Lovely lettuce

If you like lettuce now is a great time to sow some seeds. If you are going to plant seedlings through your weed barrier, (cardboard or similar) you will need to sow some seeds in a container like this one which I saved after a supermarket shop. You need to make some drainage hole with the tip of a sharp knife. If you are unable to buy some seeds see if a neighbour or a friend have some spare. All you need is literally a pinch.

The next thing is to add soil. I have used my trowel to scoop up enough from a corner of my garden which I have sifted to remove bits of twig and then rubbed through my hands to make it more friable.

One of my favourite lettuces is Little Gem. They are a tasty, fast-growing little cos type. Because garden soil can contain lots of weed seed sow the seeds very thinly as in the photo in rows so you can identify them when they germinate and not weed them out by accident!

Once you have sown the seeds sprinkle a little soil over them, gently firm and then, if you have a watering can with a rose, lightly water. Otherwise water carefully using a jug. You want the soil to be moist, not sodden. I like to add a label and date to remind me what I have sown.

Now you need to put the seed tray somewhere light and warm. A windowsill in the kitchen is ideal. If you have another clear plastic container the same size you can put it on top like a mini-cloche. Alternatively cover with some cling film. With luck, in a few days you will see the seedlings start to emerge.

After just seven days the first lettuce seedlings have started to emerge. Keep the seedlings moist and grow on outside out of direct sunlight if you are keeping the cover on, otherwise a sunny spot is fine. Watch out for slugs nibbling them. It is worth checking the seedlings when it is dark and removing any slugs. But, hopefully this will not be a problem. As you can see in the photo, the seedlings are roughly in three rows. If any weeds emerge they will now be easy to identify and remove.

After two or three weeks the lettuce seedlings should have four true leaves and be ready for pricking out into a new container to grow on or be planted into the vegetable plot. If you have crops already planted out like young brassicas then inter-cropping with lettuce is a great way to make use of space. The lettuce should be ready to start harvesting long before the brassicas take over. Pricking out spacing about 5cms apart into a small container either using potting compost or garden soil is a great way to make use of surplus plants which can be given to friends, family and neighbours or to allow the seedlings to grow on and be planted out later for a successional crop.

If you have some clear ground then you can plant out the seedlings. These are Little Gem which can be spaced 15cms apart in blocks or rows. As with all vegetables that are being transplanted lettuce can be planted through a weed suppressant like cardboard. These lettuce should be ready to harvest in about a month. Having transplanted your lettuce seedlings sow some more for a continual supply.

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