Lettuce has been a garden staple for ages. Today's varieties were bred over time from bitter, prickly wild lettuce to the sweet or crispy varieties known today. The annual lettuce comes from the daisy family, the Asteraceae. It is mostly grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Since growing lettuce takes practice to perfect its place in the garden, finding the right lettuce companion plants will help you achieve great gardening success!
Popular types of lettuce include both head and loose leaf growing habits. A head variety grows upright with a dense leaf structure, typically resulting in a whole head for harvest, while the loose leaf grows on a stem with individual leaves harvested during the plant's growth cycle. There are many varieties to choose from for growing in your garden, including Iceberg, Romaine, Crisphead or Butterhead. Loose leaf colors range from light green to burgundy and bronze. The speckled or solid salad adds a nice variety to your dining table.
Growing lettuce in an accompanying planting system not only offers a wide choice for your dinner salads, but also provides dense nutrition. The darker types of lettuce offer significant health benefits as they contain valuable antioxidants. The moisturizing, vitamin-rich and fibrous lettuce that grows in combination with other good salad staples in your garden is an easy way to give something back to yourself, your family and the vegetable garden.
What is companion planting?
Choosing the right salad companion plants is easy. Source: Canadian Vegetables
Companion Planting is a gardening method that sees the benefits of individual plants as part of the entire garden. It takes into account how plants interact with each other to make any gardener hoping for bountiful harvests successful. For example, trellising grape varieties of beans, peas, or cucumbers over leafy vegetables protect them from the summer heat, or planting an edible flower like marigolds under your tomatoes can ward off root-knot nematodes in your soil. Oregano and thyme are delicious garden herbs that also grow as ground cover or living mulch, suppressing weeds and storing soil moisture.
Although the individual benefits are still being debated, a known value of companion planting is the development of the ecosystem for the garden. Practicing this method not only benefits you, but also the environment. Attract beneficial insects by planting herbs, flowers, and vegetables, and give your space a nice presentation over traditional row plantings. This method is designed to diversify your diet while promoting it in your garden at the same time.
Good lettuce companion plants
Tomato plants provide shade for your lettuce in hot weather. Source: VitaminGreen
Depending on the time of year, some of the great companions that grow with lettuce include root crops such as radish, carrot, Parsnips, or Beets. Higher varieties of flowers or vegetables are good choices, as are aromatic herbs and allies. Whether you're looking to scare off a pest, grow lettuce out of season, or add beneficial insects to your harvest, there's a companion for you!
In the fall season, growing your root or allium crops under your lettuce will help you maintain your greenery until the winter season. When the summer heat gives way to cooler daytime temperatures but pests remain, radishes planted near the green will grow quickly, pulling aphids away from your lettuce, serving as a trap crop without affecting the radish root. Beets and carrots are also great options for maximizing your per square foot harvest when growing underground. They can be closely planted with lettuce, which has shallow root systems, without directly competing for water or nutrients. Grow fragrant to complete your salad garden Onions, leek, or garlic Repel or confuse caterpillar pests typically attracted to leafy vegetables.
Edible flowers like planting Marigolds is a great option for attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs or keeping root-knot nematodes burrowing into the root systems of your salad and affecting their ability to properly absorb water or nutrients. Marigold offers added benefits as a medicinal herb while luring snails away from their greens, a well-known lettuce pest.
During the late spring and summer seasons, your leafy vegetables need protection to grow their best, including spinach and arugula. They can be grown out of season if they are planted among the companions that provide shade for them. For example, plant them under expansion Eggplant and tomatoes or bigger herbs like dill and parsley. The latter not only protect them from the midday sun, but also serve as host plants for swallowtail butterflies. French beans Work with specific nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are present in the soil and make them a great gardening companion for leafy vegetables as this is a nutrient essential for green growth. Cucumber are heat lovers and are often trellised to save space in gardens so you can plant your leafy vegetables underneath in the summer to maximize your growing space. This way you will get a gradual harvest of leafy vegetables throughout the season.
What not to plant with lettuce
With the right companion plants, you will reap big heads. Source: Waldo Jaquith
Not all plants are great companions for your garden, with some actually preventing others from growing. Those that shouldn't be grown under lettuce include Cabbage, Kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Romanesco, and mustard. These vegetables are known as brassicas and are part of the cabbage family of vegetables. They emit a chemical compound through their root systems that reduces the germination rates of lettuce seeds. Fennel is an example of an herb known to prevent many garden staples from growing properly. It should have its own space in the garden outside of your salad garden.
Taking into account the growing needs or conditions of many plants can also help organize them into great growing companion families. When grouping your garden companions, shade or sun requirements as well as soil moisture requirements and pH values play a role. For example, if you are planting lettuce under yours Blueberries wouldn't work as they have competing soil pH levels. Blueberries prefer acidic soil, while lettuce needs neutral to slightly alkaline soil to ensure nutrient availability in each plant. Understanding the soil texture, drainage, and the amount of organic matter that will be present for your companion plants will also serve to prepare you before planting them in your garden together.
frequently asked Questions
A colorful selection of lettuce can look great in the garden. Source: my_southborough
Q: Can lettuce and basil be planted together?
A: It can be, but basil doesn't really help with salads or vice versa.
Q: Can you plant lettuce in the same place every year?
A: While this is perfectly possible, it is safer to practice crop rotation. This will reduce the likelihood that pests that attack the lettuce directly will try to settle there permanently. Crop rotation also allows you to have an ever changing landscape in your garden and you can use it to improve your soil. For example, after a lettuce harvest, you could plant runner beans that would add nitrogen back to the soil.
Q: Can I plant lettuce with potatoes?
A: The shallow roots of lettuce plants make it less likely that you will compete with your potatoes for soil nutrients. However, most people climb the area around potatoes for a bigger harvest. Your lettuce plants would quickly be surrounded by heaps of earth or straw, making it difficult for them to do well in your vegetable garden. While they are good companions in one way, they may not be ideal choices for companion plants!
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