Lettuce by the Barrel
This is a continuation of my experiences of gardening in SE Alaska. This time the topic of growing lettuce in barrels. I purchased a few of those faux whiskey barrels a few years ago at my local Fred Meyer store. I opted for them for several reasons.
A. they are light weight and will not rot.
B. they were considerably cheaper than wood barrels.
I filled the barrels a little over midway with crushed plastic bottles. But you could also use packing peanuts as long as they were not the biodegradeable kind. Then I laid a layer of ground cloth over the bottles. Then I filled the barrels the rest of the way with a good potting soil. I used Mirclegrow Potting Soil since it already has time release fertilizer in it. Lettuce is considered a "cool weather crop". Another words it likes cooler temperatures and doesn't thrive in the dead of summer or where temperatures get much above 75 or 80 during the day. I like to buy the variety lettuse seed packs which has all kinds of leaf lettuce in one packet. Wet the soil down with a good soaking and then sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil evenly. Do not rewater with a watering can or hose after the seeds are down as they will just float to the edges of the barrel. Instead keep the soil moist with a misting bottle and cover the top of the barrel with a clear item the same size as the barrel. A piece of plastic, plexiglass or real glass will work just fine. This makes a little green house affect until the seeds germinate. Instructions of the seed packet says to thin the seedlings once they germinate. I would suggest NOT doing this. Lettuce is shallow rooted and if you don't thin the barrels will get wonderfully full as the plants grow. Once the seedlings are well established remove the topper and keep watered. I have my barrels on my deck which is on the north and west side of my house. They get sun and light all afternoon and do beautifully.
When ready to harvest lettuce for a salad get the kitchen shears out and just give it a bit of a haircut. DO NOT pull the plants up by the roots. New growth with come back from the parent plant where you have cut again and again. Where I live my lettuce has never "bolted" ( gone to seed) as it can do in hotter climates. I have so much lettuce in my barrels I am usually giving it away. I have not had to use any pesticides on my lettuce and have had no problem with slugs either since they can't get into the barrels.
At the end of the summer i just let the soil dry out and put the barrels in my shed for the winter. Come the following spring I loosen the dirt and add some fresh potting soil to the top. No need to start from square one. The only thing i am thinking of doing for the future is attaching some rolling caster wheels to the bottom of the barrels so i can wheel them around my deck more easily.
So give this a try! Great for kids first gardening projects, if they grow it, they will be sure to eat it too!
a highly rated book on container gardening to get you started
how could you go wrong with this one??
here is a great organic version.