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Growing Backyard Lettuce- What a Re-Leaf!

Updated on December 23, 2010

Personally, the greens were my favorite part of dinnertime as a kid. My Mom would open up a store-bought bag of green leaf lettuce to eat with dinner and I would douse it with Ranch dressing and go to town. I love the combination of soft, fresh greens with tasty toppings. And its no wonder I love the stuff; green leafy veggies offer profound health benefits. But as it turns out lettuce from most grocery stores tends to be covered in pesticides like most mass-produced food. If you've joined or are planning to join the grow-it-yourself movement lettuce should top your list of things to grow.

What is so great about growing lettuce, you ask? To start, it can produce a seemingly infinite amount of nutritious food if grown the right way. Leaf lettuce in particular, as opposed to head lettuce, regenerates the leaves that you pick off of it, making it continuously productive. The variety called Black Seeded Simpson starts producing edible leaves within weeks of sowing the seeds and doesn't stop for months. But the ease of growing lettuce is just the beginning. The health benefits are extraordinary, especially when it comes to the darker varieties.

While not quite as productive, darker varieties such as Kale and Spinach are uber-beneficial because they offer superb nutritional benefits and taste great fresh. Kale is a dense, hearty green that is PACKED with amazing healthful components. Seriously, no one talks about it, but this is a super food if there ever was one. Some of the amazing substances found in Kale include substantial amounts of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, dozens of Cancer-fighting antioxidants, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Potassium, Calcium, Fiber, and much much more. Investigations into the benefits of Kale have shown that it is beneficial in preventing and sometimes even treating breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer. The variety I am growing is called curly kale and has an interesting, slightly bitter and peppery taste. I eat it fresh in salads mixed in with red and leaf lettuce, but can be mixed into any hot dish and cooking it can activate some of its health benefits.

Spinach has traditionally received fair credit for its health benefits. It is a great vegetable to have in your garden, especially for fertile women or vegetarians, because it is one of the most iron-rich foods out there. You won't quite achieve the giant muscles that Popeye grows, but the TV show had a good point. Indeed, the vegetable is filled with amazing components including high amounts of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, Vitamin B6, numerous antioxidants, and many other illness-fighting substances.

General Guidelines for Growing Lettuce

Lettuce is generally a cold crop. Starting seeds too late in the season may lead to a bolting plant. This is especially important if you live in a warm, dry area like I do because the wrong kind of weather pattern can alter its taste and production. Bolting occurs as a reaction to heat. The lettuce will begin to reduce its leaf size, turn bitter, and "bolt" straight up. Thats why it's a good move to start lettuce in late summer, so you will have a productive crop throughout the cold season. If you live in a colder place, keep in mind that lettuce can survive mild frosts but not extreme frosts. You'll want to perhaps start it after the risk of frost.

Begin by enriching and working the soil if necessary, particularly if your soil is clay-like or poor in nutrients. Make sure drainage is sufficient. Most lettuce likes to be scattered or planted in rows, then thinned to 6 inches apart. The varieties will vary as far as how they are best planted because some varieties will want more room to spread their leaves more, while others (like Bibb lettuce and other head lettuces) will be compact.

Join the Movement

Access to healthy fruits and vegetables should be fundamental to human well-being in a successful society, and yet most Americans lack this access. In a world of mass agricultural production, pesticides are necessary simply because the mass scale prevents control of the ecosystem. Studies have shown that vegetables grown on a smaller scale--on small farms or in backyards--are easier to regulate and control. Chemicals simply aren't necessary on a smaller scale. There's never been a need for pesticides in my garden. The garden is perfectly balanced, with various vegetables grown close together that naturally assist and protect each other. It is a system that was relied upon for thousands of years until corporations started convincing people they didn't need to grow their own food anymore.

You might have some yard space that is filled with grass right now, and you might think that you don't have much choice in how you use your earth. Rather than mow your grass this Saturday, use that time to plant a garden instead. Join the Grow-It-Yourself movement and cut up that useless grass, toss some seeds in it, and let nature do the rest. You will be a healthier and more empowered individual by taking this simple step. It is simply human.

Lettuce Box with a variety of home-grown lettuce
Lettuce Box with a variety of home-grown lettuce | Source


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    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 7 years ago from Arizona

      Even living in AZ I have grown romaine lettuce in a raised garden. It tasted great and I loved the convenience!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. We are slowly replacing our grass with raised garden beds. This summer produced our first crop of home grown veggies. It was great. I can't wait for the snow to thaw so I can get started again.


    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Growing your own food is a very useful thing to do, but even grass deserves to live. Use containers, and spare the lawn.

      Thanks for a very useful article.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      I don't know if lettuce grows very well in northern FL but I like that lettuce box and would think it might be a fall crop. This is an interesting hub. Congrats on your nomination.

    • fetty profile image

      fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

      You have shown how easy it is to grow organic food. Bravo! Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Cute title and great info. I have been growing lettuce in my square foot garden and have had some success. I love picking up fresh lettuce and eating it right away. Congrats on your nomination and good luck.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I still go with organic production on leafy vegetables, such as lettuce. Thanks for explaining it to us. BTW, congratulations on your HubNugget nomination.

      Please refer at the Forums and read the Hub made by De Greek. :D

    • esatchel profile image

      PDGreenwell 7 years ago from Kentucky

      I am very impressed with the lettuce in the photo! I tried my hand at lettuce last spring/early summer. Had a nice start with the micro greens, but I never had success with heads of lettuce or enough loose leave to account for much. I'm going to try soil enrichment, as you suggest. Thanks!