Beautiful, resilient and easy to grow, lettuce usually makes a successful crop as long as it’s grown in cool weather and never allowed to run dry. I love growing lettuce, but it’s been many seasons since I have planted lettuce by itself, in its own dedicated space. Instead, I interplant lettuce with other veggies so that one or both benefits from the companion planting relationship. Here are the four best ways I have found (so far) for growing lettuce to use for companion planting…
1. Lettuce with Onions or Carrots
Upright onions and carrots do a poor job of competing with weeds, and their roots reach downward with limited spread into adjoining soil. To reduce weeding time and make better use of space, I plant shallow-rooted lettuce between rows of onions and carrots. The fast-growing, broad-leaved lettuce works as a smother crop between the onion or carrot rows, and lettuce is easy to pull when the root crops need more space – if we haven’t eaten it all.
2. Lettuce with Broccoli
Plenty of space is needed between plants if you are to grow big heads of broccoli, but the open space between broccoli (or cabbage) plants make a fine niche for growing lettuce. When used as filler in the broccoli bed, heat-tolerant leaf lettuces block weeds and shade the soil with their expanding rosette of leaves. Lettuce plants still left in the ground when the broccoli reaches full size benefit from having summer sun filtered through the broccoli stems and foliage.
3. Lettuce with Cilantro
In my climate, spring crops of cilantro are here and gone in a matter of weeks, so growing leaf lettuce and cilantro together always works well. Both can be sown from seed at the same time, which makes this companion planting scheme a cinch.
4. Lettuce with Flowers
In the time it takes for pansies or other spring bedding plants to fill out containers and start blooming, I can usually get a quick crop of lettuce by slipping seedlings into open spaces. The biggest advantage to growing lettuce in container bouquets is convenience, because the containers can be kept only a few steps outside the kitchen door.
Being ready for these and other companion planting opportunities often means growing lettuce from seed sown directly in the garden and working with transplanted seedlings. To have a smattering of seedlings on hand to slip in here and there, I sow pinches of lettuce seeds into small containers every couple of weeks, and set out the plants when a new chance at companion planting unfolds.
Yesterday I planted lettuce seedlings between my widely spaced cabbage plants when I finished weeding them. Tomorrow I’ll direct-sow lettuce seeds between rows of carrots. When it comes to what grows between the rows, who needs weeds when you can grow garden-fresh lettuce?