GARDENING: LET US GROW LETTUCE

Published November 19, 2023
Individual lettuce seedlings can be transplanted to bigger pots
| Photos by the writer
Individual lettuce seedlings can be transplanted to bigger pots | Photos by the writer

A couple of decades ago, my family transitioned our diet from market bought fruits, herbs and vegetables to home grown produce. Before that, we would consume our harvest without a focus or foresight on the family’s requirements.

We first grew lettuce in several pots and then expanded. During that season, we grew enough crispy lettuce, rocket salad and different-coloured cherry tomatoes which would suffice not only for us but a few relatives and friends’ families as well.

Half an hour before making a sandwich or burger (local variants included), one of my family members will go to the place where we have our potted lettuce plants. They will quickly harvest a few leaves as per their need and adopt a certain harvesting technique, which I will write about in an upcoming article. The leaves are then thoroughly washed and kept in cold water to maintain the crispness of the leaves.

This week, I am writing about how easy it is to sow and grow leafy lettuce seeds at your home.

If you want to start kitchen gardening, the leafy green is a good place to begin

Lettuce is scientifically known as Lactuca sativa and it belongs to the Asteraceae family. Like most other green, leafy vegetables it is easier to grow if certain basic points are kept in mind. Lettuce seeds are lightweight and usually black in colour. In warmer regions, where winters last barely two to three months, lettuce seeds can be sown whenever the temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius.

However, the container or place where you will sow the seeds should ideally be at a location where it receives two hours of early morning sunlight. In colder regions, with longer stretches of winter, you can sow the seeds when the temperature lies in the range of 16 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Incidentally, this range is the best temperature for the germination of lettuce seeds as well. In ideal weather, temperature and growing conditions, the seeds are likely to germinate in between one week to 15 days.

Lettuce seeds are lightweight and black in colour
Lettuce seeds are lightweight and black in colour

Since the lettuce seeds are thin and lightweight, every care must be taken while sowing them. Before sowing seeds, ensure the potting mix — commonly available nursery soil mixed with a handful of compost — is clear of any stones and pebbles. The seeds are spread over the surface of the soil and covered with a very fine layer of soil. Before sowing seeds, be sure that the soil is well watered, so that the seeds do not get dispersed and remain at their place after sowing. Ideally, the seeds should be sown at the to-be permanent position of the plant.

If the seeds are sown indoors because of high temperatures or because of space issues, the seedlings or small plants can be transplanted later and shifted to theirpermanent positions. If the seeds to be germinated are being grown indoors, provision of proper light should also be ensured.

Those residing in regions where there is a smaller winter window or those who are late for sowing, they should get lettuce seedlings at plant stores and roadside nurseries. These seedlings can be segregated at home and transferred into individual pots or into the space available.

Early on, when the germination begins and till the growth of the true leaves, it is important to protect the growing plant from attacks by unwanted snails and slugs, as they will eat away the young leaves, while destroying the plants in the process.

Growing the lettuce plant is highly recommended for new gardeners starting a kitchen garden for the first time. It provides a handful of green leafy harvests every few days, which motivates one to continue. Believe me the taste and crispness of a recently harvested lettuce leaf is second to absolutely nothing.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 19th, 2023

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