Lettuce is one of my favorite foods. If you asked my kids what their Mommy likes to eat the most, without a doubt they would tell you that my favorite food is salad. My favorite food is really good European milk chocolate and jumbo shrimp steamed with Old Bay seasoning (but not together), but beyond that it is probably salad. Take me to any restaurant and I’m likely to pick out a funky interesting salad over the prime rib. This time of year lettuce is eating up my grocery bill. But come summer that will all change thanks to lettuce boxes. It used to be that in this climate the only time of year you could count on lettuce in your garden was late spring in to early summer. Once the big heat arrives, lettuce just bolts straightaway. But I’ve discovered a wonderful secret. Sometime last winter Organic Gardening magazine (another must read) published plans for a “lettuce box” and I quickly began badgering my husband. True to form he built me a lettuce box even better than the one in the magazine.
What’s so great about a lettuce box? And for that matter what is a lettuce box? A lettuce box is a movable growing near constant salad. It is a box of any size (mine are about 2 feet by 3 feet) built with a depth of only about 4-6 inches. Lettuce doesn’t need deep soil to thrive. It has handles on the ends and a bottom made of wire mesh and lined with biodegradable plastic mulch sheets. Built out of relatively light wood, just about anyone can move it, even when loaded with rich organic soil.
My boxes do fine in one location all spring, but once the heat arrives, I began to move them daily. I let them luxuriate in the sun some mornings and move them to the shade come afternoon. By doing this I am able to grow lettuce all the way through summer and into the fall. If it got unbearably hot I could have moved them inside, but last summer was a fluke around here and we never got the killer heat at all. In the original magazine article it showed someone arriving for a cookout with their lettuce box in tow – that’s a little over the top, even for me, but you could do it.
The lettuce box is the perfect solution for people who have too much sun or too little garden space. I keep two boxes going so that when one is still emerging the other is in full bloom. I dream of a third or even a fourth, but for now I’m working with two. I do still grow some of the bigger lettuces in my garden. The boxes are better for loose leaf and smaller types of lettuce like tom thumb. This past week I got my first box up and running. While I wait for the lettuce to germinate, it’s living in my mudroom, but I’m hopeful that the box will be outside full time in a week or two.
I’m sure you can build your own without the help of the plans, but if you need them look online at http://www.organicgardening.com/ (search for “salad box”). Lettuce boxes could also be made out of window boxes or pots, depending on your lettuce needs. Mine are many, hence the multiple boxes.
While we wait for our lettuce, here’s my latest favorite salad dressing –
½ cup seasoned rice vinegar (splurge and buy a good one)
½ cup canola or safflower oil
½ teaspoon crushed garlic
1/8 teaspoon of stevia (or 2 tablespoons of sugar)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper (less if you’re not a big pepper fan)
Combine in a jar and shake until well mixed. Delish. Try it with cashews and croutons – simple and wonderful. I’ve been eating it for my lunch for weeks. Today I made it with orange flavored stevia - I may be addicted.