Lettuce (Lactuva sativa) is an annual plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae. It is native to Southern Europe and Western Asia. This plant descended from wild lettuce latica scariola, a common weed of roadsides and wastelands in both ancient and modern times.
Lettuce is a very nutritious food source and generally the darker the leaf the more nutritional value it has. It is a very good source of vitamins A, K, C, folate, manganese and chromium.
Probably the leafiest and greenest of the leafy greens, lettuce is ‘The King’ when it comes to getting antioxidants and vitamins. A reason why it is gradually gaining much popularity in Nigeria and Africa.
Lettuce is easily cultivated, and it requires low temperatures to prevent the plant from flowering quickly.
Growing lettuce could be a very profitable agribusiness for agripreneurs when properly done. It is therefore imperative to note the following guidelines while embarking on lettuce farming.
KNOWING YOUR VARIETIES
There are four distinct types of lettuce – leaf (also known as looseleaf), Cos or romaine, crisphead, and butterhead.
The plant grows well on a wide variety of soils ranging from light sand to heavy clay, however, best results are obtained on fertile loams that are rich in organic matter.
A pH between 5,5 and 7 is optimum. Lettuce should be grown on soils with a high water-holding capacity and proper drainage for good root growth and plant performance.
Soil test your farm and lime the soil to raise the pH above.
Before you plant your lettuce seeds, make sure the soil is prepared. It should be loose and drained well so it’s moist without staying soggy.
To keep the soil fertile, feed it with organic matter about one week before you seed or transplant. Since the seed is so small, a well-tilled seedbed is essential.
Lettuce is regularly sown directly in the field to a depth of 10 to 15 mm. The seedlings are later thinned out to the desired spacing and they are sometimes used for transplanting.
Seedlings should be transplanted between 4 – 6 weeks after sowing. Seedlings must be transplanted at the correct depth in a little planting hole that has been made in the ground prior to planting.
If the seedlings are forced into the ground, without a hole being prepared for them to be inserted into, the root system will be damaged and the plant will experience stress resulting in poor yield.
Once the seedling is placed inside the hole the area should be firmed so that sufficient contact is made between the seedling and the soil.