Lettuce is the pick of the crop for us

Leaf-lettuce is ever reliable. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Leaf-lettuce is ever reliable. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Lettuce is the most important vegetable we grow.

With a little planning it can be on the menu throughout the year. Of the three main types – Cos, heart-forming and leaf lettuce – the latter is best value.

Waiting three months for hearts to form, then cutting the whole plant for use, is not the best approach in a small garden. Far better sow the leaf type and be harvesting micro-leaves within four weeks.

Once a row is growing freely you can snip leaves with scissors, knowing others will replace them.

If the soil is organic-rich, regular watering to avoid the bitter taste that comes with dry conditions is all the plants need.

More than one packet of seed is required for year-round supply. Three is a useful amount if a winter patch in the greenhouse or polytunnel border is planned.

Our first outdoor crop is started in a modular tray, with a pinch of seed to each cell. Sowing in mid-March allows for planting-out plugs the first half of April and covering with a portable plastic tunnel. Open air sowing in drills follows in May, with small, monthly additions.

Autumn sees a return to cell tray sowing, raising plants for the greenhouse border. These see us through to April on a cut-and-come-again basis.