Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lettuce Rejoice!

Lettuce Rejoice!

I attended a no fuss garden presentation by James Graham in March years ago and every March since then I've continued to follow his advice for planting an early lettuce garden. 

This type of container gardening has lots of advantages:

  • Uses mostly inexpensive found materials
  • Even seeds from the dollar store work!
  • Stretches the planting season as it is essentially a mini greenhouse
  • Harvest without stooping if you place the bottle on a table
  • Fewer weeds and easier weeding
  • Critter proof...Bahaha! squirrels
  • Fun for children and adults alike
  • Harvest your very own pesticide free organic greens!

Here's how to make this easy but awesome little planter:

  • a large plastic bottle similar to above (check out your neighbour's recycling bins)
  • some soil (garden soil, potting soil)
  • compost (optional-just use your kitchen compost-no animal products!)
  • seeds (leaf lettuce, radish, spinach or any other cold weather plants)
  • something to cut top off bottle (i.e. kitchen scissors/tin snips)
  • something to make holes in the bottom of bottle (i.e. large nail, piece of metal pipe, drill press)
  • heavy tape (to secure the top to the bottom)

  1. Cut the bottle horizontally into 2 pieces at about the middle. The bottom part holds the soil and is the planter. The top turns it into a little greenhouse. 
  2. Top of bottle: Snip the cut side of the bottle with kitchen scissors-about 1-2 inches up the side. Do this on the opposite side of the first snip. This will allow the top half to fit over the bottom half more easily. 
  3. Bottom half: Make drainage holes in the bottom of the bottle. You can place the bottle on a piece of wood and hammer a large nail or small diameter metal pipe to punch holes. If you have a drill press you can easily make "professional" looking holes in the bottom. 
  4. Fill the bottle with compost/soil. You can start with a layer of kitchen compost on the bottom and then fill the bottle to the rim with soil. The compost will decompose and feed your plants over time. *There is some controversy about using such fresh compost-whether it helps plants or not- but I haven't had any problems with it and it does decompose eventually.
  5. Tamp the soil down and water if it is dry. 
  6. Sow the seeds by sprinkling them on top of the soil. Lettuce seeds are quite small and just need to be barely covered in soil. The larger the seed the more soil it needs to cover it-but not more than 2x the size of the seed. 
  7. Water the soil lightly with a spray bottle or watering can. Avoid using a hose or strong spray as it will make holes in the soil and disturb the seeds.
  8. Place the top of the bottle over the bottom. Try and fit the top so it is outside rather than inside the bottom half. This will allow any rain to run off on the outside rather than water log the inside. The snipped sides should allow the top to expand over the bottom..
  9. Tape the top to the bottom so it doesn't blow off. 
  10. Place your mini greenhouse outside somewhere in the sun.
  11. Water when needed via the hole in the top of the bottle.
  12. Harvest your lettuce by lifting the tape on one side of the bottle to expose your plants. Snipping the tops off with kitchen scissors encourages more growth. How easy is that!
Kitchen compost will eventually decompose and feed your plants. No dairy or meat please!
That first year, I didn't have any "fancy" soil, so I made do with some clayish garden soil from the back garden. I scattered the tiny lettuce seeds over my soil and watered. The clay seemed to be holding an awful lot of water, but I was determined to make this a no fuss garden so I just taped the bottle shut and placed it out on the back patio. 

March is a great time for planting your lettuce garden. The plastic top shelters your plants from wind, snow, heavy rain, cold and meddling critters. If it gets really hot, you can remove the top completely. 

That March day James Graham had promised:  “Plant the seeds now and have lettuce in 4 weeks! “ We were leaving for Hawaii in 4 days so I planted up my bottle with much haste and little fuss. We left for Hawaii the next morning! I wondered how my bottle was doing when I heard about the snowstorm that closed schools in mid-March. We returned home on April 9th and I checked my lettuce garden the next day. Lo and behold, there were my tiny lettuce plants growing. The only thing that it needed was a good watering which was easily accomplished by pouring water in the top. I probably won’t have lettuce in 4 weeks, but then again I don’t think we were counting on a major snowstorm in that time. The bottle sheltered the lettuce from the snow and wind and created a mini-greenhouse effect.  What a great idea!

Today I planted radishes, spinach, red leaf lettuce and parsley. Here's hoping for lettuce by April 12th!

Cheap, easy and Bahaha! squirrel proof!

April 1st Update

I went out to check on my bottles and am happy to report that the spinach has germinated! Not bad considering how cool it's been since I planted the seeds on March 15th. We're expecting snow this weekend, so I'm glad my seedlings will be protected from the elements. 

No comments:

Post a Comment