Even on a tiny balcony, vegetable gardening is possible through the use of container gardens. Lettuce and other salad greens are ideal for a container garden because they yield more than one-time vegetables such as head lettuce and carrots, they’re easy to grow, don’t require much space and they can be harvested throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Buying seeds rather than starter plants is best because seeds give you more for your money and are very easy to grow. A packet of lettuce seeds might cost up to $3, but you’ll be able to grow many more lettuce plants than if you spent the $3 on just a couple of plants.
Growing lettuce from seed is literally as simple as sprinkling seeds in the ground or a pot, covering them up, watering them, and watching them grow. Even a novice gardener can produce large lettuce plants that keep growing new leaves, providing more lettuce than a whole family can eat.
The good news about a container salad garden—if you choose to grow loose-leaf lettuce—is that it’s a cut-and-come-again crop, which means that you can potentially get a couple of salads out of your lettuce before it bolts (goes to seed). Simply cut the outer leaves of your salad greens and let the middle of the plant grow; at the bolting stage, the lettuce will become bitter and won’t taste good, so stop cutting at that point and replant with the extra seeds in the seed packet. Other salad greens like arugula are similar, in that these plants will keep producing until they bolt.
Lettuce goes to seed in the summer heat, which causes it to become bitter, but the benefit is that you get to collect the seed. Wait until the flowers on your lettuce plant turn to white fluff, and then collect the seeds. Simply pull the fluff from the plant and the seeds will be at the end of it. Place your seeds in a container or packet, label, and store them in a cool location (storing in the fridge is an option). They’ll be ready to replant in the fall or early spring of the following year, providing seeds for multiple seasons.
Lettuce in the right arrangement and pot can be just as stunning as a container of flowers. There are many varieties of lettuce with wonderful shapes and colours, providing much room for creativity. Green oak leaf lettuce is a fine ornamental choice for its attractive oakleaf-shaped leaves. Other loose-leaf lettuce such as Australian yellowleaf has a lovely yellowish-green colour where as cracoviensis is dark green with a blush of red. There are many varieties to choose from, providing you with an excellent opportunity to get creative while you grow.
Article by Megan Philipp, courtesy of the Mindful World
Link photo courtesy of anneheathen