Along with peas
and radishes, leaf lettuce is an early, cool weather vegetable and one of the easiest to grow in the home garden.
Cos or romaine lettuce are the most popular backyard leaf lettuce varieties along with the more tender butterhead types that produce smaller leaves and sweeter flavor.
Crisphead varieties like iceberg - found in produce aisles in supermarkets nationwide - are a bit more difficult to grow in the home garden.
Due to their delicate nature, lettuce seedlings are seldom found in home gardening centers, so plant the seeds directly into prepared soil, or start in pots in early spring for later transplanting in the garden. For city dwellers, leaf lettuce
can even be grown in pots or containers for fresh lettuce picking year around.
Feed lightly with a diluted fertilizer in well-aerated and well-drained soil. Another key ingredient to lettuce success is partial shade, so be sure to choose an area in the garden where plants won't receive the full force of the sun at midday. To prevent "tipburn" (leaves that turn brown at the edges) water plants lightly but at frequent intervals throughout
Also watch for aphids, the garden pest that particularly loves to feast on lettuce and spinach, but can be usually controlled with a mild soap or chemical
spray depending on the size of the infestation.
Lettuce fun facts:
• Lettuce was introduced to the New World from Europe, as early as 1494, or about the time Christopher Columbus discovered America.
• Thomas Jefferson had 19 varieties of lettuce growing in his garden at Monticello.
• Romaine lettuce is by far the more nutritious choice of types to grow in the home garden and contains far more nutrients and vitamins than the store-bought iceberg variety.
• Lettuce is the only vegetable that can't be canned, frozen or pickled.
On the Web - How to grow lettuce :
Watch Your Garden Grow - Lettuce - Learn how to's for planting, care and maintenance, with additional information on recommended varieties, nutritional benefits, common pests and suggested remedies.
Gardening - Grow Salad Plants - Find more illustrated instructions for soil preparation, direct sowing, sowing in pots, seedling
transplantation, general care & feeding, harvesting tips and a list of recommended varieties.
Lettuce Get Back into the Garden - Read an entertaining feature article from Natural Life Magazine with tips on soil requirements, feeding and watering, succession planting, common pests and problems with suggested remedies.
Lettuce in Containers - Find brief Instructions for keeping lettuce slug and snail free by planting in planter pots indoors.