How to grow... Lettuces & Salad Leaves
Rocket Growing Guides
Lettuces and other leaves (wild rocket, mizuna, mustard leaves etc) are quick growing and can be ready to harvest in as little as 3 weeks. You can let them grow to full size or carefully harvest the outer leaves of the loose-leaf varieties with a pair of scissors, after a few weeks. This will encourage more leaves to grow in their place and will prolong your harvest.
- Growing Advice
- Common Problems
- Chef's Corner
Sun or partial shade
Lettuces and leaves need some sunshine, but will tolerate partial shade (and in fact this can often help to keep them cool and prevent them from bolting) and moisture-retentive soil.
Great for beds, containers and planters
Lettuces and salad leaves don’t require a lot of space, making them perfect for growing in pots and containers, grow bags, planters and beds.
How far apart?
As a general rule, give them about 15cm space. As always, you should check the instructions on each variety when you receive your baby plants to make sure you give them enough space.
Keep them cool
Lettuces and salads will keep producing lots of leaves for several weeks if kept fairly cool – regular watering, mulching and growing them in partial shade can help. If they do get too hot, they are prone to ‘bolt’, and will stop producing leaves and instead start to form a flower/seed head.
Protect from pests
Slugs, snails and rabbits are the main ones to watch out for… slug traps using cheap lager work well, and a 1-2ft tall fence around raised beds, made out of bamboo canes and chicken wire, will normally help to keep rabbits at bay.
When to harvest
Most lettuces and leaves can be harvested as cut & come again – just cut off the outer leaves, leaving a few smaller leaves in the centre, on a regular basis.
For those that form a heart, like little gem, wait until they have matured and cut off at the stalk.
In hot, dry conditions or sudden cold spells, lettuces and salad leaves can get stressed and will rush to produce flowers and seeds rather than producing lots of leaves. Once this has happened you cannot reverse it, so the best thing to do to try and prevent it is add a good layer of mulch around vulnerable plants to keep them from drying out, this will also help to keep the soil a little warmer on cold days.
Slugs & Snails
Lettuces and leaves are very popular with slugs and snails – keep them protected (try beer traps, eggshell/grit, copper tape etc) and remove any slugs that you see.
Try to protect your leaves from rabbits if they are a problem in your plot – a simple 2 foot high fence made from chicken wire and bamboo canes is usually sufficient to deter them, but the more persistent rabbits will burrow underneath the fence, so be prepared to dig the chicken wire into the ground if needed.
Tiny round holes in leaves, particularly in stronger leaves like wild rocket and mizuna is inevitably flea beetle. Where this is a problem, you can try using an insect proof mesh and mulching the plants to keep the soil moist and cool will help (they are more active in hot dry weather). You can still eat the leaves if they have holes in so don’t give up on them!
We really recommend picking what you need, when you need it. But they will keep in the fridge unwashed in a food bag for a couple of days.
Ways to cook
It’s not all about salads, although freshly cut lettuce from the garden is one of the best things about summer salads! You can try making summer soups with wilted lettuce, pea and mint. And a lot of leaves are great in stir fries.