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How to Build a Portable Lettuce Garden
by Carol B. Link

Because of Betty Hall's creativity and love of gardening and Keith Hall's construction skills and propensity for problem solving, the two have evolved into quite an innovative pair. Anything Betty conceives, sees, hears or reads about, Keith will persevere until he brings the concept to fruition.

A friend told Betty about a lettuce garden she had seen in a magazine and then brought the design to Keith, who decided to give the project a try.

Keith and Betty immediately implemented a few changes in the design. The initial plan called for untreated lumber, no supports for the underside of the table, no wheels for mobility, and no screen cover to prevent pesky squirrels and chipmunks from having a lettuce smorgasbord.

Following the initial design, Keith constructed the table's frame. Next, he reinforced the legs with wooden supports. After topping the table with the recommended hardware cloth, he created a 3-inch-deep soil bed, using two boards to separate the bed into three sections.

For a head start on the growing season in her Alabama garden, Betty plants lettuce seeds in February. To facilitate moving the table, Keith added wheels to each table leg. On warm days, she will roll the planting table out of the garage into the sunlight. Before sundown, the table will be transported back to the warmth and security of the garage.

Because chipmunks and squirrels are a problem in the neighborhood, Betty suggested the addition of a screen cover to protect the tender lettuce. In addition, the screen buffers and reduces messy splatter when water is applied to the soil.

Betty fills the soil bed with 1/2 cubic feet of potting soil, into which she incorporates a 5-gallon bucket of equal parts peat and compost. After filling each planting section with soil, Betty lays out rows in each section using a yardstick. Last year she planted 'Salad Bowl' lettuce seeds in the first section, 1/3 Swiss chard, 1/3 spinach and 1/3 Romaine in the middle section, and in the last section she sowed red lettuce, 'Buttercrunch' looseleaf lettuce, and mesclun (a French word that means a variety of lettuces that blend well). At the end of each row, she attaches name tags to the framework to identify the varieties of salad greens.

Betty suggests that by attaching a glass cover instead of a screen, the table could be used as a stem-cutting and seed propagation bed for flowers and other vegetables, but because of the bed's shallowness, as soon as the plants' root systems develop the seedlings would need to be transplanted into containers. The table could also serve as a bed for shallow-rooted herbs.

The following list of materials is required to construct the bed at an approximate cost of $100. The time required is four hours, more or less.

• 2 treated 12-foot 2x4s   • 2 treated 10-foot 2x4s   • 1 roll 3x5 hardware cloth  
• 1 roll 3x5 window screen (Keith used an old window screen)   • 4 6-foot 1x4s  
• 4 3-inch wheels   • 1 box 3-inch screws   • 1 stapler   • 1 box half-inch staples 

Posted January 2011


Carol B. Link, a veteran Etowah County Master Gardener, writes a weekly gardening column for the Gadsden Times and is a long



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