Lettuce is a well-known salad ingredient which you can easily grow in your garden at home and harvest around spring or autumn. Growing lettuce is fast so, within two months, you’ll be harvesting full heads. If you enjoy eating salads, you’ll save yourself the cost of purchasing lettuce at the grocery store by growing your fresh greens.
There are varieties of lettuce to choose from for planting. The leaf lettuce is a common option because it grows fast.
It is handy to note that you can find different varieties of lettuce seeds available:
Loose-leaf: This is perhaps the easiest and quickest variety to grow. In about 6 weeks, the plant forms big loose heads. That means in less than two months, you’ll be harvesting some fresh, green lettuce.
Oakleaf: The name of this variety was probably inspired by its leaves as they are quite similar to oak leaves. The leaves are either red or green. You will harvest fully formed heads when the plant matures.
Romaine: Romaine lettuce leaves are crisp and form upright heads. It is an ingredient usually included in Caesar salad.
Butterhead: This lettuce is also called Bibb or Boston; it produces nice, loose heads or soft leaves. We have both heat and cold tolerant varieties of butterhead which can be grown during the summer and winter respectively.
Iceberg: The iceberg lettuce also called crisphead is known for being difficult to grow. Well, it’s not impossible.
Summer Crisp: Summer crisp lettuce resembles loose-leaf varieties initially. However, the leaves later form nice rounded heads.
Growing Lettuce In Your Garden
Lettuce is an example of a plant which thrives in cold weather so the perfect time to grow some lettuce would be in the spring or fall. The ideal temperature for germination and growth process falls between 60-65F (16-18C).
For your lettuce garden, you need a location where the plant can have access to 6-8 hours sunlight. Lettuce can thrive with partial shade (fewer hours of sunlight). However, it’ll be best to go for loose-leaf varieties known to grow faster if you’ll be using less light.
Prepare your soil for planting after you’ve picked a site. Dig up about one or two inches and add some compost or organic manure.
Lettuce can also be grown in containers. It forms shallow roots so it’ll do well in pots, baskets, fabric planters or window-boxes. However, ensure the container isn’t less than 4-6 inches deep and doesn’t lack drainage holes.
Planting Lettuce Seeds
Lettuce seeds can be planted in one of both ways:
Sowing Directly in the Garden or Containers
For heady lettuce varieties, the seeds should be sowed 2 inches apart and the rows should have about 12-18 inches space between them. The seeds shouldn’t be sown too deep into the ground as they tend to germinate lightly. Cover seeds up with a little amount of soil.
Transplanted Lettuce Seedlings Started Indoors With Grow Lights or Purchased
You can transplant your lettuce seedlings on your garden or in containers using a grid pattern. There should be about 10 inches of space between seedlings. If you’re growing varieties of different colours, you can get creative by forming some attractive pattern.
Rows should have about 12-18 inches space between them depending on how large the mature lettuce will be. For purchased plants, the package should contain specific instructions so you know how best to space the seedlings.
Planting Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is quite popular and simple to grow as well. Its young leaves can be harvested after a few weeks or you could be a bit more patient and allow the plant form full heads. The romaine lettuce plant requires moisture, cool temperature and a good amount of sunlight to thrive. With the right environment, you’ll be harvesting fresh, mature lettuce heads in no time.
You also have the option of starting the romaine lettuce seeds indoors. Eventually, you’ll need to move the seedlings to the garden. Space the seedlings 10 inches apart if you want to get mature, full-sized heads.
Succession planting enables you to have a more lengthy harvest period. If you’d like that, then you should try it out. It simply involves planting your seeds at separate times. You can plant some lettuce seeds anytime you want, but just enough not to overwhelm yourself with the harvest.
If you plant some more lettuce seeds weeks after the initial planting (perhaps during late spring or early summer), you’d have successive crops and keep harvesting fresh greens for longer.
Spacing Lettuce Plants
As the lettuce seedlings grow, thinning them creates more space for the plants to form mature sized heads. Purchased seedlings will come with specific spacing requirements. However, a space of 10-12 inches works generally.
If you’re growing baby lettuce, you can reduce the space to about 6-8 inches. This is great for baby romaine lettuce. Summarily for mature-sized heads, you’ll need more space, at least 10 inches apart. However, 5 to 6 inches will be just fine for baby crops.
Growing Lettuce Plants The Right Way
Once you’ve planted your lettuce, you need to constantly ensure the environment is favourable for their development. Lettuce plants need constant moisture if you want a great-tasting harvest. Those plants which suffer from heat stress will produce bitter leaves and bolt. Bolting refers to a situation where the plant begins to produce flowers instead of leaves.
For those in the northern regions where the temperatures could get extremely cold, protect your plants with row covers from frost. You can either place the cover the lettuce directly or float above with hoops.
If the spring weather suddenly becomes very hot, you’ll need to provide some shade for your lettuce plants. You can easily create hoops using materials such as a metal wire or PVC conduit and place a shade cloth on top, secure the cloth with clips. The shade cloth will protect your lettuce plants from heat and delay bolting.
If you already added some organic matter or compost to the soil before planting, then you don’t need to add extra fertilizer as the lettuce plant grows fast.
Slugs and deer are common pests which attack lettuce plants. Diatomaceous earth will repel slugs from your lettuce; ensure you apply again if it rains. To wade off rabbits or deer from your lettuce, willow cloches or chicken wire will help. You can also create a mini hoop right over the lettuce bed and cover with chicken wire or bed netting.
Any fabric used as an insect barrier will suffice too.
Aphids are also pests of lettuce plants. They drink up the leave’s juice which causes distortion. Mild infestation might not be noticed as the lettuce plants develop fasts. When you harvest lettuce, don’t skip washing before use. If the aphids become too much, spray plants with soapy water to remedy the situation. You might have to do so a couple of times.
Within a few weeks, the lettuce begins to produce healthy leaves (if you treated it right). How do you harvest?
If you want baby greens, pick young leaves separately or just harvest the young plant. For loose-leaf or full head varieties, pick outer leaves.
The full head can be harvested by slicing off about one inch above ground level.
Growing the lettuce plant right doesn’t require too much. With the ideal environment, you’ll be harvesting fresh, tasty lettuce in no time. Enjoy!
 Growing Lettuce – Link