This is a photo of one of my Tom Thumb lettuces. For me, Lettuce is the backbone of any kitchen garden. It’s such a versatile crop, and it can make the difference between a lackluster, patchy garden and an oasis of wow-ness (I made that word up, can you tell?).
Firstly, it’s super easy to grow. My goodness, I could launch some seeds from the deck and I’d be picking lettuce in 4 – 6 weeks. Honestly. Secondly, the variety of different shapes, sizes, tastes, and colours of the leaves is astounding. Do you want crunchy or melt in the mouth buttery? Do you want mild or sharp, or bitter? You could easily grow nothing but Lettuce in your garden and not get bored of it, ever.
But thirdly, and this is the reason I get so excited about Lettuce, is that it’s the one plant that will make or break your garden’s design. And for me, after taste, design comes a close second.
I sow some Lettuce as early as I can to ensure I get the longest season possible. All I have is a coldframe so I usually sow some in there to begin with and then move to a prepared seedbed outside once the weather warms up.
I pick a small patch of the garden (only a metre square) and sow lots of different varieties in succession (a few every week). Once the seedlings get to the four or five leaf stage I will transplant them to their final growing position. Above is a photo of my Oakleaf seedbed.
This is where it starts to get exciting. Because if I’ve done it right then I should have lots of different shapes and colours to choose from. So I can start to make pretty rows of contrasting shades which, once they start to heart up, will really start to give mtp that kitchen garden / potager look.
You have to be on your toes though. This is not a sow once and forget it project. No, you need to keep up the supply of seedlings – which means keeping up with the sowing. Because, once you harvest your first Lettuce, that’s it, you’ve ruined the design. But not, (aha!) if you have some seedlings ready to plant into the gap. Or… better still, if you have already planted some seedlings inbetween your larger Lettuce in anticipation of them being harvested. Sneaky!
Once, you’ve got a steady stream of Lettuce coming in, all you have to worry about is eating it. Which is never a problem, I’m sure. One of my favourites is Merveille des Quatre Saisons – so soft and fluffy! What varieties of Lettuce do you grow? Can you suggest any unusual ones that taste amazing?