Lettuce — seems we never can have enough. We’ve talked a lot about growing lettuce in shallow bowls on your kitchen counter or on the patio out back. Now let’s focus on what you can do to create a never ending supply of greens from your indoor or container gardening efforts.
If you eat a lot of lettuce, you’ll need more than one salad bowl. To make sure you don’t end up with everything all at once, start your first bowl, plant it and let it grow for about two weeks. Then set up your next bowl. This way you have new growth and fresh lettuce ready for eating spaced about two weeks apart. If needed, add a third bowl a few weeks later.
Plant your lettuce from seed, or start with small plants from your local nursery. If you’re using seedlings, go ahead and purchase seeds as well. The idea is to continually have more lettuce plants growing as you’re cultivating, and enjoying.
Loose leaf lettuce also has the advantage of putting out more growth if you carefully cultivate the leaves. To cultivate the leaves, wait until the outer leaves reach a length of two to three inches. Use scissors to carefully cut the leaves, then rinse them in cool water and spin them dry. They will keep in the fridge for several days. Wait 2 to 3 days before you cut the same plant again.
Work your way around the lettuce bowl, cultivating (collecting) every couple of days, then move on to the second bowl so you can give the first a little extra time to recover. Make sure your plants thrive with plenty of sunshine, just the right amount of watering, and the occasional bit of fertilizer if needed to keep the plants growing strong.
As your plants start to grow bigger and crowd each other, it may be beneficial to thin them out. Cultivate entire loose leaf lettuce plants to give the remaining plants in your bowls room to spread out. As you do this, take the time to throw in some seeds, or start fresh lettuce seedlings in a new container. Your main plants will continue to grow and produce more greens for you and your family/friends.
Eventually the lettuce will start to take off. You’ll notice that the middle part will grow taller and it starts to form flowering stalks. At this point your lettuce leaves will start to get tough and bitter. It’s time to cultivate and remove these plants. If you’ve planted seeds in the bowl before, you should have plenty of small lettuce plants coming up to take the place of the old ones. If you’ve been growing seedlings in a different container, now is the time to plant them in your main salad bowls provided they are large enough.
With a little bit of experience, you’ll get the timing down perfectly for your particular types of lettuce, the rate they grow, and how much you’re cultivating for the kitchen. It won’t take you long to figure out a rhythm that allows you to have a never ending supply of greens to enjoy.
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