Summer lettuces
Have you ever tasted a lettuce fresh from the garden? I mean, FRESH? Picked less than 30 minutes ago? It's amazingly delicious! You will never settle for shop lettuce again after you tasted a truly fresh garden lettuce.
A Cos lettuce on the left, a Royal Oakleaf lettuce on the right, both grown from seeds.
In summer, salads are our staple diet and we grow lots of lettuces in our clients’ gardens. So we’ve learned over the years what lettuces grow best in Adelaide’s hot, dry summers.


The first important ingredient is the soil – it needs to be light and friable, have lots of organic matter in it, hold moisture well, and have a good amount of nitrogen. You can’t beat Vital Veggies soil of course.

Lettuce varieties

Secondly is choosing the right variety of lettuce that won’t bolt to seed at the first heat wave. Our favourite in summer is Oak Leaf, which can come in the usual green variety or red. Most of the loose leaf (non-hearting) lettuce varieties will tolerate our summer heat quite well. Cos lettuce does OK in summer if it has the right conditions, but we’ve found the butterhead and mignonette hearting lettuces to be less heat tolerant than the open leaf varieties, and you can forget Iceberg lettuce altogether in summer. Get creative and try out some of the lovely freckled varieties that are available in seed packets from Diggers, Green Harvest or Eden Seeds.

Planting lettuce

Ideally lettuce seeds should be sown straight into your garden soil to avoid any root disturbance through transplanting. However if sowing in seed trays for later transplanting, it’s best to put one seed into each small seed pot, rather than a few in a tray so you avoid having to separate their roots upon transplanting. Lettuce is delicate and so are its fine roots. Although lettuce normally needs full sun, we like to plant it as an understory in between capsicums, eggplant and tomatoes in summer as the larger plants will shade the more delicate lettuces from the hot midday sun.
When lettuce plants get stressed, they bolt to seed, so keeping them happy, moist and sun protected is essential.

Companion planting tip: Lettuce is a happy companion for most other veggies in your patch except for parsley and the brassica family.

Caring for lettuce plants

Once your lettuce plants are growing they will need lots of water and lots of nutrients. The faster it grows, the better it tastes.
Harvest the lower lettuce leaves off the plants as you need them. This is called ‘cut and come again’ harvesting. As you remove leaves, it will stimulate more growth.
Happy salad days!
December/January Pests
Slugs and snails are still munching away voraciously at our green leafy plants. First round of offence is to seek out their nests and dispose of them. A very simple snail trap is a bowl of beer or wine mixed with water. Place it with the rim 1 cm above the ground. They will slide in for a drink and drown. Sugar water (5% sugar solution) is also highly effective, as is diluted cordial.  Empty your traps daily into the compost or chook run.

White and grey sticky aphids are starting appearing with the warmer weather. Strips of yellow sticky tape strung around the garden like flags work wonders in controlling the population but nothing beats a gentle vacuum!

White cabbage butterfly larvae (caterpillars) – see our November 2015 Biogardening article for some tips on how to deal with them. Try some sticky traps available from nurseries or from Green Harvest.

Possums, rats and birds can gobble up your ripening fruit before you get to it, and often strip bare many plants in your veggie garden too. If you don’t have a dog to scare possums off at night, you’ll need to protect your fruit trees and food garden with netting. The best structure is made of hoops with net strung across so the net doesn’t interfere with the new shoots on trees and bushes.  Prevention is better than losing your crops and your temper!
December/January Planting
You can sow the following veggie seeds direct into your soil or into seed trays during December:
Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Capsicums, Chillies, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Endive, Fennel, French beans, Leeks, Lettuces, Marrows, Oriental leaves, Pak choi, Parsnips, Peas, Pumpkins, Radishes, Rocket, Spinach, Spring Onions, Sprouting Broccoli, Snowpeas, Swedes, Sweetcorn, Sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Zucchini.
If you have space for ground spreading vines, plant some Rockmelon and Watermelon or sweet potatoes. You can train them all up a trellis or a fence.
Herbs: Basil, Borage, Coriander, Chervil, Dill, French or Mexican Tarragon, Lovage, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Thyme.
Happy planting.
December 2016
FIRST QUARTER (waxing moon)

Wednesday 7 December 2016 at 7.33pm
From the new moon through to the full moon sap flow is increased in the above ground parts of plants.
During the first quarter to the full moon, plant crops that fruit above the ground such as tomatoes, capsicums, eggplant, chillies, sweetcorn etc. It's still OK to plant leafy greens and lettuces during this time as well.
FULL MOON (Supermoon)
Wednesday 14 December 2016 at 10.35am
From the full moon to the last quarter is the waning moon when the sap flow in plants is more concentrated in the root area and lower in the foliage so its the best time to plant sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks, radishes, beetroot, parsnips and turnips.
LAST QUARTER (waning moon)
Wednesday 21 December 2016 at 12.25pm
The week of the last quarter is the barren moon phase and is best used to attend to your soil, apply mulch and manure teas, make compost, remove weeds, and dig over the ground.
Thursday 29 December 2016 at 5.23pm
From the new moon to the first quarter is the best time to sow or plant your leafy greens like lettuces, spinach, rocket, and herbs etc.
Mow your lawn and transplant rhubarb during this phase.
FIRST QUARTER (waxing moon)
Friday 6 January 2017 at 6.16am
Thursday 12 January 2017 at 10.03pm
LAST QUARTER (waning moon)
Friday 20 January 2017 at 8.43am
Saturday 28 January 2017 at 10.37am
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