An improved lettuce table

For many years we used a lettuce table to grow cut-and-come-again salad crops, much like the bagged mixed leaves that are air freighted from half round the world. Ours were 2m from the back door and cut just before eating. See this page for more details.

The bench sits on 4 legs in dishes of water to prevent slugs and snails from getting into the box.

Now we have a small veg garden again it is important to make best use of the space and it seemed a waste to use raised beds for salads when they could be growing crops that would supply veg over winter.

Design criteria

  1. Table and base to be separate so that the table can be moved to the greenhouse in winter.
  2. Have two compartments for different crops e.g. salad leaves and watercress.
  3. Use as much recovered materials as possible.
  4. Recover unused irrigation water.
  5. Use sustainable growing media as much as possible.
  6. Have a rain cover to avoid flooding the growing media.
  7. Be easily reproducible.
  8. Be easy to make using basic tools.

The base of the table was made from 9mm plywood and the sides from 150mm x 22mm rough sawn timber. I did not have enough of either so had to buy in rejected items from a DIY store. The ply sheet was very bowed and the two planks had been damaged in transit. The base was made from recovered timber.

The liner is butyl rubber pond liner left over from a previous project (not ours) so was destined for the tip.  Both the base and the trough were given a couple of coats of external wood paint from the remains of tins used for other jobs. We had just enough recovered screws to fix it all together!

Why go to to the bother of scrounging around for materials? Simply because it reduces the environmental impact of projects and also saves money. It also shows what cane be done with stuff that would otherwise have been scrapped.

The table and stand before filling

Drain tap in the base of each compartment

Finding the right growing media was difficult. Ideally, we would have used a mix of our own compost plus leaf mould and possibly some horticultural grit to aid drainag. There was no homemade compost available and garden centres have been closed for many weeks so no source of grit. It was possible to get a coir block by post and mix it with the last bag of peat-free compost we had. Not ideal but the only viable option this year.

The finished table with seeds sown in the left box

The first seeds were sown directly onto the compost on 2nd June and covered with a thin layer of coir. There are two types of salad leaves with some radishes in the centre. The other box is not yet planted but may well have some Watercress plants we are cultivating.

There are no plans or construction details provided here as each table will be individual to its user.  The University of Maryland Home & Garden Information Center have a useful PDF showing the US version. It has a mesh floor so that water drains freely but is lost.

The long term aim is to use a homemade growing medium using leaf mould and compost produced on site. That should be possible next year.  There will be updates as the project progresses so please check back soon. We will also record the yields through the year.

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