Did you know that lettuce is the second most popular vegetable grown in American gardens? It comes in just behind tomatoes and just ahead of onions. Unfortunately, lettuce prefers coolish growing weather (between 65 and 75 degrees F. is ideal), and over much of the country it gets too hot in summer for lettuce to taste good. It tends to go bitter in the heat.
There's a way to grow sweet, tender lettuce all year round if you wish, however. Vermont gardening expert Dick Raymond told me about it and I've tried it. It works well. Here's what to do:
Take a flowerpot six or more inches across and fill it with rich garden soil or seed-starter mix. See that the soil is nicely damp or else water it well and let it drain before sowing.
Sprinkle lettuce seed lightly over the soil and cover it with about an eighth of an inch of soil. Keep the surface moist ever day until the lettuce seedlings are up. Thin the seedlings to about two inches apart.
Place the flowerpot where it gets lots of light but only some early morning sun if the weather is very hot. Indoors in a window that gets morning sun works very well, provided the room is nice and light for much of the day. You can grow lettuce indoors in winter this way, too.
Feed the plants every week with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer.
When the lettuce leaves are four to six inches tall, harvest them all by cutting them off about an inch or so above the ground. The little stalks will start sending up new leaves and you can repeat the harvest again a few weeks later. This way you can get three or sometimes even four harvests from one sowing.
Try putting the pots in different parts of the garden or in the house until you find the place where the lettuce grows best. Once you get the hang of growing lettuce this way, you might like to keep a string of lettuce pots going all the time.