Growing lettuce from seed is tricky until you get the hang of it – mostly because the seed is so small, lettuce likes rich soil and likes a consistently moist (not soggy) soil (not dumping water on it every once in a while when you remember). Use a good mix to get a productive bed going. They like a well drained sandy loam with organic matter best. Peat moss, your sandy soil and some good compost would work well. The peat moss will help retain moisture and adds needed organic matter. Take the time to screen the soil in the top inch or so of the bed (or at least pick out the rocks and bigger pebbles) – even better. They generally like cooler weather in part sun/shade but I have grown lettuce of all types year round but in summer I use drip tape and shade cloth. Start with loose leaf types before moving on to head lettuce. Cut and come agains like Oak Leaf etc. Elliot Coleman is the guy to read about lettuce, mesculan and greens. Follow his advice, take the time (worth it) to prepare the bed the first time and you’ll have success. Lettuce in containers with good potting soil with moisture retaining pellets where you will remember to water it (and can also cut it easily) is something I also do while growing in the garden. I eat lots of salads.
Permaculture is a fine idea, but if you think SHTF is anytime soon – keep it in mind, IMHO, and just start practicing growing stuff in one of the more common methods and bear in mind permaculture as an ideal. That will take enough of your time to build experience if you have not ever grown enough of your own food to feed yourself consistently. Now, one type of garden construction that is ‘permaculture-ish’ is the ‘keyhole’ garden. I have several in the back of the property and they produce very well and are very easy to maintain. (I am in the mid-atlantic states) I do utilize some permaculture principles but for every day annual vegetable gardening? Hell no – thanks very much in my experience. And, I have 12 acres and have been gardening for years using various ‘methods’/experiments. I plant potatoes of various kinds in all kinds of places tucked around the acreage. I plant lettuce in the woods/along the stream and let it bolt and reseed. I grow watercress, mushrooms etc around in the woods, in the odd corners. I understand and agree with the principles but for the average, need to learn to grow food NOW,….not something I would recommend you make your first priority.
As I say, I use lots of different ‘methods’ and garden construction/growing container construction on my place. Do this from experience growing different types of food here, where I live, and the state of the soil at the time (ever changing as I DO pay a great deal of attention to this) – depends on what I have found to work best for the plant I am trying to grow! I raise rabbits (mostly weed free manure) specifically for manure in the main garden as I can add it straight away for example.
Every other year (when I have scheduled to do a heavy, heavy canning/preserving – more than normal – to substantially restock stores with lots of excess) I use the Mittleider method (sorta modified) to grow annual vegetables with the least fuss and worry and best results I can count on. Doesn’t matter if it is a new bed or and old well developed soil bed. I have lots of experience with it and can vouch for it. I think it is the best IMHO for a newbie to follow because if you follow the simple steps you will get good results no questions without tons of soil building (heavy labor, time and can get expensive if you don’t have your own source of compost etc). No one seems to talk about it much as it doesn’t have fancy names, splashy books, celebrity gardeners, ‘green’/crunchy sites promoting etc I suppose. I have 6′ tall T-posts on the end of my raised beds that hold a five gallon bucket on each side, a length of hose attached to each, and a drip tape attached to that placed under the soil. The rain or I keep the buckets filled so I don’t have much watering labor at all. There are easy, get from the grocery store products that you can buy for the nutrients described in the ebook that are the same thing. (Think epsom salts, beer, etc) Check it out if you like. I first saw this method being used in China – later in Africa and in California.
Did you dry out the pepper seeds a bit before planting? Not all seeds from store bought produce are viable – I think because of the fact many vegetables are picked way before they are ‘ripe’ (and the seed becomes actually viable) because of the long distances they are often transported, and artificially ripened before being placed in the stores. Why they taste often like crap. Sometimes they will rot. Peppers are actually very easy to grow – haha – not so easy to keep from cross-pollinating!
HTH someone – don’t get me started on food growing!