How to Grow Lettuce | Living the Country Life

How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce is a wonderful vegetable for the early spring garden. There are dozens of varieties. Here is how to get started.
  • Lettuce Seeds

    Lettuce (Lactuca sativa), like radishes, should be planted in the spring as early as you can get into the garden to work the soil. The plants can even tolerate a light frost. It is a cool season crop, growing best before temperatures get above 80 degrees.

    The seed can germinate in fairly cool soils, but you will get better germination once the soil has warmed up to 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    The seed of some lettuce varieties needs light in order to germinate.

    The seed is small, so barely cover the seed then gently firm the soil over the seed with your hand as you are planting.

    The seed is very light in weight so try to plant when the wind is calm. Since the seed is rather fine, people often plant the seed too thickly. 

    Try mixing the seed with a seed starting or potting soil mix, then scatter that in the row. The seed starting mix will help distribute the seed and also acts as a light covering for the seed to help it germinate more uniformly. You may also be able to find pelleted seed, which makes it larger and easier to plant more evenly. 

    Seed tape is also available - it has seed stuck to it in the correct spacing. Just lay out the tape in the row and you will be ready to go. Some people have made their own "seed tape" using toilet paper. Lay out a length of toilet paper. Mist it a bit with water then sprinkle out seed on toilet paper along the center of the strip at about the spacing listed on the seed packet. Mist it again, then take one of the long edges and fold it over the top of the seed.  Do the same with the other side. Firm down the layers with your hand and you are ready to take your DYI "seed TP" out to the garden. 

    No matter which way you sow your seeds, you can always thin out some of the extra plants if they get planted too thickly.

    Date Published: April 23, 2015
    Date Updated: May 13, 2015
    Tags: lettuce
  • Spacing Lettuce

    Lettuce can be planted in peat-pots or plug flats in a greenhouse or sunny window to get a jump on spring. The small plants can be transplanted to the garden.

    Lettuce can be planted in a single, double or triple row, with at least 6-inches between rows or spread out over a wider row, perhaps 12-inches wide. Just try to get the spacing between the plants about right.

    That will be particularly important for the loose head types of lettuce like Romaine or Butter Head. These types of lettuce have a longer maturity time and need more space to grow and produce a nice sized head.

    The loose-leaf lettuce types are much more forgiving. If they have more room to grow, they will fill in, otherwise they will take up what space they have available to them.

    Usually there is plenty of seed in a couple packets of seed to satisfy the needs of a small family.

    Date Published: April 23, 2015
    Date Updated: May 13, 2015
    Tags: lettuce
  • Harvesting lettuce

    Leaf lettuce is the best adapted type of lettuce for production in gardens in the northern states. It is early-maturing, which means you can often get a good harvest before the weather warms and the lettuce bolts or flowers.

    Leaf lettuce also offers the advantage of being able to be harvested multiple times. Just use a scissors or sharp knife to sheer off the tender leaves, near the base of the plant. 

    New leaves will grow up in a week or 10 days so you can harvest it again. Generally, once the weather starts to get hot, later in June, lettuce will bolt, the leaves will get tough and taste bitter. 

    Date Published: April 23, 2015
    Date Updated: May 13, 2015
    Tags: lettuce
  • Types of lettuce

    There are dozens of different varieties of lettuce with leaf color ranging from plain green to pink, dark red, burgundy and nearly black. Some varieties offer speckled leaves too. Leaf shape can also be quite variable from mostly rounded to oak-leaf in shape or even more dissected and finely textured. 

    'Sandy', shown at left, is an oak-leaf type of leaf lettuce that is a 2015 All-America Selections Winner.

    Butterhead is another type of lettuce. It also forms heads, a bit more compact than Romaine but more rounded in shape than the Romaine types. Butterhead lettuce is also a longer season lettuce so try starting seed indoors.  It might be better suited to growing in cooler areas, perhaps in the Black Hills where the weather stays cooler into the summer. 'Buttercrunch', a 1963 All-America Selections winner is still a popular variety of lettuce today.  There are even smaller varieties that would work well in containers.  Of course the leaf lettuce would also work well in containers.

    Romaine lettuce is one type of lettuce that is significantly higher in important nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, pro-vitamin A and folate, compared to the typical iceberg type of lettuce.  Red leafed Romaines as well as other red-leafed types of lettuce will also have higher anti-oxidant content.  Lettuce is also a good source of fiber and minerals like manganese, potassium, iron and calcium, and is also low in calories.

    Date Published: April 23, 2015
    Date Updated: May 13, 2015
    Tags: lettuce

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