They are among the easiest, most reliable crops, and such a pleasure to eat all the lovely leaves with the different flavours. Here are some top tips to make the most out of your lettuces & leaves this season.
- Lettuces and salad leaves will do really well in a slightly shadier part of the garden. In full sun, particularly if it’s dry, they can get stressed and run to seed/bolt. By planting them in an area of the garden that perhaps just gets the morning or evening sun, or in light shade, you will find they keep producing leaves for longer.
- Keep them well watered. (See point 1!)
- Harvest the outer leaves regularly, even if you don’t plan to eat them. It is better to harvest the outer leaves (throw them in the compost bin if you’re not going to eat them) as this keeps the plant producing new leaves for a much longer time. It also prevents the large outer leaves from dying on the plant and rotting. This is something you want to avoid as the rotting leaves attract slugs!
- Mustard leaves are very popular with flea beetles. You may find tiny holes on your Wild Rocket, Mizuna, Giant Red Mustard and other oriental mustard leaves. This is most likely the work of the flea beetle, a tiny little bug that hops like a flea when disturbed. To prevent this, you can cover your plants with a light horticultural fleece. Keep them well watered too as the flea beetle loves dry conditions. If your plants are affected, you can still eat them, they just won’t look as pretty!
- Plant them between rows of other veg. Leaves are a great space saver in the veg patch. Apart from Giant Red Mustard, which as the name suggests can get pretty big, you can happily plant lettuces and salad leaves in between other rows of veg. They can usually be planted 15-20cm apart. They’re good planted amongst taller plants, like sweetcorn, too as this can protect them from the full glare of the midday sun (see point 1!)