Grow At Home: Iceberg lettuce

The key to growing lettuce, and Iceberg lettuce is no different,  is to plant at regular intervals.  This ensures that you have a regular supply throughout the summer.  Its a good idea to plant a variety of different lettuces too.  Today we are going to concentrate on Icebergs.

Icerberg Lettuce

The Iceberg lettuce is tightly packed with only the outer leaves seeing direct light,  This means that it is less green and therefore less nutritiious than a lot of other leaves.  So why grow it?  Well the best reason for growing it is for the crisp texture which gives it its other name "crisphead lettuce" and adds a little crunch to any salad.  The other excellent reason is that it keeps a lot better than many other lettuce.  It can last a month if properly stored in the fridge.  So a great one to grow toward the end of the year if you want to keep on eating your own food long after others have turned back to the supermarket.

Sowing

You can start sowing indoors from January to Spetember and transplant outside from April to October.  Sow around eight seeds in a small pot or seed tray. Place them in a cool space to help the seeds grow faster.  Once plants reach 8-10cm (3-4 inches) move the plants to their final place in your planter or garden.  

Lettuce grow quite big so leave 30cm (12") between plants and rows.

Position

Compared to Cut and Come Agian leaves, iceberg lettuce is trickier to grow.  It bolts quite easily if you leave it too long. The plants are also easily affected by wind or cold, or too much or too little water.

Finding a sheltered spot will help a lot with this.  So a raised bed with a raised edge or collar or a protective tunnel will help massively. Choose your tunnel carefully depending on what time of year you are planting.  When closed all offer pest protection but for soil warming and warmth for early season and frost protection then choose Easy Poly tunnel or Easy fleece tunnel  And for shading from hot sun to lessen bolting - Easy Net tunnel  

Care

Make sure you have some pest protectio in place  They are very tasty, especially when young, so the tunnel or cloche you are using to protect them from the wind will work here too.  It will prevent slugs, snails, birds and rabbits arriving en masse.   

If there are large leaves dragging on the ground then remove these to deter snails etc. A SlugBuster beer trap is also a good idea.

Water the lettuce often, it will help it grow and get nice and crispy. Use a liquid feed every copule of months too.

Harvest

Icebergs take between 50 and 90 days to grow.  When the head is large and feels tightly packed it is ready to cut.  Cut with a knife to harvest.

A note of caution - take them inside and store as soon as you cut them.  If you leave them in the garden while you complete other jobs then they will wilt and you'll lose the crispness you grew them for.

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