Lettuce's botanical name Lactuca sativa is from the Latin word lac meaning 'milk' - which refers to its milky sap. The genus Lactuca is made up of around 100 species, with Lactuca sativa probably originating in the Near East and countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Originally used as a medicinal plant, it was, however, being eaten as early as 4500BC, and was enjoyed both by the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks believed lettuce induced sleep, the Romans ate it at the beginning of a meal to sharpen the appetite, and it was known to the Anglo-Saxons as sleepwort. Read more
How to grow Lettuces
Lettuce seeds can either be sown direct in the garden or in trays of seed compost for planting out later. The seedlings do not transplant well in warmer weather, so later sowings are best made direct in the cropping positions. Lettuces need an open site and light, fertile, moisture-retentive soil; they do not thrive on poor soil which dries out during summer.
For a continuous supply, it is best to sow 'little and often', about every two or three weeks. When sowing outdoors, sow thinly in a drill 1.5cm/½-¾in deep in rows about 25cm/10in apart. Protect the earliest sowings with cloches. Thin out seedlings to 10-15cm/4-6in apart. Keep plants well-watered at all times. Where possible, rotate lettuce crops to avoid a build-up of fungal diseases.