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This all came about when I was chatting by email with the editor of the newspaper about some other events that I’ve been promoting recently. She asked if I’d like to submit an article about our garden. And since we had just planted our lettuce, I said that I could write an article about planting lettuce in pots. You see, it’s part of what Leo and I do now since we started our garden about 4 years ago. We encourage other people to start growing some of their own food, even if they have to grow it in containers. So instead of you squinting to see what I wrote, I’m putting it all below so that when you decide to do it, you’ll have the directions, too.
If you have the desire to grow some of your own food, but you don’t have the space or time for a conventional garden, then growing lettuce in containers is a good place to start. The recent break in our weather has signaled that it’s time to plant cool season vegetables, and lettuce is one of the easiest things you can grow in a container. Lettuce doesn’t grow well in the heat so now is the perfect time to plant it. Just imagine stepping out onto your deck or patio in just a few weeks and harvesting enough lettuce for the freshest tasting salad you’ve ever had!
To get started, you will need to select some pots or containers for your lettuce. It will grow in just about anything as long as it is at least 6 inches deep and has a drainage hole in the bottom. If you are using previously used pots, be sure to remove the soil and wash the pots with a mild bleach solution and let them dry.
Select and purchase your transplants from a nursery, garden center, or local growers such as J & W Greenhouses in Lamar. Varieties such as Butterhead, New Red Fire, Parris Island Romaine, and Nevada Iceberg all do well in containers. A six-pack or two is all that you’ll need to have plenty of lettuce for your family. You will also need a small bag of potting soil and a bag of composted cow manure for your planting medium. If you’d like some fall color in your pots, pick up a few pansies to mix in with your lettuce.
When ready to plant, place a coffee filter or a piece of pottery in the bottom of your pots to keep the soil from spilling out.
Mix the potting soil and the cow manure in a ratio of 1 to 1 and add the soil mixture up to one inch from the top of the pot and then dampen the soil.
Gently push your plants out of the cells, pull the roots apart just a bit, and plant your plants slightly deeper than they were previously planted.
Space the plants about 4-5 inches apart. A good rule of thumb is that three plants will fit in an 8 inch sized pot. Remember to give your newly-planted lettuce a good drink of water.
After planting, choose a good location for your containers. Lettuce will need at least 6 hours of sun to grow. Because the soil in containers dries out quickly, you will need to water your lettuce at least once a day. Stick your finger in the soil and if it feels dry, you need to water. Keep the soil moist at all times but not soggy. Frequent watering will leach the nutrients out of the soil quickly so you will need to fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer within a few weeks. Fish emulsion is a great one to use.
Pretty soon you’ll be able to harvest some delicious lettuce by pinching off a few of the outer leaves. Rinse the lettuce twice in cold water and let it drain. It tastes sweetest when freshly picked, but it will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a paper towel tucked down inside for about 2 weeks.
Your lettuce will continue to grow during fall and even winter. It will survive frosts but if the temperature dips into the 20s, you can protect it by covering or moving it inside during the nighttime. Having fresh lettuce all winter long is easy and economical!