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Lettuce

HOW TO PLANT LETTUCE:

Lettuce is a must for the home gardener, and there are so many more varieties to plant at home than you would ever find at the supermarket!  

SOIL PREPARATION:

One of biggest keys to success in organic gardening is the condition of the soil.  There needs to be adequate organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients.  And at the same time, the soil needs to be loose enough for good aeration and drainage, which will help promote strong root development.

It is easy to grow lettuce if your soil has the proper nutrients. People always assume their soil is average, but unless you have a soil test it is just a guess.  More often than not, it is necessary to amend the soil to achieve optimum pH balances, as well as the proper levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. Testing your soil is ideal; however, at a bare minimum, before planting anything, work in at least 4” of organic mulch and at least one-half inch of finished compost into your topsoil, along with MegaVeggie. If you suspect your soil is less than ideal, mix in a cup of MegaVeggie if you feel your soil is in great condition, 2 cups if in good condition and 3 cups if in poor condition, into every 100 sq. ft. of soil.  This 100% organic soil amendment will make up for a lot of deficiencies.

Also, mulching with compost or straw will help keep the soil moist and also help to feed the plant and prevent weeds.  Don't mulch over 3-4" because this might prevent oxygen from entering the soil and could cause root rot.

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS:

If planting from seed: Plant 2 weeks before last anticipated frost date, 1/8-1/4” deep in rich soil. Plant leaf lettuce close and thin as necessary, but romaine you want to leave 4-6” apart in rows 12" apart. If you are planting in raised beds, plant 9" on center. For head lettuce, if you want bigger heads plant 12" apart on center.

If planting seedlings: If you choose to plant seedlings, start indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last anticipated hard frost.  Harden them off first if you are buying or growing starts.  This is done by placing the seedlings in direct sun for an hour, then placing in the shade.   Each following day increase the time in the sun by one hour; repeat this each day until they are in the sun for 6 to 8 hours, which will take a week or so. Make sure they don’t dry out.

If you know there is a chance of hard freeze, bring seedlings inside until freeze is over. When it is safe, leave seedlings outside, placing them next to a building with an overhang and let them get used to nighttime temperatures.  The building and overhead cover should give you some protection.  After one night outside and they are used to sun, you can plant without shocking the plant.  Plant in soil when outside temperatures may go to 32 degrees but mostly stay above freezing.

When planting, use a tablespoon of bone meal in the bottom each planting hole. If you’re Vegan or don’t like to use bone meal, then Mega-Start will work. It’s 100% Organic and animal-free. It is best to root feed with Seaweed right after planting to prevent shock.  Seaweed is better for shock prevention than any other product on the market.

FERTILIZING/AMENDING:

After planting, continue to feed seaweed once a week by spraying leaves, and fish emulsion every two weeks through root feeding until harvest. I use a hose sprayer for fish, but just make sure you spray enough so that the roots of the plants are soaked.  If fish gets on the leaves, don’t worry, it won’t burn the leaves.

If your plants are not vigorous, they are not getting enough food and your soil is in poor condition.  If so, side dress with 2 tablespoons of MegaVeggie around the base of the plants and water in.  Continue the seaweed once a week along with fish emulsion every two weeks, but cut the fish out at least one week before harvest. Do not let the soil dry out; soil should be moist but not soggy.

Recommended Schedule for Fertilizing and Amending Soil:

1.  Bone Meal or MegaStart -- at planting
2.  Seaweed -- at planting and once a week until harvest
3.  Fish Emulsion -- every two weeks after planting until harvest
4.  MegaVeggie -- if plant does not appear vigorous, every two weeks until harvest

SWEET CORN SECRET:

The timing of your planting will have a lot to do with the quality of lettuce you harvest. Plant as soon as you can dig the earth. This is how I look at it:  If I plant too early, so what, I’m going to be planting lettuce every week so if I lose a few to a hard freeze, seed is cheap and I can just simply re-plant that area. So what I tell gardeners is to plant what you’re going to eat or sell in a week’s time. Then simply plant that amount each week. Some plant enough for two weeks, but the point is, don't plant all at once because you will wind up with a lot of lettuce that you can't possibly eat, and at some point it will be old and turn bitter. So as you harvest, replant that area. Just spread MegaVeggie, some more compost, and dig in and plant again. You can do this in the same area all summer, but rotate your lettuce patch next year if possible. I also plant radishes and carrots in bare areas of my lettuce patch!

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