How To Grow Lettuce

Anyone who says salad is boring has clearly never seen the number of different types and colours you can grow! As long as it gets a good drink regularly, lettuce can thrive in trays as shallow as 10 cm, and pots of any kind, so it’s great for container and small space vegetable gardening.

These leafy lovelies are super easy to grow and a great project for any mini green fingers. Some varieties go from seed to plate in six weeks! And homegrown lettuce is much tastier and healthier so read on to find out how to grow your own backyard salad bar in no time at all. 

Quick Guide

Perennial or annual

Hardiness
Very Hardy
Sunshine
Part Sun
Watering
Water Very Well

Plant 15cm apart

Up to 20cm tall

lettuce-plant

varieties

There are two different types of lettuce; hearting varieties that have a dense centre (like a typical iceberg) and loose leaf which don’t have a heart and you guessed it loose leaves. 

Looseleaf varieties can be grown in cut and come again beds. Simply clip the plants leaving an inch from the ground and the stumps regenerate to give you a second cutting a couple weeks later.

Little gem

This hearting variety is produces small crispy and sweet hearts that are brilliant in salads. They are also pretty hardy and grow really quickly.  

Nymans

This striking red lettuce will look amazing in your garden then taste amazing on your plate! 

ice berg

An absolute classic and a true gem. The large dense heads perfectly captures what you think when you think lettuce.  

frisee endive

This unusual lettuce with curled leaves will go just about anywhere from a hanging basket to a small border. It will grow as a cut and come again lettuce so will provide you with plenty of tastiness  

soil

Lettuce love damp soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter. As they are low, ground-covering plants they shouldn’t need too much mulching but I like to use a little straw or dried grass just to help keep the leaves off the soil. 

As there are so many different types of lettuce you will be able to squeeze them into containers or around taller plants providing colourful edible ground cover. 

lettuce in gutter

timing

Again the number of different varieties available means that you can plant lettuce seeds pretty much whenever you want.

  • Seeds sown in February and protected until after the last frost will be ready late Summer
  • Sowing seeds in July or August and then protecting them once it gets colder in autumn will give you great lettuces in early winter
  • If you have a green house or indoor area you can sow certain varieties in September or October for harvest in late winter

planting

  • A sunny and sheltered spot
  • Make sure compost is well rotted for nutrients and soil texture
  • High soil temperatures in summer can stop your seeds from spouting. Sow in the evening, water with cold water and provide some shade to keep temperatures down.
  • Plant the seeds about half an inch deep in rows and once they start to grow thin them out till the plants are about 30cm apart. Don't forget to wash and eat the seedlings you thin out.

companion planting

Lettuce are friends to all (well most) and will do well when planted with most other fruits and veggies. Garlic and chives will help keep aphids off your lettuces and I believe should be your first port of call for pest control in your vegetable patch. 

Tall straight up plants like carrots work well to fill the space between lettuces. The flavour of some plants like radishes are said to be improved by growing among lettuce.

Members of the cabbage family such as broccoli do not get along with lettuce so try to keep them separated. 

care

  • Water well throughout the growing period if the rain doesn't do the job for you
  • Check over your plants regularly for slugs and to check the leaves aren't turning squishy
  • Apart from tidying up or harvesting very little pruning is needed

harvest

Lettuce are easy to harvest no matter which variety you have. Cut and come again do exactly what they say on the tin. Simply cut the leaves of as you need them and they will regrow ready to go again in a week or two. 

For hearting varieties simply use a fork to gently loosen the soil under the lettuce and lift the whole plant out. Try not to pull on the leaves to hard as they may break off leaving most the plant in the soil. It’s much better to try and scoop the plants out from underneath.  

storing

Now as lettuce leaves are mainly water they can wilt and loose their crunch pretty quickly. There is a couple of things you can do to make them last a little longer. 

To wash your lettuce let it sit in some ice cold water for about 20 minutes then gently shake the leaves. This should tackle most of the dirt and leave the leaves nice and crispy. You can then store the eaves in rows with kitchen roll or fine cloth inbetween in a freazer bag or container in the fridge. Lettuce stored this way could last up to two weeks.

salad-lettuce

So now you should be confident to get out and get some lettuce going!

If you fancy reading more about lettuce then check out some of the recipes and articles below;

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our article and that it has inspired you to turn your green hands to a new challenge.

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