Lettuce is a popular vegetable crop used for a variety of dishes in Nigeria. It is a known fact that in almost every occassion, lettuce is never absent. It is used in a variety of ways, however a common dish is the salad. This makes it a commercially viable crop you can cultivate. The demand for lettuce is never in doubt. However there are peak periods and off-peak periods. Therefore all you need to do is know the dynamics of the market and strategize adequately. Lettuce farming can be very rewarding if you know what to do. Hence it is not good to have zeal without knowledge. It is better not venturing into this line of business at all than to have the zeal and miss the way. This article seeks to guide you on how to farm and commercialize lettuce.
Land Preparation for Lettuce Farming
This is an essential part of lettuce farming which cannot be overlooked. When choosing a land for lettuce farming, you should consider a well drained sandy loam soil. This helps in providing the optimal conditions needed. Waterlogged or soggy soils should be avoided. This is because there is little aeration which degrades the soil structure. Hence applying organic manure can help restore soil structure in such soils. It can also be used on every soil type too and is good for lettuce farming. Its slow nutrient release helps retain soil fertility for a long time.
Planting lettuce can be done in a variety of ways. Some farmers prefer planting in a nursery before transplanting. Other farmers choose to plant it directly to its permanent location. Choosing any of these depends on your preferences. Non can be said to be better than the other. This is because each method meets the needs of its users. A nursery bed is formed by tilling the soil and flattening it for even spread of water. Grooves are marked across the bed and the seeds sprinkled lightly and evenly along the grooves. The soil is lightly scattered with the hands evenly across the bed. This flattens out the grooves. These grooves should be such that they do not exceed an inch deep.
Stalks of grass are then used to cover the top of the bed. This is to regulate direct sunlight and water (irrigation) or rain. Direct sunlight may wither-off the young plants. Direct water application or rainfall may dig up the tender plants from the soil. Short stilts are used to support the grass stalks so they do not rest directly on the bed. Allowing the grass stalks to rest directly on the bed can affect proper growth of your lettuce crop. A watering can should be used in the nursery as it reduces incidences of young plants being dug up.
Transplanting Your Lettuce
This is the next stage after planting in the nursery. These crops will need to remain at the nursery for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. You can choose to transplant them onto ridges or still make a bed. As mentioned earlier, it grows best on sandy loam soils and such soils must be well drained. Space is an important factor when cultivating lettuce on a commercial scale. All available spaces must be maximized to realise bountiful harvest within a piece of land. It will be best to also consider applying organic manure. Spacing should be from 6 to 10 inches apart to provide ample space for the crop to blossom.
Most of our discussion has been centred on rainy season farming. This vegetable crop can be cultivated all-year round. Therefore once there is a body of water such as a stream, dam, river or a borehole, you can comfortably cultivate your lettuce. It is necessary to note that another important requirement is land. Infact this is the primary requirement for lettuce farming or any type of farming for that matter. Irrigation farming refers to the artificial channeling of water to grow your crop. This is specifically done during the dry or harmattan season.
Tending Your Crop
This is where a bulk of the work lies. Meeting the above requirements is not enough. You will have to look after or tend your crop. This is done by way of weeding, spraying pesticides/insecticides as well as the application of fertilizer. This is of utmost importance to how well your crop grows. The most important part of the lettuce crop are the leaves. Unfortunately these are the most vulnerable to pest and insect attacks hence the need to apply pesticides/insecticides. The frequency of applying these depends on the severity of attacks.
However the frequency of application is reduced considerably when it reaches maturity. This is to allow for its effect to fade off as it is prepared for harvesting.It is important that it is not harvested while the pesticides are still active. This can cause a health risk to consumers which is not good for business. This is a business you can do that can fetch you millions if you follow the right procedure. Disposing your products can be done by visiting the central vegetable market in your state to sample current pricing and also to advertise your products. Big time players in the industry often buy off the entire crop on the farm.