How to grow lettuce: salad leaves to serve up this summer

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  • Follow these simple steps to grow your own lettuce...

    A summer barbecue isn’t complete without a fresh salad to accompany your burgers and hot dogs. Not sure how to grow lettuce? Follow these simple steps to grow your own salad leaves, and impress your guests with your homegrown produce.

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    You will need:

    • Plant pots or containers
    • Stones or broken china
    • Multi-purpose compost
    • Salad seeds
    • Plant labels

    1. Prepare your pot

    How to grow lettuce

    Image credit: Tim Young

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    Add a layer of stones or broken china to the bottom of a large terracotta pot or plastic container – this will help to increase drainage and prevent your salad from flooding. Salad leaves don’t need much space, so you could even grow them in a window box or hanging basket.

    2. Fill your pot with compost

    Go for a multi-purpose compost, pushing it down as you fill your pot. Pat the compost firm with your hands to create a flat sowing surface, and try to avoid overfilling the pot.

    Craig Roman, of Dobbies Garden Centres, suggests Miracle-Gro All Purpose compost, £5.83 for 50 litres, B&Q

    3. Water the compost well

    Water the compost several times, allowing the water to soak through each time so the whole pot is moist.

    4. Sow the seed

    Choose seeds for your favourite salad leaves or mix it up with several different types of lettuce. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the compost, taking care to ensure an even distribution. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of dry compost and label the pot with the salad variety and sowing date.

    Craig recommends a fast-growing variety, such as Leaf Salad Spicy Mix, £2.79, Suttons. ‘It is ready to eat in as little three weeks and will give you flavoursome leaves,’ says Craig.

    5. Put it in position

    Position the pot in full or half sun, but in the middle of the day in summer make sure you move your pot to the shade. If your container is on the inside windowsill, bear in mind that if it’s south-facing the glass will magnify the sun’s rays and could burn the leaves.

    6. Harvest regularly

    How to grow lettuce

    Image credit: Claudia Dulak

    Some leaves will be ready to pick within days of sowing. Cut the leaves from the outside of the plants, little and often to keep a steady supply. Craig says: ‘Avoid cutting near the base of the stem and you’ll get another crop a few weeks later.’

    7. Take care

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    For a healthy crop keep the compost moist with regular watering. Fortunately pests aren’t normally a problem for such fast-growing plants, so with minimal TLC you should have fresh and crisp lettuce in no time!

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