Joining the grow-your-own gang for the first time this year? Or expanding what you produce in your own plot to include salad? Then growing lettuce is a must this summer.
Lettuce, after all, is a staple of salads and a crisp and tasty accompaniment to many other dishes and – fresh from the garden – hard to beat as a simple culinary pleasure. Our favorite gardener, Monty Don, is a lettuce fan, too, and we were delighted to see him enthusing about growing it recently.
Whether you're thinking of growing lettuce in raised garden beds or in pots on the patio, keep scrolling for Monty’s expert tips.
Monty Don’s tips on growing lettuce
Monty Don gave his advice on growing lettuce on his website. Now, we’re sharing his top tips along with some of our own.
1. Lettuce seed can be sowed directly in the soil now, Monty says, because the soil is warm. In turn, this makes lettuce grow fast: one of the secrets of a good lettuce, according to Monty. He says most lettuce will take around six to eight weeks to grow large enough for the table, which isn’t long to wait, plus it can be kept watered and cool for another month to extend harvesting opportunity.
2. What sort of soil do lettuces like? It needs to be rich and have good drainage, Monty explains. Make sure you dig in well-rotted compost before you start planting.
3. Lettuces like conditions moist and mild, according to Monty, and some shade isn’t a problem for many because it will keep them cooler, he says.
4. When it comes to sowing the seed, do so thinly if you’re opting for cos or butterhead varieties, Monty recommends, in order that plants are healthy and leafy. When the lettuces appear they should be thinned to a minimum spacing of 10cm, he says. Weed the soil as well, and keep it weed free as they grow. You can find out our tips tips for how to weed a garden in our guide.
Growing cut-and-come-again varieties of lettuce? These seeds can be broadcast (sown by scattering by hand), Monty says.
5. The soil around your lettuces shouldn’t become dry to avoid them bolting or, in other words, running to seed. Mulching will help retain moisture in the soil. Our guide to mulching has lots of useful info to help.
6. Beware slugs and snails as they’re likely to consume lettuce seedlings. Find out how to get rid of slugs in our special feature.
7. Monty offers some lettuce recommendations although he says everyone should experiment with different varieties. He likes ‘Tom Thumb’ best among butterhead lettuces.
Cos lettuces are Monty’s favorite of all and he likes ‘Little Gem’ as well as ‘Parris Island’.
Among iceberg lettuces he likes ‘Webbs Wonderful’, and Monty also grows both red and green oak leaf lettuces, including red ‘Salad Bowl’.
8. Want to keep your lettuce crop coming? Monty’s tip is to sow new seed every three or four weeks to keep the supply constant.
9. If your garden is small, you don’t need to miss out on fresh lettuce. You can grow them in growing bags and containers as an alternative. You will need to be extra attentive about watering them if you take this route, though. There's more tips on growing vegetables in pots in our special feature.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She's spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes and gardens – long enough to see interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement, both indoors and out, and it's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, so she's a serial house revamper.
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