Lettuce is generally an annual plant in a daisy family known as Asteraceae and it is quite easy to grow at home in a pot.
It’s mostly grown as a leafy vegetable, but occasionally for its seeds and stem.
Lettuce is a quick-growing vegetable which can be harvested for various uses in salads and many other recipes as well.
This leaf vegetable thrives outdoors and will also grow in a variety of weather conditions.
In this comprehensive guide, you will learn how to grow lettuce at home and some easy and useful tips to assist you in growing lettuce like an expert.
Types of Lettuce
There are five different varieties of lettuce, and they are usually categorized by leaf type or head formation.
Each of these types of lettuce offers you a unique texture and flavor, and growing different lettuce varieties will be a reliable way to create interest in having a healthy diet at all times.
Here are the most common kinds of lettuce in one look.
Popularly known as crisphead, this common pale green lettuce creates a tight and cabbage-like head.
The flavor of iceberg lettuce is very mild, and its texture is crisp.
Two cups of iceberg lettuce provide you with more than 10% of the RDA for B vitamin folate. If you are looking for incredibly crisp lettuce for chopped salads, there are no better choices of lettuce to use than this variety.
This type of lettuce is distinguished from other types by a thick edible stem, which is usually six to eight inches long.
It’s widely grown in the country of China and is referred to as Chinese lettuce at times. The only variety found in the US is known as celtuce.
Stem lettuce provides a mild flavor that’s sometimes termed as “nutty cucumber.” This lettuce type is ideal for salads, but you can also cook it like a vegetable.
Cos, also known as Romaine lettuce, has long and deep green leaves that create a loaf-shaped head.
However, some varieties often develop closed heads, but others are more open.
Romaine lettuce is used as the main ingredient in many Caesar salads and has a crispy texture and a strong taste as well.
This lettuce type includes Bibb and Boston lettuces, which are normally characterized by grass-green leaves and a loose head.
Both have a sweet, mild flavor and a soft texture. The heads of Boston lettuces resemble flowering roses. Bibb lettuces, also known as limestone, grows a smaller and cup-shaped head.
Nowadays, hydroponically grown butterhead lettuces are becoming a more popular variety in many supermarkets. Their heads have full roots which are submerged in water at all times in a pretty small recess found at the bottom of the clear plastic packages.
Although butterhead lettuces are more expensive than other types, their heads have a pretty extended home refrigerator shelf life as long as you ensure to keep the roots wet.
Therefore, if you like using several leaves of lettuce at a time, hydroponic lettuces can be convenient and a bargain as well.
Loose leaf lettuce
Loose leaf lettuce consists of several varieties that do not form heads but comprises large and loosely packed leaves that are joined at the stem.
These leaves are either shaded to deep red or green at the edges and might be smooth or ruffled. Their intensity of crispness is halfway between butterhead and romaine.
The taste of loose leaf lettuce is delicate and mild, and one of the popular varieties is Red leaf and green leaf.
Both green and red Oakleaf varieties form smaller heads and flatter leaves that are shaped like large, floppy oak leaves.
If you are a home gardener, loose-leaf type has an advantage over the other types of lettuce: If you pick the leaves individually rather than pulling the entire head from the soil, the leaves will easily continue replacing themselves all through the season.
Methods of growing lettuce
Most gardeners normally plant a combination of transplants and seeds, selecting seeds for some vegetables, and transplants for lettuce, which are also known as “starts” for some people.
Starts and transplants are baby vegetable plants, typically sold in pots or packs of four or six.
However, your decision about transplants versus seeds will be determined by your personal preferences. However, there are some nuggets of wisdom shared by seasoned gardeners as to which will work best for what.
The transplant method allows you to plant one lettuce plant in its container
.You can use a seed starting tray or a small pot. Starting with some baby plants can offer you predictable results and more control in your garden.
The transplants can give you a big jumpstart on a particular season because they’ll mature sooner and even give you an early harvest.
You can also boost your harvest using succession planting.
The transplanting method is usually ideal for the romaine or bibb types of lettuce. Because most of these lettuce types are grown until they are fully mature, they are more resistant to insects and other pressure from pests since they are stronger and more mature when you first plant them into the garden.
Direct sowing method
In this style, lettuce seeds are usually broadcasted over a defined section of soil in a container or your garden.
This method is ideal for the “cut and come” varieties of lettuce. This method is also perfect if you would like to harvest some lettuces continually.
Starting lettuce plants from seed enables you more selection in the variety that you can grow.
You can search for seed catalogs and select from the infinite choices, instead of being confined to planting the transplants your garden center or local farmer has to offer.
Often, beginning from seed is more cost-effective, particularly if you plan to grow in succession or are growing in significant quantity.
How to grow lettuce in containers
Growing lettuce in containers is a common practice among small space gardeners like apartment dwellers without any garden space.
However, you can also grow lettuces in containers even if you have a big traditional garden bed.
Growing lettuce in some containers will require the right type of planting medium and pot.
Lettuce needs enough room for the roots, but you can also grow several varieties in six to twelve-inch pots. The leafy greens require a constant supply of moisture since they are almost 95% water but can’t tolerate wet roots.
Using a clay pot will provide a porous surface which can evaporate all the excess water and also prevent waterlogged roots. Ensure that there are plenty of some drainage holes in the container you select for the crop.
Mastering the art and skill of growing lettuce normally allows you to adapt to any situation you might have in your garden. Container gardening has numerous benefits and a few drawbacks.
Benefits of growing lettuces in containers
• Proximity- Growing lettuce plants right next to your doorsteps will offer you good and unlimited access to utilize it in your meals. You can begin growing lettuces in a sunny place and easily move the containers to a less sunny part of your home that could be located near your kitchen.
• Portability– This reason is particularly beneficial in the early spring days when it’s still pretty cold outside during the night hours, but warms up whenever the sun is out. Growing lettuce in containers makes it easy to move small to medium-sized containers in and out of the cold temperatures if needed.
• Minimal work– Most people have no problem getting their hands dirty once in a while, but sometimes you might not have the time needed to manage a huge garden area. One container full of lettuce plants can be a job that takes around five to ten minutes of preparation. Sticking your watering next to the containers and keep them moist as required can make the task pretty easy for you, allowing you time for more tasks.
When is the best time to grow lettuce?
You can grow lettuce at any time of the year if you want to.
You can pick fresh lettuce leaves to prepare a good salad for your date on Valentines using your red romaine and for your Christmas meals as well.
Here are some beneficial tips that will help you grow lettuce plants during the four different seasons:
If you would like to enjoy some lettuce salads during the spring season, you should begin planting early if possible.
You can start with some lettuce in small seed trays or even plant in containers that are placed away from the cold climate to make sure they germinate well.
If you are planning to grow lettuce in summer, ensure that you look for lettuce varieties that are resistant to bolting.
Generally, lettuce plants do not like long, sunny, hot, and humid days. You should keep the plants in a shaded and cool place to prolong their life cycle.
The fall season provides you with a perfect condition for growing lettuce plants outdoors, and the growing process is also pretty easy.
You can begin planting some lettuce in the late days of summer to have some of the leafy vegetables by the end of September or even earlier.
Leaf lettuces grow fast in fall, and within a couple of weeks of the cool weather, you can enjoy some of the most delicious lettuce salads of the year.
When growing lettuce in the winter, you should change the soil used for the summer and spring lettuce.
Utilize mushroom compost and put down some lime to prevent the soil from becoming so acidic.
You can also use a simple covering, especially when there is snow.
Pests you will encounter when growing lettuce
Depending on your location, your lettuce plants might fall victim to some pests that can damage or even ruin your crop.
To prevent this, you should know the most common pests that affect lettuce plants and take the necessary steps to prevent them in your home garden.
Lettuce pests are generally divided into three main categories: weeds, insect pests, and diseases.
Since lettuce has a relatively short growing season, some weeds can severely hinder the growth of healthy crops.
If you have a small garden, you can control the weed pests by picking them by hand. However, in large gardens, it might be necessary to utilize a natural herbicide or chemicals to control the weeds.
Diseases affecting lettuce plants are pretty common in warm and moist weather conditions.
Some of the most popular diseases affecting lettuce plants are leaf spot, rot, downy mildew, and several bacterial diseases.
Since the weather is a major contributing factor in lettuce diseases, management efforts offer you the best results.
However, some diseases can be treated once they develop, but fungus-related diseases such as downy mildew can be controlled using fungicides and implementing irrigation techniques to drain the soil might help to control or prevent other diseases such as bottom rot.
Although many insect pests are more likely to feed on lettuce plants, the most common group of insect pests are caterpillars. Armyworms, cutworms, cabbage loopers and corn earworms damage the stems and leaves of lettuce plants while other insect pests such as maggots, beetles, and aphids can cause great damage as well.
Insecticides are the most popular used technique of controlling insect pests on lettuce crops. You can also introduce predatory insects or parasites into the lettuce plants as an alternative to the chemical control methods to help control some of the insect pests.
Plowing and mulching methods can also assist in reducing pest populations before planting.
Tips for growing lettuce
As we mentioned earlier lettuce is among the easiest veggies to grow, but it is not a staple crop in most gardens. Fresh lettuces are beautiful, crunchy, and nutritious. To assist in your lettuce-growing efforts, here are some easy-to-follow tips that will make your work easier and also maximize your lettuce production.
Lettuce normally grows in average soils, but sandy loam soil is optimal.
You can prepare your garden by digging to four inches deep or tilling, clear away all the large clumps of organic matter or soil, and work in one inch or even more of the compost.
You can plant lettuce in some raised beds where the soil is slow to drain or extremely heavy.
Keep your planting depth between 6 to 13 mm.
Since lettuce seeds are pretty small, you can broadcast them and then sprinkle some sifted soil on top of them.
The germination of lettuce occurs in approximately 7 to 14 days.
Sometimes it can be earlier if it is warmer outdoors, meaning you can also see them sprouting in three to four days
To grow lettuce crop successfully, you will require a good amount of nitrogen and potassium.
You can begin with a soil that has compost a balanced fertilizer added to it. You can also supplement feedings using some fish fertilizer to keep it growing.
You should always ensure that your lettuce plant is always moist.
Soils that are not moist can make the lettuce crop to bolt if this situation goes on for a long period.
However, avoid overdoing it.
Lettuce does pretty well in cool weather and temperatures between 60°F and 65°F.
To plant lettuce crop where the temperatures are extremely higher, ensure that your planting beds will always get afternoon shades.
How to harvest lettuce
Growing lettuce is enjoyable, but harvesting it is usually the best part of the entire process.
However, you should know the right time to harvest your crop. That’s because harvesting too early might not get a good regrowth, and harvesting too late might cause your lettuce to bolt.
Here are several things to keep in mind when harvesting your lettuce crop:
Baby or Adult Lettuce Greens
The different types of lettuce crop can be grown as single plants or cut and come again.
Check the maturity dates for good guidance on the duration it will take to mature.
You can also harvest before the date of maturity for most salads and towards the end of that period for the romaine type of lettuce.
Die or Regrow
You can regrow lettuce if you leave it in the ground after cutting it.
Therefore, you should try to keep some of the lettuce leaves intact when cutting. That will allow the lettuce crop to continue providing more lettuce harvest for you.
Pull or cut
It is recommended to harvest the cut and come varieties of lettuce by cutting. That will help them to continue growing.
You can also cut bigger types of lettuce such as bibb to keep them intact.
Tips for storing lettuce
A fresh and tasty salad is usually a good way to get more leafy veggies into your diet, whether it is an impromptu snack or a side at dinner when you are rummaging through your fridge.
If possible, avoid harvesting your lettuce leaves until you need them because they will eventually bolt.
Having a continuous supply of lettuce leaves as you need them is the best method of storing them. Here are some other ways to assist you in storing lettuce:
Clean your Vegtables
You should ensure that your lettuce harvest is properly cleaned once you harvest to prevent it from spoiling. To clean your lettuce effectively, invest in a suitable salad spinner.
Wrap it Up
Lay out your lettuce on some paper towels to keep moisture away. You want your lettuce leaves moist but not damp and drenched.
Store and Crisp
Put the lettuce in ziplock bags or a plastic container after wrapping them in some paper towels. Also, keep the leaves out of the light as well to help keep them crisp for longer in your refrigerator.
Gardeners can choose from a wide variety of lettuces which are highly productive in limited spaces, pretty easy to grow, and virtually disease and pest free.
Lettuce is usually one of the most care-free crops. The best way to learn how to grow lettuce crop is just to get started in your home garden, whether it is a small container or a small patch.
For maximum production of lettuce, it is good to choose a site where the plant soil drains pretty well, and yet retains enough moisture for the crop.
The soil should also be rich in potassium and nitrogen as well, To accomplish this, you should work in enough organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, or rotted manure that will loosen and also enrich the soil.
By picking the right varieties, it is possible to have some lettuce in your garden bed throughout the year or growing season.