Time and space management in the greenhouse is essential to keep it productive and prolific, but keeping up with the lush greenhouse growth this season has proven to be a bit of a challenge and if I don’t catch up soon there’s a chance that the greenhouse might burst from inside like a puff ball dispersing its seed.
I’ve been busy planting out the perennials from seed such as the rudbeckia, agastache, Melianthus, and the more tender veg such as the beans and courgettes, which has freed up some considerable space. That’s very fortunate as the trial tomatoes have just been potted into their final huge pots and need plenty of room to clamber towards the greenhouse eaves and form trusses of their delicious fruits. But while these large pots collinate the greenhouse floor, there is now room on the greenhouse benches and staging for my next phase of production. More pots of beans are essential to keep the bean production going until early autumn. There’s a lot to be said for sowing late as well as early. We greenhouse gardeners strive for the earliest crops and it can be very easy to forget to extend the season so that the garden and greenhouse keeps growing well into the early weeks of winter too.
It’s that tricky time when the most prolific crop to be harvested and munched from the garden and greenhouse are leaves, leaves and more leaves. I’m the first to admit that salads and herbs are a personal favourite and I’ve been experimenting with a few new basils and shock, horror, this year I’ve been growing lettuce too.
In the past I have been a bit of a salad snob and I went through a challenging period where no salad served from my garden and greenhouse included a single leaf of lettuce. I considered it to be mostly bland and not worthy enough to mix into the hot peppery, spicy concoctions created from anything that had edible foliage from my garden and greenhouse. Everything from leaves of rocket and mustard, to broad beans and spinach, lovage and as many herbs as I could pack into the mix and anything in between. The challenge of picking a colander of salad every day is not just exciting; it’s healthy and makes a great impromptu supper too. Freshly laid eggs, new potatoes and a garden fresh salad is a divine supper and I can’t help feel just a little smug that it’s all fresh from the garden.
But this season, when it comes to lettuce, I have relented. Maybe it’s because a daily salad has been on the menu and the demands on the usual eclectic donor plants has been a little harsh, or perhaps it’s because I’ve grown a lot more lettuce this year and can finally see what a great, very useful plant it is. First of all every packet of seed contains hundreds if not thousands of seeds. What amazing value. Just take a look at the price of bag salad and whole lettuce in the supermarket. Even at 69p a lettuce (which is cheap) if you need 3 a week to satiate your salad needs that’s £8-£10 a month and for bagged salad you could double or treble that bill. A single packet of lettuce seed can cost just a pound or two depending on what you choose. Then when you grow it, it’s just so easy to grow. Plant two or three seeds to a small module of seed compost, they germinate quickly and soon become lovely little leafy plants, just pot them up and very soon, just a few weeks later you can either harvest the leaves in a ‘cut and come again’ fashion, or harvest the whole plant as a baby lettuce.
Frankly you’d be mad not to grow some and you don’t even need a garden or greenhouse to do so, but if you’re lucky enough to have both, then there should be no stopping you. There’s more to lettuce than meets the eye, and with a tasty salad dressing, even the blandest variety can be jazzed up and savoured. Home grown puts you in charge of any treatments for pests, you can grow organically if you choose and this living larder of tasty and fresh produce keeps your summer salads fresh and on demand to suit your needs and saves a fortune on your shopping bill.
Plan ahead and choose some winter lettuce that you can sow late summer and harvest through the colder months of the year.