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Balcony salad – here's how to plant your own green vegetables

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If you want greenery on your balcony – plant lettuce. There are countless varieties: curly, smooth or jagged heads that decorate your balcony – almost too attractive to eat!

Iceberg lettuce, lamb's lettuce, romaine lettuce, ... you'll definitely have come across these in the supermarket or on your plate. But how about tender jagged canary tongue, pointed devil's ear or red freckled flashy trout back lettuces? These names refer to lettuces with a really delicious taste.

When is the right time?

The right time to plant lettuce is the spring. There are also species that you can plant later. We'll deal with these in more detail below. Iceberg and plucking lettuces are sown first. They require temperatures of between 12-16°C to germinate. If the warmer days at the end of winter or the start of spring are somewhat slow in coming, postpone your lettuce project accordingly. Otherwise your planting will either rot or take a long time to grow. Alternatively you can plant the seeds on the windowsill and then replant on the balcony.

Balcony salad – the right location

The right location is also important. Plucking lettuces prefer a bright spot. A north-facing balcony is not suitable because it is always in the shade. However, lettuces don't like heat either. They become tough and grow shoots very quickly. You can grow lettuce in window boxes and also in pots. Practical: the containers can be positioned in the ideal location.

Buying seeds – very important

Lettuces don't grow on your balcony by magic. You can buy different varieties of seeds in good specialist shops, but also in most supermarkets. Seedlings are also sold in late spring. However, there is a limited range on offer. Another advantage of seeds is that the pack contains around 100 seeds, sometimes more, sometimes less. This means you'll have plenty of seeds to hand and can replant pretty much all year round.
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Planting salad – how it's done

It doesn't matter whether you opt for a box or other type of container. What is important is doing it with care. Scatter the seeds evenly over the loose vegetable soil. The exact distance between plants varies according to the variety – usually 20 to 30 centimetres. But lettuce is forgiving even if you sow it close together. Press the seeds in lightly using a small board. You should not sow too deep because lettuces are light-dependent germinators.

Note: always cover the seeds with just a thin layer of soil. This prevents the seeds drying out.

Equally important for growing lettuce is regular watering. To prevent the seeds being washed away when they are watered, the water jet should be fine and light. Don't overdo the watering. Damp does not mean wet. Waterlogging incurs the risk of rotting. Tip: for uniform germination of the seeds in the pot, cover them with film until they begin to sprout.

4 to 6 weeks – that's how long it takes before you can pick the first leaves of the plucking lettuce. Cut off the outer leaves with clean scissors. Take care not to damage the heart of the plant. You can keep growing new leaves and enjoy the lettuce for weeks.

Delicious varieties – from Winter Wonderland (romaine) to devil's ear

What type should it be? Because there are plenty to choose from. How about May King, butterhead or Winter Wonderland? These picture-perfect green lettuces typically have soft leaves and rounded heads. Many people find the exterior boring, but right after harvesting the leaves are butter-tender. They can also be planted in the spring and summer. You sow the spring varieties in April and the summer salads from May to July. The young plants are fully grown after one and a half months.

Still haven't had enough lettuce? Then try the Till, Lollo Rossa or red Salad Bowl varieties. You can sow and enjoy these well into the summer. If you like your salad with a big head and crunchy leaves, a good choice is Reine des Glaces or Rouge Grenobloise lettuce, for example. They are sown in May and June. These lettuces are not suitable for winter cultivation as they are not frost-resistant, unlike lamb's lettuce and Miner's lettuce. These graceful and vitamin-rich plants are only sown from August to September and you can eat the leaves or the whole lettuce. They are harvested in winter or spring.

We already mentioned the Devil's ear and trout back varieties. They form attractive loose heads with long firm leaves. You should sow these varieties in May or June. If you want to plant a lettuce with loose leaf rosettes, then the Australian yellow, ox tongue or American Brown varieties are best. The lettuce is harvested leaf by leaf, while the heart remains in the bed. This means that the leaves will keep growing back for weeks. When the leaf rosettes start to form blossoms, it's time to eat the entire leaves. You can sow the varieties up until late summer.