Part II: Growing Your Own Lettuce: Small Investment, Big Pay Off

Hannah Jensen is an Environmental Science student from North Vancouver. When she isnt at SFU, youll find her working as a lifeguard, training for triathlons, or working on her family garden. This is part two of her post about her gardening experiences! 

In recent years, eating sustainably has become trendy. Farmer’s markets spring up in nearly every Metro Vancouver community during summer months, and an increasing number of restaurants are advertising locally sourced, ethically harvested fare. This represents a huge leap forward in our culture. The ability to access environmentally conscious food has expanded, and so has the social pressure to take part in it. However, this popularity has a definite downside. While it is common to pay more for locally grown or organic goods, the demand for them further increases the prices, especially at places like farmer’s markets.

So where does that leave students? For those of us who live on our own, budgeting is an essential part of life. Often there is very little extra left for anything, let alone a tiny carton of local raspberries that costs $5. While choosing to eat sustainably is a choice for anyone, for students and others on a budget, it is not always a viable option.

Fortunately, there is an easy and fun way to do your part - and even save money while you’re at it. If your apartment has a deck, or your landlord has some extra yard space, you can grow your own produce. Here are some tips on how to grow your own lettuce:

You will need:

-a planter box

-a bag of vegetable garden soil mix (this already has manure mixed in which makes your life easier)

-seeds

-organic fertilizer

-an area that gets full or partial sunlight each day

When choosing seeds, leaf varieties give you a higher yield and mature faster in comparison to head lettuces (like Romaine and Iceberg). In other words, you will get more lettuce sooner. Some good types of leaf lettuce to plant include Grand Rapids, Red Salad Bowl, and Red Sails. You can also buy premixed seeds that contain multiple varieties.

Your first crop can be planted around the second or third week of April. Follow the directions on the package to space your seeds properly and plant them at the right depth. You can also use a method called subsequent planting, which is planting another row of lettuce every two to three weeks. In doing so, you will have a continuous supply throughout the summer. Subsequent planting can be done until the weather gets hot in June, as heat can prevent the lettuce seeds from germinating.

Your lettuce garden should be weeded and watered regularly. Never let the soil completely dry out. As you water, nutrients leach out of the soil, so you should buy an organic fertilizer and use as directed. In general, this means that after the first month, you should fertilize every few weeks.

Other great foods to grow in a small space include radishes, tomatoes, hot peppers, and herbs.

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