Imagine if the next time you wanted a salad all you needed to do was walk outside your door and pick off a cup or two of fresh, live lettuce leafs. The thought of fresh salad gets even better if you just need to reach across your kitchen counter to retrieve some from your live plants. Whether you are growing gourmet salad greens indoors or out, you will find comfort in the fact it is always available to you when you need it. There is no comparison to the taste of fresh organic gourmet home grown salad.
A Guide to Growing Gourmet Lettuces
Popular Types of Gourmet lettuce:
Gourmet salad verities include but certainly aren’t limited to red leaf romaine, cos, butterhead, bibb, oak leaf, red oak leaf, spicy red leaf, gentilina, lollo bionda, corn salad, red salad bowl and mesculum. You might find a few of these in your local nursery or your nearest shopping center but for the heirloom varieties you will need to purchase seeds from a seed company, Amazon or another place that sells seeds. This Certified Organic Mesclun Mix Salad is a good way to get a variety of lettuces in one seed packet. If your store does happen to sell gourmet lettuce seedlings they won’t be cheap, so it is best to buy seeds. When planting by seed you get more for your dollars.
Where to Start When Growing Gourmet Lettuces:
You need a place to prepare your bed or an empty space in your home, preferably near a window, that gets lots of sun. Alternatively, it can place it near a bright light such as a grow light or large fluorescent lighting made for gardening. If growing indoors, you can also place your planting box near a heater in the winter for an added boost. Gourmet lettuce will still need lighting, but the added heat will encourage faster growth, resulting is a quicker re growth once you harvest leaves. Wherever you decide to plant, it needs to be a full sun area for the best results.
Planting salad in a box, bowl or raised garden bed will help detour pests from infesting the plants. When planting outside, use a shell based mulch such as walnut or hazelnut, around lettuce plants as these mulches deter vegetable insects and animals from going into the beds. Cats don’t like the shell mulch because it bothers their paws, so they won’t use your bed as their litter box.
To get lettuce that has full large heads or large loose leaves, you will want to have a loose light-weight soil that has a pH balance of 6.5. Add a loose soil that is not heavy. An appropriate mix would be equal parts potting soil to vermiculite and perlite and organic fertilizer. You can purchase a potting mix from most stores, but will likely get the others from a nursery or greenhouse. Use Soil pH Test Strips to test pH levels and then follow the recommended guidelines for increasing or decreasing on the bottle of strips.
Growing Gourmet Lettuces from Seeds:
To seed directly into soil, use 3-4 seeds per 3 inches of soil in straight tows, sprinkle soil on top and then use a spray bottle to wet soil. Continue with the spray bottle daily until lettuce plants are strong enough for a heavier soaking. To plant by seedling space 3-4 inches each plant in single rows. For first week, water daily and then reduce to only when soil is dry.
Fertilizing Gourmet Lettuces:
The fertilizing needs of lettuce isn't too bad. You really just need to use a little miracle grow vegetable fertilizer or brand of your choice during the start of summer and again in fall.Lettuce is a pretty hearty plant. If you prefer not to purchase a commercial fertilizer, you can also use a well fortified compost and you may not even need an extra fertilizer.
Harvesting Gourmet Lettuces:
To harvest loose leaf lettuce pick the outside leaves but leave the inside leaves alone. An alternative way is to use a harvesting knife like a Japanese Sickle Knife and cut whole plant leaving 3 or 4 inches with bottom foliage to re grow. For head lettuce you harvest the entire head, remove plant and replace with seedling.
Keep in mind this is only general advice and the exact amount of fertilization, watering and light your gourmet lettuces will need will depend on your region as well as your technique as there are many different ways to grow it.
More Gardening Tips:
Emily is passionate about growing her own food, crafts, and sewing. You can find her at Emily's Frugal Tips.