Growing Lettuce in Pots
When I look through the bagged lettuce at the supermarket, I have a really hard time finding one that looks good enough to eat. We’ve been spoiled because we know what homegrown lettuce tastes like. Oh yeah, it’s that different! Tastes like buttah. We just go outside to the pot that it’s growing in with our scissors in hand. Usually it’s at night with a flashlight too. We cut enough to fit in the bowl that’s brought out to the garden. It’s so fresh and wonderful that it’s turned my kids into salad eaters. This kind of lettuce is called “cut-and-come-again” lettuce. You cut the outer leaves and it keeps growing so that you can go back for more. It doesn’t take much of it to fill a huge kitchen bowl.
The problem with growing lettuce in Southwest Florida is that it’s too warm for half the year. Lettuce prefers cooler weather. So, we’re without fresh, homegrown lettuce from about May through November (depending on the weather). At the end of September, I have my kids toss a bunch of lettuce seeds in a big pot and some in a garden bed. It’s usually ready to start cutting around 6 weeks later. We’re just absolutely desperate for our fresh lettuce by then. The wait really makes us appreciate it more.
We put styrofoam pieces in the bottom of our pots when we’re growing lettuce in them. This keeps the pot light and allows for good drainage. Lettuce doesn’t have a deep root system. I use a good potting soil, never soil dug out of the yard. I have been trying to come up with a clever lettuce growing container to use this year. They don’t need to be too deep. The leaf lettuces are so super easy to grow and so rewarding with flavor.
There are so many kinds of lettuces to grow. We like to grow the leaf lettuce over the head lettuce because we like the cut-and-come-again thing. Both are easy and have a short growing period. I tend to start harvesting mine when it’s really young. It’s so tender. The leaf lettuce in the above picture was grown from seed that I bought from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I bought the seed from them last year and again this year. I’ve been dreaming about it.
Lettuce seed packets are easy to find at just about any hardware store though and even some grocery stores. However, I’ve found that there is a huge array of flavors with all the different lettuce varieties. Just because one is tough or spicy doesn’t mean they all are. I don’t really care for the mesclun blends or the baby arugula, but that’s just my preference. I like my lettuce to be sweet and buttery. The different varieties can have a big difference in texture and flavor.
A local farmer told me that the red-leafed lettuces are a good choice for Florida because they tend to be somewhat heat tolerant. Lettuce doesn’t like heat and when it gets too warm… it bolts. Bolting is when it sends out a thin shoot from the middle of the plant and it goes to seed. This makes the lettuce taste bad. So, when it bolts, it’s time to send it to the compost bin. Lettuce can be grown in the shade of other plants to help with the heat. It needs a few hours of morning sun though and should be watered every day.
Come grow with us!