15cm between rows
Lamb’s lettuce, Valerianella locusta, is also known as corn salad and mache. Technically an arable weed, its other name, ‘corn salad’, relates to its habit of growing between the stubs of corn crops after they’ve been harvested. Lambs’ lettuce is a low growing salad crop with small, dark green leaves with a slightly nutty flavour, and is prized for its hardiness and availability in winter.
Unlike other salad crops, which can develop a bitter taste when temperatures start to fall in autumn, lambs’ lettuce slows down its growth so its leaves remain succulent and flavoursome. Its fresh, nutty flavour makes it the perfect addition to salads, particularly as a foil for stronger tasting leaves like rocket and mustard leaves.
How to grow lambs’ lettuce
Sow lambs’ lettuce seeds on moist soil or compost from spring to summer, covering the seed with a light layer of compost. In cooler months, cover the growing area with a cloche to aid germination and growth. There’s no need to thin the leaves, simply harvest them as and when you need them and sow every two weeks to ensure a continual crop.
Where to grow lambs’ lettuce
You can grow lambs’ lettuce in open soil, pots or raised beds, and it works well as a ‘catch crop’ too – simply scatter seeds on the surface of the soil where other crops have been cleared. Bear in mind that lambs’ lettuce grows quite slowly, so give as much space to this delicious crop as you have room for.
How to sow lamb’s lettuce
Sow lambs’ lettuce on the surface of moist, prepared compost or soil, and cover with a fine layer of compost. Keep the surface of the compost moist, water with a watering can with a fine rose if necessary. Use cloches to aid germination and speed up growth in cooler months, although this isn’t actually necessary – lambs’ lettuce is hardy and grows well without protection.
Caring for lambs’ lettuce
Apart from keeping the soil or compost moist and removing annual weeds, you may need to protect young seedlings from slugs and snails, although older plants will be less affected. Pick the culprits off by hand regularly, and consider using pet- and wildlife-friendly slug pellets (without the active ingredient metaldehyde) as a last resort only.
Harvesting lambs’ lettuce
Like most salad crops, you can pick lamb’s lettuce either by removing individual leaves or by harvesting the whole rosette. Use scissors or secateurs for the cleanest cut. Lambs’ lettuce leaves will last for up to two weeks in the fridge, although they’re best eaten fresh.
Growing lambs’ lettuce: problem-solving
Lambs’ lettuce is relatively trouble free, but you may find aphids, slugs and snails on the leaves.