new Zealand meals is a must to grow in every garden.
Today of course there are many many varieties to chose from, especially if we include all the “modern” varieties that make up a very wide group of similar but different plants.
Flavours are also different from spicy peppery flavours to the typical traditional crunch lettuce flavour.
Different varieties grow better at different times of the year. The traditional method of telling apart winter and summer lettuce was by colour of the seed. Black seed were winter lettuce and white seed summer lettuce.
Whatever varieties you choose there are some simple growing tips.
As a leafy vegetable it requires a higher nitrogen component of soil fertility and they are best grown in ground previously used for legumes such as peas and beans. Soil should also be friable and easily cultivated. The addition of natural products like compost and blood and bone will provide extra nitrogen.
If growing from seed only sow a few seeds each week or two or else there will be more than enough plants for the whole neighbourhood. Grow on until a reasonable size to plant out.
Plant them 300 to 400mm apart in rows. The use of double rows with plants staggered saves garden space. Some experimental work in England showed quite close planting will result in more volume of lettuce per squre metre even if the plants were smaller when picked.
Water the lettuce really well during is growth.
Unfortunately there are a number of pests that affect them. Slugs love lettuce therefore keep weeds at bay and allow the ground to dry a little before watering. In the last few years our lettuce have become infected with aphids. If this si a problem experiment with planting different varieties to identify those that are less palatable to aphids and grow them.
Pick straight from the garden wash, cool in the fridge and serve with your meal.