The soil for planting needs to be neutral – alkaline, have adequate organic matter and to be kept moist throughout the life of the crop. Choose a sunny or lightly shaded site. In the autumn or early winter, dig the soil and incorporate compost. Shortly before sowing rake the soil to produce a fine tilth and apply a general fertiliser.
Can be sown throughout the year, depending on variety.
Thin the seedlings as soon as the first true leaves appear. Water the day before thinning, and continue thinning at intervals until the plants are 12” apart. Put slug pellets down and protect the plants from birds. Hoe regularly and keep unprotected plants watered. If your lettuces are growing undercover, keep them on the dry side, and always try to water in the morning.
Lettuce is ready for cutting as soon as the firm heart has formed – you can test this by pressing the heart with the back of your hand. Cut-and-come-again lettuce doesn’t produce a firm heart, so you can cut it as and when you need it. Ideally, lettuces should be harvested first thing in the morning.
Scotsdales star tip
Sow lettuce at 4-6 week intervals so you can keep harvesting for a longer period, especially using the cut-and-come-again varieties. You can also sow beet leaves and spinach this way, and use the young leaves in salads.