Turn the lettuce patch into a highly productive and decorative feature with this simple plan.

Select a spot that gets morning sun but is shaded from the hot midday and afternoon sun. If need be, use 30 to 40 percent shade cloth.

  1. Prepare a square or rectangular bed about a metre wide, forking in compost with a little volcanic rock dust or Talborne Vita-Veg.
  2. Plant each side border with a row of bright marigolds to deter goggas.
  3. Complete the borders with lettuce ‘friends’ or companion plants: bush beans in front and basil at the back.
  4. Inside the borders, draw diagonal lines about 25 centimetres apart to guide you in planting lettuce in rows, starting with the longest one from two diagonally opposite corners.
  5. Play with different colours and textures, starting with green cos lettuce in the centre and alternating with red oak leaf lettuce, green oak leaf lettuce, frilly Lollo Rosa and mustard leaf greens.
  6. Give each plant a collar, cut from old toilet rolls or yoghurt containers, to stop cutworms chewing through the stalks.
  7. Spread a mulch of coarse compost to keep the ground moist for longer.
  8. Now plant radish seeds in between the rows of lettuce. These quick growers will shade out the weeds and be harvested by the time the lettuces need the space.
  9. Sprinkle crushed eggshells around the plants to deter slugs and snails.
  10. Water regularly with a fine spray and don’t allow plants to dry out – stressed, wilted leaves turn bitter.
  11. You can start harvesting the outer leaves of leaf lettuces after about two weeks.
  12. Repeat this high-density planting every four weeks to ensure a continuous supply of greens.
  13. For quicker, stronger growth, plant leaf and fruiting veggies on a waxing moon.
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