LETTUCE CULTIVATION. WE CANNOT MISS IT IN THE ORCHARD
Today we delve into the essential cultivation of lettuce in the garden. Due to the great variety of cultivars we can have lettuces all or most of the year and we can vary between Roman, acogolladas, batavias, trocadero, oak … endless varieties so as not to get tired of this vegetable. Let’s get down to business.
A FEW BRIEF NOTES ON GROWING LETTUCE
Lettuce ( Lactuca sativa L.) has been, is and will continue to be one of the queens of the garden. If you have a vegetable garden and you don’t have lettuce…. it’s like something is missing. And the fact is that the great availability of varieties means that we can have lettuce throughout the year for our salads. Another of the things that having lettuce in the garden contributes is that it invites us to experiment with new varieties and makes us get out of the daily salad routine. If you buy in the supermarket, it is very possible that you go to fixed gear and buy romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce. However, when growing them in the garden, you will unintentionally go to the oak leaf, trocadero, red, green batavia, lollo rosso and endless of them.
Historically, lettuce has been present since the Sumerians, through Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and until today. In fact, in Columella agronomy treatises (4 AD – 70 AD), he mentions the cultivation of lettuce, even speaking of different varieties. I quote verbatim:
– There are many kinds of lettuce, which should be planted each in its own time. Of them, those of dark or purple color, or even green, and curly leaves, like the caecilian, are sown well in the month of January; plus Cappadocia, which grows with pale, combed and thick leaves, in the month of February … –
Let’s get into flour.
CONDITIONS FOR GROWING LETTUCE
As a general assessment, lettuce cannot be located in any specific climate. It works well on almost everyone. Depending on the varieties, we can have lettuce all year round, in addition to the fact that the species itself has a very broad resistance to temperatures. As a general fact, it can be said that lettuce holds from -6ºC to 30ºC , being 6ºC the temperature below which lettuce stops its growth. In cold areas, we have to cover with plastic (mini-greenhouses) to protect them from too harsh conditions.
Lettuce prefers well-draining, light, nutrient-rich soils. It is a medium demand crop in terms of nutrients. If it is a poor soil, it is recommended to add well decomposed compost. The root system of lettuce is not excessively deep and strong. In fact, the air system-root system relationship is very unbalanced. We have to maintain humidity in the roots while the surface of the soil should not be excessively wet because we can find diseases and rots in the neck of the lettuce. Maintaining this balance is one of the difficult points of growing lettuce.
Together with temperatures, they are the most influential factors in growth and especially in heading or rising to flower . This process must be avoided at all times (except for obtaining seeds), because the leaves will begin to become bitter and harden and the lettuce will lose all its tenderness and pleasant flavor. In hot areas and in general, in summer, we will try to shade the crop to avoid premature heading. It is advisable in summer to plant varieties that are more resistant to heading.
The factor that we will have to be more above, for which we have just commented on the humidity conditions in the soil. Avoid puddles at all times (safe rot of the neck), so we will do not very abundant but frequent waterings, keeping the humidity level as stable as possible. Drip or exudate irrigation continues to be the ideal systems for this crop due to its constant flow emission without waterlogging problems (except for leaks).
SOWING AND TRANSPLANTING THE LETTUCE CROP
The times of transplantation, we can say that the whole year. The simplest thing is to do direct sowing by broadcasting, making thinning once the plants develop to leave the relevant spaces. About 25-30 cm between plants is usually common. We will not be able to do direct sowing all year round. The winter periods require seedlings and subsequent transplants.
From agromatic we recommend, however, the sowing in the seedbed and the subsequent transplant through the pricking . This last operation is more important in this crop compared to others. As we have mentioned before, the root system is very unbalanced with the aerial part of the plant and the picking operation favors root development, so that the plant roots well once the final place in the orchard has been transplanted. If you have doubts with the ringing, stop by this post in which we talk about this technique.
Repotting the lettuce from the seedbed to larger alveoli trays or small pots will strengthen its root system.
We recommend that you plan your plantings very well if you don’t want to see yourself eating lettuce like a ruminant without measure. Make staggered plantings and mixing varieties so that you do not get bored when eating this vegetable. Take into account how long it takes at home to eat a head of lettuce and calculate how much you want to have in the garden. Keep in mind that it is a quick crop that in about 60-90 days (depending on the time of year) you will have the lettuces ready to harvest. There are numerous types and varieties to discover so go ahead and grow lettuce.
From left right: Romana, green batavia, iceberg, lollo rosso, trocadero
LAST TIPS ON GROWING LETTUCE
- For the varieties with open leaves, remember that you must tie the heads if you want the inner leaves to whiten and remain tender.
- If you use the mulch technique, you will be able to keep the humidity in the soil more constant, you will save water and protect the neck of the lettuce from rotting.
- Watch out for slug and aphid attacks.
- You can associate lettuce with crops such as beets , radishes , onions, and carrots . They are crops that associate very well.