You don’t have to be an expert gardener to grow a bowl of lettuce. Actually, growing your own lettuce 6-9 months out of the year is easy with the right direction and set up.
Spend a few moments a week and grow lettuce to harvest a bowl full of organic, fresh salad.
This fast-growing crop of greens will sprout and be ready to harvest in less than two months.
In our family we often eat salad but when you purchase lettuce at the grocery store every week it can get really expensive especially with inflation. Growing lettuce at home is a quick and inexpensive solution to spending too much on grocery at the store.
In this blog post I’m going to share with you a helpful 5 step growing guide to gardening organic salad greens.
4 Different Types of Lettuce
There are four main types of lettuce plants that you can grow in your garden. These include iceberg, romaine, butterhead, and leaf lettuce. Under each section, I have shared my favorite of each type to grow in my own garden.
Loose leaf Lettuce Plant
Leaf lettuce is the most delicate of the four types and comes in many varieties; it has frilly leaves that range from dark green to red or purple in color and its flavor varies depending on which variety you choose.
- Red Sails Lettuce
- Oak Leaf Lettuce
- Lollo Rossa Lettuce
It is easy to harvest leaf lettuce. There are many loose-leaf varieties to choose from.
Romaine lettuce is quite crunchy as well and has an elongated shape. Its leaves are much darker in color than iceberg lettuce and have a slightly bitter taste.
- Parris Island
- Little Gem
Crisp head Lettuce
When you grow iceberg lettuce it is a firm, crunchy lettuce with light green leaves. It has a mild flavor and is great for salads or burgers.
- Great Lakes
Butterhead lettuce has soft, buttery green leaves with a mild flavor that some have likened to cabbage or celery.
- Bibb lettuce
- Boston lettuce
- Buttercrunch lettuce
Here are two favorite places to buy heirloom lettuce seeds that I use in my own garden.
Mary’s Heirloom Seeds- Check out selection HERE.
Seeds Now! Check these seeds out HERE.
5 Steps to Growing Salad Greens
Select lettuce seeds for the season. Determine the type of lettuce you want to grow: There are many types of lettuce, including loose-leaf, butterhead, romaine, and iceberg.
Location in full sun for growth. Lettuce typically needs about 6 hours of sunlight per day to grow properly. However, it can also be grown in partial shade if necessary.
Nutrient-rich soil– Fertile soil is important for growing lettuce because it provides the necessary nutrients for the plant to grow and thrive.
Lettuce requires a variety of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as trace elements like calcium and magnesium. These nutrients are essential for the plant to produce healthy leaves and develop strong roots.
Right temperature– When the hot weather starts and the cool weather ends, lettuce prefers the cool to keep growing and will often bolt with a seed stalk in the heat.
Extending the growing season– To extend the season in the heat, add shade cloth to keep the temperatures down. When spring and fall weather is too cold, below 35 degrees freezing, use row covers with lettuce seedlings.
Two Ways of Planting Lettuce Seeds
To direct seed lettuce, start by preparing the soil for planting. Loosen the soil and remove any weeds or debris. Lettuce seedlings have shallow roots and need the soil to be loose to grow.
Then, sprinkle the lettuce seeds evenly over the surface of the soil and press down lightly to ensure that they make contact with the soil. Once you have planted your seeds, water them thoroughly and keep them moist as the lettuce grows.
Make sure you check back regularly to thin out any overcrowded plants. You don’t want the seedlings to be too close, so they have room to grow bigger and don’t fight for the nutrients in the soil.
Start Indoors then Transplant
Growing lettuce indoors and then planting the seedlings to the outside garden is a great way to get a head start on your growing season especially when it is too cold or hot to start the seeds directly in the garden.
To start, prepare pots or containers filled with soil and sow the lettuce seeds lightly over the top of the seed starting mix. Then cover lightly with more soil. Press the soil down gently and then water. Check out starting seeds indoors mini-course HERE.
Keep the soil moist and let the seeds germinate. When just a few leaves start to show, makes sure to add LED light to your seed starting space. Once the plants are about 4-6 weeks old, you can begin hardening them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions before planting them in the garden.
Increasing Lettuce Growth
Here are some ways to help accelerate the growth of your lettuce plants:
Proper Soil Preparation: Lettuce thrives in soil that is rich in organic matter and well-draining. Mix compost into the soil before planting.
Adequate Watering: Lettuce needs consistent moisture but not waterlogged conditions. Water deeply once a week or more if the weather is dry.
Fertilization: Use a balanced organic liquid fertilizer once a month to provide necessary nutrients for healthy growth.
Temperature Control: Lettuce prefers cool temperatures between 45-75°F. Consider planting in a shaded area during hot summer months or plant cloth to protect from freezing weather.
Proper Spacing: Plant lettuce seeds or seedlings at least 3-4 inches apart to allow for proper airflow and prevent overcrowding.
Pest Control: Monitor for lettuce pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails which can damage leaves and slow growth.
Growing Guide for Spring and Fall
In spring or fall, it is easier to keep the soil level moist for lettuce seeds to create optimum growth.
Lettuce is a cool-season crop that thrives in the spring and late fall. Here are some tips to help you grow healthy and delicious lettuce:
Here are 5 tips for planting lettuce in spring and fall:
Choose the Right Variety: There are many different types of lettuce with varying degrees of heat tolerance and flavor. For spring planting, look for varieties that are known to do well in cooler temperatures such as Buttercrunch, Loose-leaf Lettuce, Romaine or Red Salad Bowl.
Prepare the Soil: Lettuce grows best in soil that is rich in organic matter and drains well. Work compost or aged manure into your soil before planting to improve its fertility and texture.
Plant at the Right Time: Lettuce seed can be sown directly into the ground as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. Alternatively, you can start seedlings indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date and transplant them outside once they have a few true leaves.
Water Regularly: Lettuce requires consistent moisture to grow properly. Water your plants regularly, especially during dry spells. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this can promote disease.
Consider Succession Planting: To extend your harvest season, consider planting lettuce in successive waves every 2-3 weeks throughout the spring season. This will ensure a steady supply of fresh greens all season long.
Growing Guide for Summer
It’s hard to grow lettuce in the heat of summer. Lettuce does not thrive in hot climates. It is a cool weather crop and loves the average temperatures to be 35-75 degrees. During the summer the soil surface is dry and that is not optimal for growing lettuce.
But if you have a spot or container that does not get direct sunlight, then you still may be able to grow lettuce. Or you live in a climate where it does not exceed 80 degrees as a high, you can definitely grow lettuce. It all depends on the average temperature.
Two Ways to Harvest Lettuce
Cut and Come Again
Cut and Come Again is a method to harvest lettuce in which you only cut off the larger outer leaves. Don’t take more than 1/3 of each plant so that it will continue to grow, and you will continue to harvest. This allows the center of the plant to continue growing and produce multiple harvests throughout the season.
Cutting the whole head lettuce plants
Cutting the whole head lettuce plant refers to cutting off all the lettuce at once. This method is used when harvesting lettuce that has already reached maturity or when all of the leaves have become too large for eating.
When is the best time to harvest?
For tender lettuce, the best time to grow lettuce and harvest is when the leaves are just a few inches long. If harvesting baby lettuce, you want to pick those leaves when they are very small and tender, usually around the two-leaf stage.
When harvesting larger heads of lettuce, wait until the head is firm and full; this will ensure maximum flavor and crispness.
Ready to start growing your own lettuce? The thought of having organic, fresh lettuce at my disposal motivates me to grab some seeds and start growing a bowl of lettuce for my everyday salad.
How about you? Does growing looseleaf lettuce sound like something you could do even with no gardening experience? I think you can. Let growing lettuce be a confidence booster as you start gardening.
Let me know how your lettuce leaves grow. I can’t wait for you to enjoy this simple pleasure of growing your own salad.
What season do you grow lettuce?
Lettuce is a cool seasoned vegetable and grows best when temperatures are between 40-75°F. Generally, the lettuce growing season begins in late winter or early spring and continues through mid-summer before the warm weather sets in. Different varieties will mature at different times.
What can I grow lettuce in?
Use containers, garden beds, or vertical planters for best results. Make sure to have a potting soil that is well drained soil.
A planting bed that is free from pests or raised beds make for easy lettuce harvest. If you only have a small space to grow, check out this blog post.
What are the best lettuce varieties to grow as a cool season vegetable?
Certain varieties of lettuce are more suited to growing in cool season climates. Some of the best include Bibb, Winter Density Romaine, Black-Seeded Simpson, Red Sails, and Buttercrunch.
Order a seed packet of lettuce and plant seeds as soon as the temperature cooperates. As the lettuce grows, a few leaves at a time continue to monitor and make sure that your plant is safe from insects and getting plenty of water.
The lettuce leaves will be ready to harvest and enjoy. Make sure to try lettuce varieties like loose leaf lettuces and romaine lettuces to see what grows best in your area.
Try growing as a fall harvest or a spring crop. And if you need more information on how to set up a garden, check out this post HERE.
What lettuce is better to grow as a fall crop?
Plant lettuce seeds 6-8 weeks before first frost so that the lettuce plants can establish their roots before the cool soil sets in. The fall garden is a perfect time to plant lettuce seeds as a cool season crop, even when it’s still warm outside.