This post is sponsored by 3-IN-ONE® Brand, but all opinions are my own.
I might not be able to tell you what day it is (seriously: When did we get into full-blown summer?), but I know that more people than ever are gardening this year. So this post is for all you new gardeners, or maybe folks who haven’t gardened in a long time.
You might not believe it if you saw my garden, but my best advice for people getting into gardening is to start small (there’s plenty of time for bulldozing the lawn in the years to come after you’re well and truly hooked). And when I say small, I mean small.
Lots of people are interested in growing food now and for good reason. Going to the grocery store is difficult, and there is great comfort in providing food for yourself and knowing how it was grown. And even if you got a late start, you can still start growing now.
The very simplest way to start gardening is to grow a pot of loose leaf lettuce. It’s edible, beautiful and simple.
WHAT YOU NEED
You’ll need a container, but it can be anything. Lettuce doesn’t need more than 4 or 5 inches of root room so you don’t need anything too deep (although if you have a deep pot you love, have at it). If your container doesn’t have holes, drills a few big ones in it.
You’ll also need a couple tools. A trowel is great and later on, when it’s time to harvest, a little pruner is nice to have, or else a scissors works too. Check yard sales, secondhand stores and that scary corner of your shed or garage for tools. If they are rusty, you can rejuvenate them with a bit of 3-IN-ONE® Multi-Purpose Oil and steel wool. Just put on a few drops and let it soak in for a couple minutes, then hit it with a little steel wool. Follow up with a sharpener if the blades are feeling a little dull. The oil will not only help remove the rust and crud but help prevent new rust from forming.
And lastly, you’ll need a bag of potting soil (I prefer organic with no synthetic fertilizer for this) and a packet of loose leaf lettuce seeds.
HOW TO PLANT
I’m using a wood box that I actually picked out of a dumpster. It turns out it must have been used for seeds at some point because there are small, ancient seed packets stapled to it! I saw it poking out the top and thought it was cute. Suffice to say, it’s had a good scrub. I used a half-inch drill bit to drill three big holes in the bottom.
I never have a problem with soil coming out of holes, but if you are concerned about it, use a small piece of drywall mesh tape over the hole or, in a pinch, a coffee filter, although I prefer the former method.
Fill up your container with potting mix, leaving about a half inch on the top. Water the soil throughly, which will compact slightly and you’ll be left with about an inch at the top.
Then you just need to sow your seeds. I just used a simple mesclun mix so I’m just sowing them thinly across the entire top, but if you want to get creative you could use red and green mixes and make stripes or a pattern. Tip the seeds into your palm and then pinch a small amount to scatter on the top.
Then take your flat hand and just lightly press them into the soil. They just need good soil contact and that’s it.
NUTURE THOSE BABIES
Normally lettuce appreciates part sun to sun, but since it’s the hotter part of summer, place your container in a partly shady spot.
Keep the soil moist but take care not to wash away your seeds when you water, and in about a week you should see little sprouts. When the lettuce reaches about 4 inches you can start harvesting with those shined-up pruners or scissors, by cutting leaves as you need them, leaving about an inch at the base. Your lettuce will keep growing and providing lots of delicious salads.
Homegrown vegetables always taste better than anything you can buy in the store, but homegrown lettuce is so different it hardly seems like it’s the same vegetable. It’s buttery and tender and full of flavor.
You’re going to love it and you’re going to want to keep growing. And that’s the point.
Happy gardening! When you’re ready to dig up the lawn, let me know. I’ve got lots of advice for that too.
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Erin, This was a terrific post for new gardeners, enough detail and plenty of encouragement! As a fairly experienced gatdener I appreciated the 3-in-1 cleaning method! Thanks for all you do.
Thanks for the tip about the oil! When I saw the link I clicked it to find out more about the oil but then realized we already have some for my husband’s hair clippers (I’ve shaved his head since we were married) so I know what my job is that I’m doing today!
What a wonderful idea to plant lettuce in a little box like that. I never would have thought of doing that. We so often think of only planting vegetables in a garden which requires a lot of upkeep, but I really like this idea.
Erin , I am definitely going to do the lettuce thing. Been gardening for years and this is my first year for tomatoes in a container, this gardening thing never gets old, just keep learning new things. Do you have any suggestions for annual flower seeds that may be planted now?? Thank you for all the info and insight you provide.
I love the idea of making your own garden box. It’s work but the results show bear fruit! Looks great!
I just started gardening this year and grew several veggies and herbs in a cedar raised bed garden that I built from a kit purchased online. I was under the impression that if you were growing edibles in a container/raised bed, you had to be mindful of the material used because chemicals could leach into the soil and make food toxic. Since you found your lettuce container in a dumpster, I’m assuming you don’t agree? I am interested in your thoughts – thank you!