The Home Gardener
I have always wanted to grow my own salad greens in my home garden. Found out it was quite easy and worth the effort. First off, I enjoy unusual and attractive lettuces. These include everything from the red-speckled green leaves of Romaine Lettuce to the beautiful vibrant green of the Butter-crunch lettuce.
Another benefit is the convenience. When you grow your own salad greens, you can pick just what you need when you need it. There's no need to buy a larger amount that may spoil before you can enjoy it.
Getting lettuce seed in Uganda is quite tricky if you don't know where to look. The best place to find the seed here is house of seeds in Bugolobi (link to their website). They have many varieties, only issue may be the price for us backyard growers because from what I can remember the lowest price is about 30,000 Ush for 1000 seeds. But please check on them just in case. I buy mine from Amazon just because I tend order lots of varieties and other seeds which i could never find here. :-)
Growing the lettuce
I normally use seed trays or nursery beds. I sowed directly on two occasions but nothing germinated so I decided to try the nursery bed and got 98% germination, so unfortunately I have never tried direct sowing again. Take note that sowing directly works you just have to prepare your soil well and once you have germination you thin out some plants.
To sow the seeds I fill the trays with soil,(you could use potting soils if you can get a good quality mix) sprinkle some seeds on top, add a little more soil, then water, with in 7 to 10 days the lettuce has all germinated. (don't forget to water )
When the seedlings have a set or two of true leaves, I transplant them
The advantage I have is that I leave on a farm with lots of cow dung so manure is not an issue. by the time I transplant my lettuce I have already prepared my garden with a mixture of matured cow dung and liquid manure which I collect. Then I will get vibrant leafy lettuce every time.
I really hate spraying pesticides on lettuce because I take a bite once in while when I am in the garden. I now grow it in shed net greenhouses I built (very simple) so as that I stop any pests from bothering it. ( I will post a blog about my rudimentary shed net greenhouse soon)
Professional tips I got
Fertilize 3 weeks after transplanting. Lettuce prefers soil that is high in humus, with plenty of compost and a steady supply of nitrogen to keep if growing fast.
Mulching in hot weather is a good idea to conserve moisture and suppress weeds
Keep your plants watered, if you see your lettuce wilting spray some water on them even in hot weather.
Weed by hand so that you don'f damage the fragile plants
Pest & Diseases
The ones I have experienced include Aphids, Butterflies & Caterpillars & Snails and white mold.
I have used chives in between lettuce rows to control aphids. If the caterpillars become too much (that's when I haven't planted in my shed net greenhouse) I use Nimbecide; an organic pesticide made from the Neem tree (available in container village)
For the white mold fungus I remove the affected plants and discard far, also mulch can help reduce or control this.
Harvest and Storage
I harvest Lettuce when it is full size or sometimes I pluck off the young leaves ( these are sooo tender), The leaves will continue to grow when you pluck the outer ones off. (Note that some varieties don't produce more leaves)Cutting the plant just above the ground can produce a second harvest.
- It's best to harvest lettuce in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun.
- Keep lettuce in the refrigerator for up to 10 days in a loose plastic bag.
Extra pro tip
Did you know: Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family.Lettuce wilted? Put the leaves in a bowl of cold water with ice cubes and soak for about 15 minutes.
Eating lettuce for dinner can be calming and help to reduce stress.
That's about it for lettuce, I also make nutri shakes from it with strawberries and apples. trying to stay healthy after a steak dinner. Please feel free to comment and share.
The Novice Gardener
The pro tips are from alamac.com It is a great website for gardeners.