One of the most versatile kitchen staples, there is nothing like the crunch of cool crisp lettuce in a salad or sandwich. As easy as it is to grow in most American regions, it is no wonder that as of 2019 it was the top selling organic produce across the US. Lettuce is a popular choice for many gardeners as well, as it is easy to grow in both garden beds and containers. Additionally, it can be grown in the fall or the spring and is readily harvested in about 30 days depending on the variety.
Seeds and Seedlings
Lettuce is so easy to grow it can be started indoors for early transplants or sown directly in the garden. Growing from seeds or from seedlings is a matter of preference for the grower.
To sow lettuce directly in the garden, simply plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep, tamp them down, and water. It's that simple! When spacing seeds, it is important to consider the size and growth of the mature lettuce. Referring to your seed packet directions will give the best clarity and recommendation on how to best space your seeds.
Keep in mind that lettuce seeds prefer cool soil and will not germinate in soil that is 80 degrees F. or warmer. Avoid sowing directly in the garden in the summer and instead opt for Spring or Fall.
To grow from seedling, you will want to provide the seedlings with plenty of sunlight or keep them under artificial lighting until they are ready to move into the garden. Transplant the seedlings as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. If a hard freeze threatens, protect your seedlings with a cloche or row cover. As the season progresses you can reserve and plant a number of lettuce seedlings to fill empty spaces in the garden.
Selecting a Variety
There are many different varieties of lettuce. Deciding what to grow in your garden comes down to a matter of taste and preference.
Butterhead is noted for its soft, ruffled green exterior and creamy to light green interior. There are two types of butterhead lettuce: Boston and Bibb. The Boston variety has small, round, and loosely formed heads with soft, supple leaves that bruise easily. Bibb is characterized as being sweet and extra small.
Icebergs have a tight head of crisp leaves. This lettuce variety is very sensitive to heat and water stress.
Unlike other lettuce, romaine is heat tolerant. It grows tall with firm ribs down the center.
Still to Come in Our Lettuce Growing Series
With our series on growing lettuce at home, your garden is sure to be successful. Stay updated with our blog for our weekly four-part series on growing at home where we will cover everything from soil needs to plant protection.