Nothing tastes better than fresh lettuce from the garden. This popular plant is quite easy to grow in gardens or containers. But how do you grow lettuce for a big harvest?
Lettuce is a baby green plant ready to harvest in a month when planted from seedlings as microgreens. The annual plant is easy to grow from seeds.
In this post, I’ll take you through the growing stages from garden beds as seeds to harvesting.
Lettuce Growing Stages
Lettuce seeds typically germinate within 5-7 days of being planted, as long as the soil is moist and the temperature is between 50-70°F. To germinate seeds, fill pots or seed trays with compost and water them well.
Scatter lettuce seeds on the compost surface and cover them with a small layer of compost. You can position the trays or pots in a warm area with temperatures of 71 degrees F.
Water regularly to keep the compost moist. You can also cover it with a propagator lid or plastic cover. Once seedlings are mature and large enough to handle, you can transplant them into the garden or pots.
During the seedling stage, lettuce plants will grow their first set of true leaves. At this point, the plants will need to be thinned out so that they have enough room to grow.
During the vegetative growth stage, lettuce plants will continue to grow and develop new leaves. This stage can last for several weeks, depending on the variety of lettuce being grown and the growing conditions.
As lettuce plants enter the reproductive growth stage, they will begin to produce flowers and seeds. This stage usually occurs when the plants are about 8-12 inches tall.
Lettuce is typically ready to harvest when the leaves are full and the plants are about 6-8 inches tall. The leaves can be cut off the plant, leaving the base of the plant intact so that it can continue to grow. Alternatively, the entire plant can be harvested by pulling it out of the ground.
So, when is the best time to plant lettuce? Join me as I discuss when to plant lettuce, the ideal conditions, and the best time to harvest.
When to Plant Lettuce
You need to plant lettuce in the fall or early spring when all the frost is gone. You need to plant lettuce when temperatures are between 45 degrees F to 65 degrees F. But some cold varieties can even survive in much lower temperatures.
Some gardeners get a head start by sowing seeds indoors a month before the last spring. When buying seedlings from a nursery, you can plant them two weeks before the last frost in spring.
How to Plant Lettuce
If you’re germinating seeds, you need small and well-tilted seedbeds. Remove large clods and stones that can easily block germination. Plant your seeds ⅛ to ¼ inch deep. You don’t need to sow them too deep as they need light to grow.
Seeds can be sown in single rows or spread on wide rows. But wide-row planting is ideal for loose-leaf varieties. When broadcasting, proper spacing is recommended.
Seed spacing depends on the lettuce variety. For example, loose leafy varieties should feature plants spread 4 inches apart. Romaine lettuce should be spread at least 8 inches apart while crisphead variety should be set at 16 inches apart. The seeds should be 12 to 15 inches apart.
If you’re looking for continuous harvest, sow seeds after every two weeks. You can also consider barrier plants for lettuce like garlic and chives that help control aphids.
According to Briana from Backyard Gardeners Network, there are multiple ways to grow lettuce. You can grow lettuce indoors or outdoors in pots or in the garden. Growing lettuce indoors allows you to easier control humidity, temperature, or pest, but it will present unique challenges compared with outdoor growing.
Seedlings can be transplanted at the start of the season. You can cover them with plastic bottles and a temporary clode to help them acclimatize.
Fertilization can be done three weeks after transplanting. You can also water the soil regularly to keep it moist. However, don’t over water it. The soil needs to drain well. Too much water leads to soft growth and diseases.
Are the leaves wilting? Lettuce can tell you when they need water. If they are wilting, try to sprinkle them. You can also add organic mulch to conserve mulch.
During the growing season, you also need to delay bolting. This is a condition when plants shift from leafy production to leaves. You can cover them with a shade of cloth. You can also plan to have tall plants provide shade to lettuce.
As indicated, it can take up to a month to have your first harvest of lettuce. But for romaine lettuce, it takes about 60 to 80 days to have your first harvest. By then, the plant should be 20 inches tall.
Romaine lettuce can grow in warm summers without bolting. Make sure you harvest lettuce in the morning when leaves are young and tender. Mature leaves go bad quickly and taste a little bitter.
Be checking on your garden every day for ready leaves.