Salad in a box

Lettuce Box

There’s no doubt that vegie gardens are right back in fashion, but why do we get so much enjoyment out of growing our own vegies? Because it saves us money? Because it gives us a sense of achievement? Because we want to impress our friends? Because it’s trendy?

All of these are valid, but most surveys show that the main reason we grow vegies is because we want to have fresh, healthy food right there when we need it.

Vegie growing can seem a bit daunting for beginners, so one easy way to get started is by producing a crop of lettuce in a styrofoam box. Here’s how to go about it:

Acquire a good-sized styrofoam box and check to make sure it has some holes for drainage. If it doesn’t, use something like a large screwdriver to punch a few holes through the base.

Next, fill the box with a good quality potting mix, such as Yates Professional. Top with a thin layer of Yates Black Magic Seed Raising Mix, water and allow to drain.

Sprinkle lettuce seeds on top of the mix. Press the seeds into the moist mix, but don’t cover them (lettuce seeds don’t like to be buried). Water them in with a gentle mist spray that won’t dislodge the seeds.

It’s important that the seeds are kept moist though the germination period but, because they’re right at the surface, they tend to dry out quickly. Covering the box with a clear layer (such as plastic wrap or a sheet of glass) will help.

There are two effective ways to water without washing away the seeds. One is to move aside the cover and continue misting with an atomiser. The other is to sit the base of the box in water inside a larger container, allow the moisture to seep up to the surface of the mix, then remove to drain. Either method works well, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

Lettuce seeds won’t germinate if temperatures are too high, so keep the covered box into a shaded, but bright, position. Don’t leave it in the sunlight – it will get far too hot.

Baby lettuce seedlings will usually start to emerge in less than a week. Lettuce need plenty of nitrogen to promote healthy growth so, as soon as the seedlings appear, begin feeding with a liquid plant food. Thrive Soluble or Nitrosol are ideal but it’s best in the beginning to apply these at half the recommended strength. If you’d rather use an organic plant food, Yates Nitrosol Organic is a good choice.

As the plants develop, take off the protective cover and move the box into a sunnier spot. Thin out by removing some of the excess seedlings. This will give the remaining plants room to grow.

The best varieties to choose for your salad box are small, non-hearting lettuces like Mignonettes or those found in Yates Frilly Mix.


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