Lettuce, the choice of the right variety and organic cultivation

Lettuce, the choice of the right variety and organic cultivation

There lettuce, in particular that from the bush, certainly cannot be missing in the home garden. The cultivation of lettuce is in fact a practice within everyone's reach, just follow the right cultural precautions.
Of course, you must first prepare the soil properly, but also choose the right times for sowing and transplanting.
We have already talked about the two most popular varieties of lettuce in our country, namely the canasta and the Roman. But there are many other varieties that can be grown, different in appearance, color and cultivation period.
In this article, we offer an overview of the main varieties available for home cultivation. We also provide you with useful tips for the precautions to be given to the plant.

But let's start by taking a look at its botanical characteristics.

The botanical characteristics of lettuce

The different varieties of head lettuce belong to the species Lactuca sativa, botanical family of Asteraceae or Compositae.
Lettuce is a typical leafy vegetable that is eaten whole. The leaves are grouped at the base of the plant and form a clump that is called the heart.
Depending on the variety, the head is more or less closed and compact. The appearance, color and shapes of the leaves also change depending on the type. For example, the color can be the classic green, but also red, pink or variegated. In lettuce, the root is usually squat and develops a 20-25 cm deep taproot in the soil. This then gives off numerous small lateral roots.

Furthermore, a common feature of lettuces is the release of whitish and sticky latex when the roots or parts of the head break. From this character artist derives its name (from Latin lactis).
Head lettuces are annual plants, i.e. in the same year they vegetate, produce flowers and seeds.

The lettuce cultivation cycle

The lettuce cultivation cycle, the one that goes from the moment of sowing to harvesting, differs according to the variety. A complete cycle ranges from 80-90 days for the early ones, up to 120 days for the late ones. The periods that we have indicated start from the moment of sowing. If, on the other hand, ready-made seedlings are used, purchased in the nursery, the times become respectively 45-60 days for the early varieties, 80-90 days for the late ones.

The varieties of lettuce

For the cultivation of lettuce in the home garden, a lot of attention must be paid to the choice of the variety. The choice is important to meet our tastes and not be dissatisfied. This is because not all varieties are grown in the same season, and have the same cultural needs.
At the same time, if you have little experience, it can be interesting to experiment with the cultivation of lettuce of different varieties, so as to have gradual harvests and to know the characteristics that most satisfy us.
Therefore, head lettuces are divided into five main types:

  • Classic type, also known as Cappuccina-Trocadero
  • Brazilian, known to all as Iceberg
  • Batavia, to which the canasta lettuce varieties belong
  • Romana, which includes all varieties of romaine lettuce
  • Unclosed head (soft)

We have already told you about lettuces Canasta and Roman, we now know the other varieties a little better.

Capuchin-Trocadero variety

It is the classic head lettuce, with smooth or moderately blistering leaves. The colors range from light green to intense green, with the possibility of red borders.
These varieties form a head of white color inside, very tender, well closed.
There are different types, here are the main ones.

Spring or autumn-winter cycle type

Trocadero variety

  • Brown in winter. It has reddish-green, bronzed leaves. It produces a medium sized head. Suitable for the sowing in seedbeds starting from August.
  • Wonder of the 4 seasons. Variety with reddish leaves and bullous texture. It is resistant to cold and produces medium-sized tufts. Sowing takes place from February to April, and then from August.
  • Winter wonder. Variety with green leaves, resistant to cold, suitable for late sowing, from September onwards.
  • Parella or Criolla. This variety has dark green leaves and a small head.
    It is sown in early spring or in September.
  • Trocadero. It is the best known and most widespread variety. It has green-blond leaves. It produces a compact medium-large head. Ideal for sowing starting from August.

Variety with a summer cycle

  • Kagraner or Kagransommer. Variety with deep green leaves and medium-large head. One of the best for the summer cycle, in fact it is sown in full spring.
  • Queen of summer or Wonder of summer. Variety with dark green leaves and large head, very resistant to summer heat. It is sown from April to July.
  • Sant'Anna. This variety has light green leaves and a medium-sized, slightly flattened head. It is sown in spring.

Variety of the iceberg type

This type of lettuce is easily recognized by the characteristic fringed outer leaves, more or less wavy, with a color ranging from light green to intense green.
Furthermore, the tufts are compact, large, and in some varieties can exceed the kg.
Another typical feature is the crunchy texture of the leaves.
For autumn-winter and spring cultivation, the best known variety is the Brazilian, light green in color. This is sown in February or from August onwards.

Variety of icebergs in summer cycle

Iceberg variety

  • Great lake. Variety with more or less intense green leaves and medium-sized head. One of the best known varieties of this type, with the characteristic of slowly mounting to seed.
    Sowing takes place in spring, from April to May.
  • Ice Queen. This variety has very jagged, deep green leaves. The head is large.
    It is sown throughout the spring.
  • I resist. Variety with jagged margin leaves, very large and compact tufts.
    It resists heat well and is sown from March to July.

Variety with an open or soft head

Non-closed head lettuces are becoming increasingly popular among small producers, both for their particular shapes and colors and for their good climatic adaptability.
All varieties of this type, in fact, are good for spring or late summer-autumn cultivation. However, the hottest periods of summer are to be avoided.
Let's see what are the main varieties.

Variety Lollo rossa

  • Gentilina. Variety with green-blond leaves, bullous, but at the same time with frizzy margins. Like the iceberg, it has a crunchy texture. The head is open, of considerable size. Good resistance to cold and early seed formation.
  • Lollo blonde and Lollo rossa. These are two varieties that are very popular among aficionados, as they are attractive from an aesthetic point of view. They have blond or purplish-red leaves. They form open and curly tufts, of medium-large size, with an appearance similar to that ofcurly endive.
  • Radicle or beard of the friars. Variety with elongated and jagged leaves, of excellent rusticity. They form a medium sized head.
  • American red curly. This variety has green leaves and red-brown spots. The consistency is bullous, with wavy margins.
  • Rossa di Trento or Ubriacona di Trento, variety formed by jagged and bullous leaves, green-red, tending to brown. If allowed to grow, it forms a large tuft, but it is often harvested as first fruits, in spring or autumn.

Cultivation of lettuce

Ground

Once you have chosen the most popular variety of lettuce, let's now see what are the main cultivation needs to which attention must be paid.
In general, this plant prefers agricultural land loose type, with a good amount of organic substance and which do not give rise to water stagnation.
The soil pH it must be neutral or slightly alkaline, to avoid acid soils. Here you can read how to measure the pH of your soil.

Fertilization

The soil on which to grow lettuce must have a good supply of organic matter, totally decomposed. For this reason it is in fact advisable to use mature manure, never fresh. If it is difficult to find mature manure from organic farms, you can still use pelleted manure (which found here).
The alternative is the use of the home compost or ofearthworm humus, the latter can be easily found here.
The organic substance must be perfectly adapted to the soil, and it must rest on it at least 10-15 days before the start of cultivation.

Irrigation and other crop care

To grow lettuce in the family garden, the water supply is of fundamental importance, especially if you choose spring or summer varieties. It is recommended for this to use drip irrigation systems, which save us water and do not give rise to dangerous water stagnation.
It is obvious that normal atmospheric precipitation is mostly sufficient in autumn-winter.

Very important, however, beyond the seasons, are the right transplant distances. Assuming that the sowing takes place in a seedbed, when the seedlings are ready (after about a month), they must be planted in the ground. The ideal distance is 20 cm on the row between one lettuce and another, and 25-30 cm between the rows. Such an intense distance has numerous advantages. firstly, the increase in production per square meter, then the plants benefit from being close to each other, which favors the closure and compacting of the clump.
Another advantage is the lower competition with weeds.
Keeping lettuce clear of weeds is essential for healthy, thriving plants.
If you do not want to carry out continuous and tiring manual weeding, it is better to opt for the use of the natural mulch. Valid alternatives can be the jute mulch or the one with biodegradable films.

Biological defense against parasites

Lettuce is a very popular vegetable for many parasitic insects.
For example the slugs they love it and can compromise the final result. To prevent the leaves from damaging, you can intervene by placing special traps consisting of a container with beer, a drink that attracts them a lot. Once they fall into the trap, the snails will drown.
If you want to avoid killing them, you can use the as a repellent wood ash, which in addition to keeping them away is an excellent organic fertilizer.

Other problematic insects for an organic lettuce crop are aphids. These, in fact, attack the inside of the head, smearing it with honeydew and causing severe wilting. To keep these parasites away from our young plants, we recommend the use of natural macerates, which perform an excellent preventive action. The most effective in this sense are the macerated nettle and the macerated garlic, easy to prepare and distribute on the vegetation. For a guaranteed result, the natural macerates must be used with a certain frequency, at intervals of 15 days. Furthermore, it is good to always use them in the evening hours.

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Organic cultivation

Organic Cultivation is a blog that was born from our desire to spread the good practices of organic farming. To do this we decided to give our knowledge to anyone who wants to get involved and create their own vegetable garden (even using a terrace or a simple balcony). Growing without the use of pesticides is possible and we want to prove it by presenting alternatives biological and effective for any type of problem linked to agriculture.


Grow lettuce in the vegetable garden

Lettuces are plants of the composite family, they are very common in family gardens. It is a salad that is grown as an annual plant, avoiding it from going into seed, to collect the leaves when they are still tender, good to eat raw.

There are several varieties of lettuce spread, we can basically divide them into two families: head lettuce and cutting lettuce, also called lettuce. Head lettuces produce a developed head, when it is ready the whole plant is harvested, for example canasta lettuce and the queen of ice are part of it. Cutting salads, such as pasqualina or red snake, allow more crops per year, taking only the leaves.

Lettuce likes fairly cool temperatures, making it an ideal vegetable to grow in the fall and spring. It succeeds well in protected cultivation and for this reason salad can be harvested practically all year round if graded sowing is performed and it is also grown in tunnels. It is a plant that is not very demanding in terms of space and substances in the soil, which can also be grown in pots on the balcony.


Types of lettuce

If you wish to have a variety of lettuce in yours
garden to change the salad service from time to time, you are lucky because there is
there are many types of lettuce:

1. rocket

Arugula is one of my favorite types of salad. Though…
it looks like a simple lettuce leaf, it is anything but simple.

In fact, it's dark green in color and packed with nutrients, and has a unique peppery flavor, which is sure to spice up any salad it's included in.

2. Crunchy French

If you like a salad of various colors, you will love the French Crisp, which has a head of green and red lettuce.

Don't be fooled by the colors. All the leaves taste the same, even if they are different in color. This type of lettuce is excellent for warmer climates because it appears to tolerate heat better than other varieties.

3. Endive

Are you looking for a salad to be enjoyed both cooked and raw? Intravenous is what you need. It comes in the form of smaller, narrower lettuces.

It is a crunchy variety when eaten raw, but if you cook it,
lettuce is strong enough to withstand the heat, but softens to be more
…beautiful.

4. Butter lettuce

If you've been to a grocery store recently,
you saw the butter lettuce. It is a wonderful variety for the way the
the leaves are blooming.

But it's also a crunchy variety of lettuce, albeit the leaves
they are more delicate than some of the other options.

5. Roman

Have you ever eaten a Caesar salad? If you answered yes, you probably liked romaine lettuce because it is the most common use.

It's a sturdy choice for salads, making it a great ingredient for all salads. The leaves are abundant and crunchy, and can even hold up a grill.

6. Iceberg

If you are not familiar with vegetables, iceberg lettuce is a good choice.
could be mistaken for a cabbage at first sight.

The iceberg forms larger and narrower heads. Lettuce is a favorite of many gardeners because it is resistant to heat and disease.

7. Lettuce leaves

If you grow in a small space, leaf lettuce is a wonderful option for you. It grows well in containers, on the ground, in planters or even in flower baskets.

Additionally, this lettuce variety takes less than two months to be ready for harvest. If you want a quick salad, look for leaf lettuce.


In 2020, the vegetable garden is made on the balcony: easy to do and excellent for health

Living in a urban context, it most likely means that you don't have land or land at your disposal a small garden, discouraging a possible and desired by many organic cultivation. In the contemporary era, where in many live in the apartment it is though a small terrace, a balcony is enough or a windowsill to have on the table always fresh and seasonal vegetables.

During these weeks of forced quarantine accompanied by the arrival of the spring and from its unmistakable scent, many Italians from north to south have rediscovered i small domestic spaces dedicating himself to the construction and the pleasure of cultivation of its own home garden.

According to the Coldiretti data in fact, only during this period, the dream of 6 out of 10 Italians was realized with the consequent increased sales of seedlings, seeds and household tools for gardening. Then also a vegetable garden on the balcony or on the terrace it is possible by following the simple but very effective techniques.

Indeed, any balcony even the smallest can be exploited for cultivation, for this reason the more original solutions that go to meet every type of need: fromvertical vegetable garden which allows to use the wall space with the defect of cultivating only small plants, a vases with saucers, until cultivation tables for larger spaces.

Obviously, any type of vase must be filled with a quality soil, many recommend filling the bottom with of expanded clay in order to improve the drainage of the soil during irrigation. However, initially it is essential evaluate the exposure of the balcony in the sunlight because it helps to understand which ones horticultural varieties choose and prefer. In fact, the choice must be made wisely in order to make the most of both the light and the small spaces by ensuring the right distance between the different types of crops with adequate support.

The nightshade family for example, which includes tomatoes, eggplants and courgettes it is possible to grow them in the same pot while keeping them a distance of 40-50 cm between them. Instead, to grow salads such as lettuce and ensure a good harvest, it is necessary dedicate an entire vase to her of 50 - 60 cm that contains at least 4 crops.

Indispensable, very useful and beautiful to look at are the smells and aromatic plants which occupy small spaces on the balconies and develop well ensuring a sufficient yield for the culinary uses. So not only more geraniums, jasmine to breathe a little spring air, but among the many colors of the flowers also a real vegetable garden on the balcony can be useful for fight a sedentary lifestyle and stress in the open air.


Most commercially available fritillaries can be grown both in pots and in the garden.

Let's see what its main needs are in order to enjoy splendid blooms year after year.

Exposure

It suffers if exposed to too much sun, especially on the hottest days. It should therefore be placed in partial shade areas so that it receives a few hours of sun in the morning.

Ground

The optimal soil for the growth of Fritillaria is composed of sand and peat. The soil must be rich and well drained, soft and sandy.

The bulbs should be placed at a depth of about 10-15 cm.

Watering

Water well and regularly during the growth phase, shortly after flowering, never when the leaves turn yellow.
Between one irrigation and the next, wait until the earth is completely dry. Avoid water stagnation.

Planting

Planting takes place in autumn and flowering generally begins after about two years.

Fertilization

If the soil is fertile enough, it doesn't need fertilizer.

If necessary, administer slow release fertilizer rich in potassium every 4 months, while the liquid one, every 15-20 days, diluted in the water used for irrigation.


Vegetable garden-flower garden

We close with a flourish with a 'multicolor' proposal that will surely be the favorite of those who want to grow a flowery and fragrant corner. This vegetable garden is full of colorful flowers and cheerful that will last for several months. If you have a piece of land with an excellent sun exposure this is the theme for you.

Let's see immediately what are the selected varieties and find out how to obtain generous and long-lasting blooms.

Vegetable garden-flower garden: zinnia

There Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) it's a very rustic plant and easy to grow that does not require special care. The genus includes about 20 annual herbaceous varieties all native to the Peru and Latin America.

During development, zinnia forms small and thick erect bushes of dark green color with large daisy-shaped flowers. The flowers can be simple or double and of all colors, except blue. Flowering occurs between June and October.

To prolong the life of the flowers it is necessary to remember to remove the withered ones. The zinnia loves the heat, prefers the exposures in full sun and adapts to any garden terrain.

The planting of the new plants must take place between April and May. The blooms are usually abundant and spectacular and last from June to October. The colorful zinna daisies

Vegetable garden-flower garden: cosmea

There cosmea (Cosmos bipinnatus) has the particularity of expanding into alarge cushion, thanks to which it is possible to form graceful ornamental bushes rounded.

During flowering (which continues until autumn) these bushes turn into suggestive gaudy color spots in shades of purple and pink.

It prefers well-drained, fairly rich soils and needs a lot light. Doesn't love i water stagnation which can cause rot and promote parasitic attacks.

Watering must be regular in order to keep the soil always humid. If you buy the seedlings in nursery you can start the transplant in the open ground in Spring. The cosmea

Vegetable garden-flower garden: gonfrena

There Gonfrena (Gomphrena globosa) it is also known as false clover. It will become one of the protagonists of your flower garden.

From the summer until the arrival of winter, its stems will produce small pink, lilac, white or red flowers, gathered in very special spherical cobs.

It adapts to any terrain, but prefers those well drained and calcareous. It needs a lot of light and is afraid of frosts. The watering they must be frequent but not excessive, remembering to always let the soil dry well.

Robust and rustic plant, does not fear attacks from parasites and resists well even at temperatures below zero as long as it is protected with mulches.

Flowering bush of Gomphrena Globosa

Vegetable garden-flower garden: celosia caracas

There Celosia Caracas has flowers colorful and spectacular. Appreciated for its geometric shapes and ease of cultivation, it is also known as cockscomb is feathery amaranth because of the poise 'featheryOf its flowers.

The only species that produces flowers composed of petals similar to colorful feathers, which can be dried for decorative purposes, ama i warm and sunny climates and it fears the cold like many annual plants. The ground ideal is soft and well drained, possibly sandy and mixed with peat. Flowering Celosia, what a beauty!

The time is right. All that remains is to choose your favorite theme and create the vegetable garden you've always wanted ...


Organic or non-organic garden?

For those who are preparing today to start a production of horticultural plants (and not only), the question that must be asked is: to produce in a biological or conventional way?

The choice must be dictated in the first place to the type of cultivation and how to manage the land and the plants themselves in its plot. Secondly, once the production choices, it is necessary to take into account the commercial destination of the production obtained, whether it is directed towards local markets or towards wholesale markets or large-scale distribution.

Thirdly finally, it is also necessary take into account the choices of the final consumer, if directed towards a homologated production with neutral tastes and all the same, or towards a diversified production with particular and variable tastes according to the territory.

Organic production today cannot ignore only the total exclusion of plant protection products and compliance with the rules concerning the organic method, but also requires the knowledge of all stages of the production chain linked to the farmer's way of operating in total respect for the environment and living organisms.

Finally, the total exclusion of synthetic products must also pass through the recourse to the cultivation of native varieties, which, being carriers of characters of resistance to parasites, they are better able to adapt to the cultivation environment, being able to grow and produce without the use of external energy inputs.


Video: Simple Tips for starting an Organic Farm.