Concept - a Summer Crisp lettuce is a great choice to sow in late spring because it can tolerate more heat than most lettuce types
Concept – a Summer Crisp lettuce is a great choice to sow in late spring because it can tolerate more heat than most lettuce types

Lettuce is one of the fastest and easiest to grow crops around.  It can be grown in the garden, in containers and raised beds, or almost anywhere you can clear out a little space.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of varieties available – in a myriad of colors, textures, all with their own unique taste.   In fact, for most that begin to grow their own lettuce – they are shocked to realize the amazing difference in taste from the generic varieties available in most super markets and grocery stores.  Most “supermarket” lettuce, (like the familiar Iceburg head lettuce) are grown specifically for their ability to handle shipping and store well – not for taste.  When you begin to grow your own – you might just find out that with all that flavor – salad dressing isn’t even needed!

The first of the lettuce is through and almost ready for the first picking - this is Summer Crisp
The first of our lettuce is up and through, almost ready for harvest. Pictured if Black Seeded Simpson.

Lettuce can be divided into many categories – but most will agree on these main four  : Butterhead (Bibb style lettuce) , Crisphead (Iceberg, etc.), Looseleaf (Cutting varieties) and Romaine style.

Lettuce in general prefers cooler weather – so you will want to plant a spring/early summer crop, with a second fall crop as well.  The hot summer heat tends to wilt and bolt lettuce.  The good news is that it’s a quick grower, and can actually go from seed to table in as little as three to four weeks!

Preparing The Soil And Planting Lettuce:

Lettuce prefers loose, fertile, and well-drained soil.  It will struggle to grow well in hard, clay-type soils.  Prepare your beds by adding in lots of compost and organic matter. If your soil is on the clay-type side – you can also add a few shovel-fulls of sand to help loosen the soil structure and aid in drainage.

Lettuce can be planted with transplants or by directly sowing seed into the soil. We prefer planting most of ours by seed, mainly for the convenience, and for us, they have seemed to do better emerging from the soil than they have as transplants.

There is so much more to choose from than just “traditional” Iceburg lettuce

If your soil is fertile, lettuce will not require much additional care other than keeping it watered throughout dry periods.  Lettuce, like most vegetable crops, should receive about 1″ of water per week.  If you do want to fertilize – an application of compost tea can be applied once the crops have emerged through the ground.

We use a fair amount of straw mulch around the plants to keep weeds to a minimum – weeds can wreak havoc on lettuce crops.  Be sure to take care when weeding – lettuce roots are shallow and are easily pulled from the soil.

To help keep pests at bay – we like to plant a few of our hot pepper plants near our lettuce or directly in the middle of the lettuce bed. Garlic and onions are also known to have the same effect when planted near lettuce crops.

Harvesting Your Lettuce Crop:

Leaf lettuce can be harvested whenever the plants begin to become large enough to snip their tasty leaves.  The beauty of leaf style lettuce is that you can get multiple cutting from the same planting – increasing your yields.  Be aware though, that after the first few cuttings, the leaves will start to become a little less tender with each cutting.  If left alone, leaf lettuce will usually reach their maximum size in about 50 to 55 days.

Most head lettuce varieties mature in 55 to 70 days – and it is important to harvest them before the summer heat begins to wilt their leaves and change their taste.

To store lettuce, wash, drip or spin dry, and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Lettuce keeps best right around 32°F.

Here are some of the types we grow and love:

We love Romaine Ridge - an organic variety we found at Johnny's Seeds.
We love Romaine Ridge – an organic variety we found at Johnny’s Seeds.

Buttercrunch :  The name says it all!  Tasty, buttery leaves with a crisp bite.

Black Seeded Simpson :  A crisp, leaf lettuce with great flavor – also handles heat a little better than other varieities

Red Salad Bowl :   Just like its name, a great tasting, beautiful red-leafed lettuce adding lots of color to your plate.

Bibb Lettuce :  We use a variety call “Winter Bibb” – but bibb lettuce in general has a sweet, buttery leaf perfect for fresh salads.

Bibb lettuce is a great choice for the home gardener - it is full of flavor!
Bibb lettuce is a great choice for the home gardener – it is full of flavor!

Romaine (Ridgeline) : This is an amazing variety of romaine – easy to grow, with wonderful flavor.

Concept : A Summer Crisp lettuce, it’s a great choice to sow in late spring because it can tolerate more heat than most lettuce types

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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8 thoughts on “Growing Lettuce – Experience Real Flavor With A Simple Salad Garden

  • April 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I put seeds in the ground 2 weeks ago and it snowed. Will I need to plant new seeds?

  • February 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    What do you do with compost in the winter? Doesn’t it just freeze?

  • May 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Our lettuce has little green worms, which I hand pick off. However,they seem to multiply every night! Sigh, I would love to eat lettuce that doesn’t have a bunch of holes in the leaves! This is a great post – Thanks!

  • May 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Do you know if lettuce will grow well in your straw bale crates? We have hot summers here in Montreal and our lettuce struggles. I thought I could move them in the shade when it is too hot??? BTW, this is a great site – I just found it tonight! Congrats on your hard work.

  • May 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    The second any of my lettuce seedings appear they are wiped out by slugs over night. Have you ever had any slug problems? Any recommendations?

  • May 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I love growing lettuce. My favorites are “Cos” romaine and head lettuce. I let a couple of romaine plants go to seed when it starts to get warm and I have enough seeds for the next season and to share with my neighbors. I live in the South, so the lettuce won’t grow in our hot summers 🙁

  • May 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Don’t know why but this year our lettuce is going gangbusters (guess it’s the cooler temps)- and I agree it is especially lovely fresh from the yard. I also get extra joy out of growing something that can be so expensive at the market.

  • May 14, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I had been hearing about Swiss Chard so this year I planted one plant. I was told its like a spinach replacement. Can you help me with any other information. So far it is growing beautiful.

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