Grow a lettuce bowl to get your green thumb started

Published May 13, 2018 at 9:00am

We all can’t wait for spring and summer to arrive, but it’s always overwhelming when we see all the work that needs to be done.

The thought of starting a vegetable garden can be the most overwhelming task of all. For the beginner, it can be difficult to figure out where to start.

There are a lot of vegetables that are easy to plant, prefer the cooler days of spring, can be grown in containers and can be harvested in a very short time.

For something easy, try growing lettuce in a bowl!

Growing veggies in containers is easy. If you’re convinced that wild animals will eat the results of all your hard work, containers can be placed close to your home, for easier care and monitoring.

Lettuce can be planted in a bowl or a flower box and amazingly adds ornamental beauty to the outside of your home or patio. Foliage from different lettuce varieties can make a colorful display. Add some cool season flowers such as pansies and you have an attractive display that’s also good to eat!  

The container. Any container that’s 4 to 6 inches deep will work, including a window box or bowl, as long as the container has adequate drainage holes.  

The soil. Use a light potting mix. Consider mixing in a slow-release fertilizer into the soil. Moisten the soil with a little water before you start planting.  

Planting. You can start lettuce from seed or you can purchase transplants. Buying transplants is easy and quick. However, seeds can offer different varieties. Consider trying one container with seeds and another with plants.

Lettuce usually falls into two categories: loose leaf and heads such as iceberg. The leaf lettuce varieties work best for containers. Many seed mixes are referred to as “Mesclun” which is a mix of sweet and spicy leaf lettuces, sometimes including spinach or mustard greens.

Transplants should be placed 3 to 4 inches apart and planted at the same level as they are in the container. If you choose seeds, follow the directions on the packet.  

Light and water. A sunny spot is best, but lettuce can grow in part-sun. Protect your container in the event of heavy rain. Water gently; for seeds, use a spray bottle.

If you mixed in a fertilizer with the potting mix, that should be enough; if not, use a water soluble fertilizer regularly. Containers dry out quickly; so, keep an eye on them. As the weather turns hotter, lettuce will appreciate some shade to extend your harvest. Hot weather will start shutting down the plants. The term “bolting” means the plants start to form seed heads which turns the leaves bitter and the plant begins to fade. At this point, you can compost your bowl contents.

Consider growing another crop in the cool weather of fall.  

You can begin harvesting in as little as 3 to 4 weeks. Just harvest leaves starting at the outside edges of each plant. Cut to about 1 inch with sharp, clean clippers and the plants will continue to fill out from the center.

Many other cold weather salad crops (carrots, radishes, kale, spinach, swiss chard) can even tolerate frost. Some will even taste better.

You don’t need to create an overwhelming wish list of all the vegetables you’d like to grow. Start small and grow a lettuce bowl this year. Add edible flowers like violas or pansies for an appetizing salad. It just might get you hooked on growing veggies in containers!

For more gardening tips and information, visit our website at cceoneida.com.