Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Planting Lettuce

Here are the lettuces I sowed in the greenhouse earlier in the year, ready for harvesting. They may not look ready to you, but I am following Charles Dowding’s method, and if Charles says they’re ready, they’re ready. Charles is salad leaf Zen master. His approach is a little different to the usual cut and come again method of sowing and chopping then letting the entire plant grow back before chopping again. He sows individual lettuces in modules and then plants them out with a decent gap between them, about 9inches. He then clears the lower leaves to sort of ‘lift the crown’ of the lettuce plant, which removes slug hiding places and stops you getting yellowing, manky slug-magnet leaves. After that, he starts picking the outer leaves. They are a little larger than your average cut-and-come-agains, but still littler than those of a headed lettuce, and you pick them as you need them, rather than having to use a whole lettuce in one go.

I tried it last year, in pots and at the allotment, and it worked brilliantly, and suited my rather lazy style of gardening perfectly. The benefit to the lazy – or, more generously, forgetful – is that you don’t have to sow again, or at least not for ages. It’s not like the endless cycle to try to keep a constant succession of cut-and-come-again leaves, which in truth I have never managed to entirely pull off. You can most probably do this a couple of times a summer and be kept in leaves until autumn. Charles keeps plants going for up to nine months.

Charles doesn’t grow his in pots, but I’ve found his system works just as well in them for me, and I am likely to use these much more than those at the allotment, as they’re just outside the door. The trick is to give each plant enough space to build up a good root system, and then they will produce lovely little leaves for you all summer long. Time for my first salad, I think.