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Growing Lettuce in Tasmania

Introducing Lettuce

Lettuce is versatile and incredibly easy to grow. It’s a great first vegetable for kids because it grows quickly, especially if you pick a few leaves every day rather than waiting for a full head. There are so many varieties out there, as well as varieties specific to just about any climate, meaning that lettuce can basically be grown anywhere, anytime. Lettuce loves the cool Tasmanian climate and thrives in the temperate months.

Classic Mistakes

Not giving your lettuce enough water can result in bitter tasting leaves as well as early flowering.

Sunlight

Grow in: Full Sun

In the cold Tasmanian climate, lettuce prefers full sun, but will appreciate some dappled shade on the hottest days

Soil Preparation

Good drainage is essential. Two weeks before planting, add lots of compost and some poultry manure, and water with a seaweed feed. Lettuce thrives at a soil pH of around 6, so add lime if necessary.

Sowing Seed

Sow seed: All Year Round
Sowing depth: 2 mm

Check your seed packet for specific varieties. Generally, loose leaf varieties prefer warmer weather and heading lettuces do best in cool weather. Most heading varieties will bolt to seed in the warmer months.

Sprinkle the seed, then cover lightly with potting mix or compost. Sow every 3 weeks for a continuous harvest.

Planting

Plant seedlings: All Year Round

Generally, loose leaf varieties prefer warmer weather and heading lettuces do best in cool weather. Most heading varieties will bolt to seed in the warmer months.

Space your plants around 20 – 25cm and water in your with some half strength seaweed feed. Lettuce can be grown successfully from seedlings, but its usually best to sow lettuce seeds directly as the process of transplanting seedlings can delay maturing up to 3 weeks.

Care

Remove damaged leaves from the plants regularly. Plants use a lot of energy and resources to keep those damaged leaves growing. Rather remove them quickly so that your plants can put all their energy into healthy leaves.

Watering

Water frequently during dry weather to keep the soil moist. Lettuces in pots and containers will dry out quicker than those in the ground and may need more frequent watering. Keeping the moisture level even will avoid tip burn, which is when the tips of the leaves go brown and die. Water at night to minimise the loss of minerals, especially calcium. Drip irrigation is great, but make sure you water seedlings sufficiently while they are establishing.

Feeding

Over fertilising contributes to snail infestations, so stay away from commercial preparations and feed no more than fortnightly with manure or worm castings.

Mulching

Mulch with dried grass clippings or lucerne straw, or try some rough compost around the plants, which will also deter slugs. Make sure that the mulch and the lettuce do not make contact.

Harvesting

Harvest: 9 to 12 Weeks After Planting

The time to harvest will depend on the variety, so check your seed packet, but you should have full heads between nine and twelve weeks. Harvest in the morning, especially on warm summer days. Most lettuces can be “cut and come again”, so pick a few leaves as needed rather than taking the whole head. This will really extend your harvest.

What to Plant Now

What to do about Snails and slugs?

These guys love lettuce. Sprinkle some coffee grounds around the edge of the bed or lay down grit, like eggshells or silica sand. Remove any slugs or snails that you see.

What to do about Caterpillars?

Being leafy, lettuces are vulnerable to these hungry critters. If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with soap spray will also be helpful.
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