Growing lettuce is rewarding as you will have an endless supply of salad greens. But how will you keep the pests away?
Arm yourself with both soap spray for small critters, and a shovel for large four legged types.
No, seriously - the shovel is for frightening them only. I'm not promoting violence towards small furry creatures here.
Starting: Lettuce seeds do not germinate if the temperature exceeds 20 degrees C. You can sow them where they are to grow, and they will need thinning if you want them to grow into full heads. Those thinnings are particularly yummy in a salad. The seeds need light to germinate, so only cover them with a sprinkle of fine soil. Many people start lettuce growing by raising the seedlings in trays indoors and planting them out when they have grown to five or ten cm.
Soil: The lettuce prefers compost or rich loam that is neutral or slightly acid.
Climate: While primarily a cold climate plant, there are varieties for all areas. In hotter climates you may have more success cultivating the plants in partial shade, or in winter. Hot and dry conditions will cause the plant to go to seed and become bitter.
Watering: Lettuce need regular watering to prevent bolting. Too much water, however, can cause rotting at the base.
Fertilizing: Give liquid fertilizer weekly.
Harvesting lettuce: Pick outer leaves as you go, especially from non hearting varieties. Alternatively, grow lettuce to a bigger size and harvest the large heads after about 10 or 12 weeks.
Containers: The smaller varieties are excellent for growing in containers, and only need a depth of 10 cm as they have shallow root systems. Keep in mind though, that larger pots will dry out slower and maintain an even temperature.
Shady areas: The lettuce plant can be grown in shade, especially in warmer countries. Six hours of sunlight is optimal, but avoid the midday heat in tropical summers.
Pests and diseases: Just about everything from red mites to deer eat lettuce. Guard well.
Indoors: Planting lettuce in a reasonably sized container on a sunny window sill can produce enough salad for a couple of people at least. You may still need to watch out for aphids or mites indoors.