Luscious Lettuce

One of the easiest vegetable crops to grow on the North Coast.

Have you ever tasted lettuce? Of course you have. It's crunchy, green, watery and bland. It's probably also a little soggy, because it was likely harvested a week ago. Or more.

The lettuce you buy in the store is optimized to make it easy to grow, spray, harvest, handle, store, ship, merchandise and sell. Taste is given little consideration. This is of great benefit to everyone except you—and you're the one who is paying for the privilege to put this in your mouth.

So, have you ever tasted homegrown lettuce? You may need to learn all over again how delicious lettuce can be. And of course, the nutritional value of just-picked lettuce is much higher than lettuce that has spent days boxed up in storage and has been rattling around in trucks.

Lettuce is as easy to grow as grass (and you don't have to mow it!), and with only a small effort you can have delicious and nutritious greens as close as your back door. You'll also be doing the environment a big favor by not having the stuff trucked in from halfway across the country.

Growing Lettuce Year-round the Easy Way.

Unlike radishes, carrots or beets where there's only one harvest, lettuce provides you with cut-and-come-again harvests for up to two months per plant. There are two types of lettuce, head lettuce (that familiar green ball you get at the produce counter) and leaf lettuce. Head lettuce can be harvested only once and isn't well suited for this type of culture. Leaf lettuce is, and there are many varieties to choose from.

Lettuce likes it cool and mild. During the wet season we like to use the Territorial Seed Company's Super Gourmet Blend, a mix of different red and green leaf types. These seeds are available on their web site or you can use their retail store locator to find a local store, they cover the entire Pacific Coast. Another excellent source of blended lettuce seed is The Cook's Garden.

You'll get the best quality from plants that grow outdoors. Live in an apartment, or don't feel like messing about in the wild and wooly outdoors? Bring home a bag of soil from NurseryWorld, lay it down in a sunny spot and poke a few holes for the seeds. You can even stick in some onion sets or sow some radishes.

If planting directly in the garden, put a pinch of seeds a foot apart. You can make rows or plant a bed. Lettuce likes fertile soil and lots of water. Seeds will germinate even in 40-degree soil, but in the dead of winter that may take two weeks, so start them inside in a flat of some type, or just throw a half-dozen seeds in a pot.

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