How to plant lettuce

Wondering how to grow lettuce? You’ve come to the right place. Having fresh lettuce in your garden is so convenient, and you won’t wonder if it’s been recalled due to contamination.

Learning how to grow lettuce is simple – it doesn’t require much room and grows well in almost any container. Learn how to grow lettuce in your garden and in containers with these 6 tips.

How to plant lettuce

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6 Tips for How to Grow Lettuce

1. Plant lettuce at the right time

Lettuce is a cool (not cold) season crop; it thrives when temperatures are between 60℉ and 70℉. Hot weather often causes lettuce to bolt and/or become bitter. Look for heat-resistant varieties when growing in warm climates. Begin planting lettuce 4 weeks before the last spring frost d ate. Plant lettuce again in the fall in warm climates.

In the low desert of Arizona, plant lettuce seeds beginning in late August (if it’s not unseasonably hot), and continue planting seeds through the end of January.

Plant lettuce transplants from late September through mid-February. Plant every 2 weeks for a continual harvest.

How to plant lettuce

Growing lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an easy and inexpensive way to put fresh gourmet salad greens on the table. As a cool-season crop, lettuce grows well with the cool, moist weather available in spring and fall. In cooler climates, the lettuce growing season can also be extended year-round using an indoor hydroponic system.

When to Plant Lettuce

The lettuce growing season begins in early spring and extends through fall for northern U.S. climates. In warmer areas, such as southern Florida, lettuce can also be grown outdoors throughout the winter. Increasing daylight hours and hot temperatures stimulates lettuce to bolt, which makes growing lettuce more challenging during the summer months.

As a cool-season crop, lettuce can be direct-seeded into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. If the ground is still frozen, wait until it thaws. Lettuce can also be started or grown indoors. Try succession planting and growing varieties of lettuce with differing maturity times to harvest lettuce plants throughout the growing season.

How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce prefers moist, cool conditions, and you don’t even have to worry about chilly weather because the seedlings can tolerate a light frost. In fact, these plants grow best when temperatures are between 45 and 65 F. (7-18 C.).

Lettuce tastes more flavorful and the leaves remain tender when it grows quickly. Prior to planting, work organic compost or high nitrogen fertilizer into the garden soil to encourage rapid leaf growth. Lettuce prefers a soil pH between 6.2 and 6.8.

Due to its small seed size, it’s better to sprinkle lettuce seed on top of fine soil, then cover lightly with a thin layer of dirt. A small hand held seeder or seed tape can also be used for proper spacing of plants. Avoid planting too deeply, as lettuce requires sunlight to germinate.

To avoid dislodging newly planted seed, water by gently misting the area with a fine spray until the soil is moist. When direct-seeding into the garden, consider using a plastic row cover, cold frame or scrap window pane to protect the seed from being washed away by heavy rains. For optimal growth, lettuce requires 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) of rain or supplemental water per week.

Give lettuce plenty of room to mature by spacing plants 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm.) apart. Planting in full sun will generate faster leaf production, but can encourage bolting during hot weather. However, lettuce will actually thrive in a little bit of shade too, making it great for planting between taller crops, like tomatoes or corn, which will provide shade as the season progresses. This also helps save on space in smaller gardens.

How to plant lettuce

How to Plant Lettuce – One of the vegetables that are loved by many people is Lettuce. Lettuce is often used as an ingredient in making salads, sandwiches, and even other foods. This article presents how to plant lettuce that you can do by yourself.

Lettuce Plants

Lettuce is a plant that can grow in areas with a moderate or tropical climate. Lettuce is very often used as a vegetable and a main ingredient of salads, and you often find it in foods like hotdogs or hamburgers.

It is believed that lettuce originated in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

There are several types of lettuce commonly cultivated, including butterhead, lollo rosso, romaine lettuce, Boston lettuce, head lettuce, radicchio, and Lollo Verde. Some of its characteristics are as follows.

  1. Lollo Verde often referred to as curly lettuce. Its characteristics are to have slender leaves but with a wavy or curly tip. The bone leaves are white with a soft texture.
  2. Lollo Rosso, similar to curly lettuce, but what distinguishes it is the color of the leaves. They are reddish. Its texture is soft and crispy
  3. Iceberg Lettuce has a large bulb. The leaves are multi-layered and dense
  4. Cos/Romaine Lettuce has a shape similar to chicory. Green leaf color with an elongated shape.
  5. Boston Lettuce has a tuber at the bottom of the base. The texture is also crispy
  6. Radicchio has a physical form that is visibly different from other lettuce. The leaves are dark red with white fibers. Elongated round shape and taste a little bitter.
  7. Butterhead has a yellow leaf sheet.

How to Plant Lettuce at Home

1. Selection of Superior Lettuce Seeds

Before planting lettuce, make sure you have determined the type of salad you want.

Some examples of lettuce are Lollo Verde, Lollo Rosso, iceberg lettuce (head lettuce), cos/romaine lettuce, Boston lettuce, radicchio, and butterhead. Each type of lettuce has a slightly different texture and taste.

To get lettuce seeds, you can get them on local farmers.

Make sure the lettuce seed that you buy has good quality. Starting with quality seeds, it will get healthy, and high-quality lettuce is also higher.

2. Planting Media Preparation

If lettuce seeds have been prepared, then the next step of the six ways to plant lettuce and care in the preparation of planting media.

The required planting media must meet the requirements of growing from lettuce plants. The following planting media that need to be provided to plant lettuce seeds.

  • Loose soil and soil with good nutrition.
  • Manure or compost
  • Rice Husk
  • Pot or polybag that has been given a hole in the bottom
  • Pock or a kind of tool for mixing soil and fertilizer
  • A Flush device with enough water

3. Seeding Lettuce Seeds

Do seeding by following the steps below.

  • Mix soil, rice husks, and manure or compost in a ratio of 2: 1: 1.
  • Mix the mixture thoroughly using a spoon or similar device.
  • Fill ¾ the pot or polybag used with a mixture of soil, rice husk, and manure.
  • Make a hole in the middle as deep as 2 cm.
  • Place two seeds or lettuce seeds in the hole that has been made in each pot or polybag.
  • Hoard seeds or lettuce seeds with a mixture of soil and fertilizer.
  • Compact the soil by gently patting.
  • Flush with enough water. Do it gently. Make sure the seed media stays moist.

Lettuce seeds begin to germinate after 3 to 4 days. Keep watering the seeds that are sown regularly. Allow the seedlings to grow in the nursery until they are 17 days old.

At this age, the seedlings usually have as many as 4 to 5 leaves. These seeds are ready to be planted to media or land that is more permanent.

4. Processing of Lettuce Seedling Planting

Before moving to permanent land, the vital thing to do is to cultivate the planted area yourself. Planting land needs to be given a specific treatment so that the productivity of land increases.

Here are some steps to improve lettuce plantations so that they are more fertile and ready for planting.

  • Provide land for planting lettuce seeds in an open area.
  • Do land sterilization by weeding or eradicating weeds.
  • Do loose ground.
  • Hoe it with a depth of about 10 cm. You can adjust the size of the lettuce seeds.
  • Give compost into your land.
  • Leave your land for about two days.
  • Hoe the land to smooth the soil with fertilizer and husk charcoal.

5. Transfer of Lettuce Seeds

Seed transfer can be done if the seedlings are ready for planting and the land is ready for planting. The following are the steps in transferring lettuce seeds. The key is to be careful. Do it according to the following steps.

  • Tear off the polybag you used to plant lettuce seeds.
  • If using a pot, do a simple lap around the lettuce seeds.
  • Make sure that the hoeing process does not touch the roots of the lettuce seeds.
  • Lift the seeds to the roots.
  • If there is land that is uplifted, leave it.
  • Plant the lettuce seeds in the prepared planting hole.
  • Fill the roots with soil.
  • Solid the soil.
  • Position the lettuce seeds perpendicular.
  • Flush with enough water regularly.

6. Lettuce Harvesting Process

If the lettuce has reached the age of 40 to 60 days since the seeding period, then the lettuce plant is ready to be harvested.

This is how to the right way to harvest lettuce.

  • Remove the lettuce to its roots.
  • Sort fresh lettuce leaves.
  • If the lettuce is wilted or dry, throw it away!
  • Wash lettuce with running water until clean.
  • Group the lettuce based on the same leaf size.
  • Collect in one clean basket.
  • Harvest lettuce with fast motion, considering that a reasonable lettuce period is in a short period.

That’s how to plant lettuce that you can do by yourself at home.

Video on How to Plant Lettuce

Can I Grow Lettuce?

Gardeners can select from a large variety of lettucesthat are easy to grow, highly productive in limited space, and virtually pest and disease free. Lettuce is definitely one of the more “”care-free”” crops.

For maximum lettuce production, it’s wise to select a site where the soil drains well, yet retains some moisture. The soil should also be rich in nitrogen and potassium, The best way to accomplish this is to work in plenty of organic matter (compost, rotted manure, or leaf mold) that will loosen and enrich the soil. Strive for a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Most lettuce varieties mature in 45 to 55 days, allowing many gardeners to plant two or even three crops. But looseleaf and butterhead leaves can be harvested at just about any time in their development. Heading varieties take longer to mature. Romaine takes 75 to 85 days and crisphead 70 to 100 days.

By choosing the right varieties, it’s possible to have lettuce in your garden throughout the growing season.

Lettuce Plant History

Lettuce, one of the oldest food plants known to man, is believed to have originated in India and Central Asia. Herodotus wrote of lettuce being served in ancient Greece, and it was a favorite vegetable in ancient Rome. In fact, the word “lettuce” is derived from the Latin root word “lac” meaning “milk,” referring to the milky juice found in mature lettuce stems.

Columbus and other European explorers brought lettuce seeds to the New World. Our early colonists included lettuce in the first gardens planted in American soil. Today, lettuce is a favorite vegetable here and around the world.

Should I Plant Lettuce Seeds Or Plants?

Lettuce is so easy to grow it can be started indoors for early transplants or sown directly in the garden. In fact, doing both is recommended to get maximum production.
Start some lettuce seeds indoors in peat pots a few weeks before the last frost date in your area. Provide the seedlings with plenty of sunlight or keep them under artificial lighting until 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 the seedlings with a cloche or row cover. Reserve a number of lettuce seedlings to fill empty spaces in the garden as the season progresses.

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! Space the sowings according to packet directions that are based on the size of the mature lettuce. For example, a crisphead may require a square foot of garden space. As many as nine plants of a small leaf lettuce variety can grow in the same space.

Keep in mind that lettuce seeds won’t germinate in soil that is 80 degrees F. or warmer, so there’s no sense in sowing directly in the garden in the summer. Resort to starting heat-tolerant varieties indoors and moving the lettuce seedlings into the garden, preferably under partial shade, after they’ve developed a few true leaves.

How To Cultivate Lettuce Plants

Here are two cultivation tips to keep in mind:

Succession plantings

Lettuce is ideal for succession planting. Sow seeds every two weeks for production throughout the season, starting with early lettuce varieties, using heat-tolerant varieties as your main crop, and then switching to fall crops late in the summer. Or, if you prefer, use lettuce in successions with other crops. For example, plant lettuce in the spring, followed by bush beans in the summer, followed by lettuce again in the fall.

Watering

The key to lettuce production is supplying moderate but almost constant water, especially during hot weather. Unless there is regular rainfall, lettuce must be watered deeply at least once a week- more frequently during periods of drought. Mulch with a layer of compost or clean straw to help the soil retain moisture. A drip-irrigation system is ideal.

Lettuce Growing Tips

To improve overall lettuce production, consider using the following four techniques.

Raised Beds

To maximize lettuce production, plant seeds in raised beds. The raised beds warm up faster than the surrounding ground. You should be able to get an earlier start in the spring and a later crop in the fall.

Living mulch

To make the most of limited garden space, plant lettuce around taller plants like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, and eggplants. The lettuce helps its neighbor by keeping the surrounding soil moist and cool and keeping weeds shaded out. As the taller plants grow, they provide needed shade for the lettuce as the days get warmer.

Tucking

You can also start lettuce seedlings indoors for filling vacancies in the garden in late spring and again in early fall as other crops are harvested. Simply ‘tuck’ a seedling in the vacant spot to keep every inch of garden space in constant production.

Ornamental Use

Many varieties of lettuce are welcome additions to ornamental beds. For example, ‘Mighty Red Oak,’ ‘Sweet Red,’and ‘Sierra Blush’ can easily fill gaps in flowerbeds, adding splashes of red where needed.

Lettuce Insects & Diseases

Lettuce is generally disease and pest free, but you should still be vigilant.
Cutworms and slugs are the most bothersome pests. Use a paper collar around young lettuce seedlings to keep the ravenous caterpillars at bay. Slugs are tougher to control. Sprinkle wood ashes or diatomaceous earth over the soil around the plants to discourage the nasty mollusks. Be sure to reapply after each rainfall.

A major threat is lettuce rot which first attacks the lower leaves in contact with the soil and then spreads throughout the plant. The best way to prevent fungal and bacterial diseases is to rotate crops. Don’t plant lettuce in the same bed two years in a row.

Lettuce Harvest Tips

Lettuce can be harvested any time after true leaves form. For the best quality, better to pick early than late as lettuce allowed to grow too long may be bitter and tough.
To harvest crisphead, Batavia, and romaine varieties, cut the plant right at the soil line when mature, if you prefer to harvest full heads. You can do the same with butterhead and looseleaf lettuce, but I prefer to harvest only the outer leaves as needed. This keeps the plants in production longer. Try to harvest in the morning when the leaves are crisp, sweet, and full of moisture.

When the crown of a lettuce plant elongates, it’s about to bolt to produce seed and the plant has passed its prime. Yank the lettuce plant out, toss it on the compost pile, and replant the space with another crop like bush beans, or with another lettuce seedling.

Lettuce Recipes & Storage

Primarily water, lettuce does not store well. For the best quality and flavor, use homegrown lettuce soon after harvest. This is particularly true for many of the looseleaf varieties, which wilt readily.

Combine crisp, crunchy lettuce varieties with soft, buttery-smooth types. For example, a blend of ‘Little Caesar,’ ‘Burpee Bibb’, ‘Mighty Red Oak Leaf,’ and ‘Crispy Frills’ makes a fine tossed salad with a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Try different blends until you find the ones that most delight your palate.

How to plant lettuce

Carol Sharp Corbis / Getty Images

Lettuce is regarded as a cool-season vegetable, and in most home gardens, it is planted in the early spring, harvested in late spring to early summer, and then discarded in favor of other vegetables for the middle of the summer. Some gardeners may replant a second crop of lettuce as the days grow cooler in fall, but most do not grow lettuce at all in the midsummer period, focusing instead on warm-season vegetables. Savvy gardeners may plant lettuce among other warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, so that by the time the lettuce is finished in early summer, the warm-season vegetables are beginning to take over the garden space.

Lettuce grows best in a temperature range of about 45 to 75 degrees. In weather hotter than this, the leaves begin to get bitter to the taste. When leaf lettuce bolts—begins to send up its flower shoots—it’s a signal that the production of edible lettuce is done for the season. Leaves harvested after this point will be quite bitter to eat.

But there are some ways in which you can keep lettuce producing throughout the summer.

When to Plant Lettuce for Summer

Lettuce can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the early spring. Depending on the variety you plant, lettuce seeds can begin germinating in temperatures between 40 and 85 degrees. But lettuce will ideally germinate when temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. Seedlings usually emerge between seven and 10 days after planting.

Choose the Right Lettuce Variety

First, choose leaf varieties rather than head-forming lettuces. You can start harvesting leaf lettuces as soon as the outer leaves reach about 4 to 6 inches in height. If you cut just these outer leaves, it allows the remaining center leaves to continue growing, and you’ll have baby leaves to enjoy. This is called “cut and come again” harvesting, and some lettuce varieties are marketed as being especially suitable for this kind of harvesting. Not only do you get to start harvesting early, but cutting like this tends to shock the lettuce plant, preventing it from thinking it has matured and is ready to bolt and go to seed. Here are a few “cut and come again” varieties that have a uniform, upright growth for best baby leaves:

  • Romaine
  • Summer crisp
  • Oakleaf types with flatter, lobed leaves
  • Grand Rapids types with broad, crinkled, frilly, loose leaves

Head-lettuces, on the other hand, take a while to develop mature heads, and they sometimes bolt even before decent edible heads can form. Leaf lettuces are a much better choice for continued production. Some common head-lettuce varieties include:

  • Bibb
  • Butterhead
  • Iceberg
  • Green leaf and red leaf

Harvest Leaf Lettuce Frequently

If you keep lettuce leaves cropped short, the plants will continue to produce new leaves well into the summer. Allowing leaves to become large and mature signals the plant to send up seed bolts, which is the point where it will no longer be edible. Keep your leaf lettuce cropped short, even if it means discarding some leaves because there is more than you can eat.

Provide Some Shade

Plant your lettuce in the shade of taller plants, like tomatoes, corn, or even vining crops like cucumbers and squash. You can do this when you first start seeding in the spring or wherever there are bare spots in the garden to fill. Lettuce needs more sun in the cool spring than it does in summer, and positioning lettuce plants around taller plants, such as tomatoes, will provide full sun in spring while the tomatoes are still short but will offer relief from the intense summer sun. Sun cloth suspended above the lettuce plants on poles can also help shade the plants and delay their bolting impulse.

Keep Lettuce Plants Well-Watered

Regular watering makes plants very forgiving of high temperatures. The evaporation of water from soil provides natural cooling. Water your lettuce plants every day—and even more often if it is extremely hot and dry. The lettuce leaves are mostly water and will desiccate and wilt in strong sunlight and dry soil. Lettuce roots tend to be shallow, so frequent watering is more important than deep watering.

Transplant

If all else fails and it looks like your lettuce plants are ready to bolt, dig them out of the ground and replant them. As with “cut and come again” harvesting, this is a shock to the plant’s system, and it will once again focus on growing roots and delay setting seed. Don’t keep them out of the ground or allow the plants to dry out—just the act of lifting them and immediately replanting is enough of a shock.

Start a Second Crop in Summer

The early-season planting of lettuce can be harvested into early summer if you follow the previous tips, but eventually, it will surrender to genetics and bolt with flower shoots. If you want to have lettuce to harvest in late summer, you will probably have to plant a second crop in early summer. Lettuce seed can be difficult to sprout in warm, dry conditions. Try these four steps to get them going:

  1. Find a somewhat shady spot in your garden, and give it a deep soaking of water. Then lay a board over the damp soil. The board should be at least as large as your intended planting area.
  2. Periodically lift the board and re-soak the soil for another two to three days. This should lower the temperature of the soil.
  3. Now, plant your lettuce seeds in the prepared area, and water them well. Replace the board over the seeded ground.
  4. Lift the board, and water every day until you see signs of germination, at which time you can remove the board. It should take about seven to 10 days for the lettuce seeds to sprout. Keep watering whenever the soil dries out. This can mean watering more than once a day, while the seedlings are tiny.

Once the plants are a few inches tall and ready to start harvesting, they should not need a great deal of additional water.

Plant a Fall Crop

Finally, keep your lettuce seeds handy for a fall planting, when growing conditions are once again perfect for lettuce plants and the growing is easy. Leaf lettuces grow quickly, and within a few weeks of cool fall weather, you can have some of the tastiest lettuce of the year.

How to plant lettuce

Any variety of lettuce is fairly easy to grow; however, most varieties are susceptible to insect pests that attack the lettuce and either kill it off completely or do irreparable damage. Keep reading to learn more about these pests and when lettuce insecticide may be necessary for control.

Common Lettuce Pests

There are a number of pests that attack lettuce plants. Some of the most common lettuce pests are:

Depending on your climate and region, you may find any or all of these pests on lettuce plants. As you can see, not only are you lusting after tender greens, but every insect in town has designs on your romaine.

Lettuce Pest Control Tips

Here are a few things to look for and tips on controlling some of the above insect pests of lettuce:

Aphids – Aphids pose a quadruple threat. First they suck the water and nutrients from the plant tissue, resulting in the curling of leaves and the demise of young plants. Secondly, they are often parasitized and the dead aphids don’t rinse off the leaves. Third, aphids act as virus vectors often assisting in the introduction of diseases like lettuce mosaic. Finally, aphids deposit significant amounts of honeydew on the leaves, which foster the growth of sooty mold.

One method for controlling aphids is to introduce or encourage natural predators such as lady beetles, lacewings, damsel bugs, flower fly maggots, parasitic wasps, and birds. Horticultural soap or neem oil may also be used to control the aphid population. There are no systemic insecticides to control aphids.

Caterpillars – The most damaging group of insect pests that attack lettuce are those in the family Lepidoptera (caterpillars), which include many varieties of cutworm, armyworm, corn earworm and cabbage looper. Each type has a different feeding habit with different life cycles foraging on different areas of lettuce, but the result is the same: holey, mangled foliage – even eaten in its entirety. Some Lepidoptera have natural predators which can be encouraged; otherwise, finding an effective insecticide may be the answer.

Thrips – Thrips may affect the entire lettuce plant in all its stages of growth and end up causing leaf malformation. They are also vectors for some lettuce diseases.

Leaf miners – Leaf miners insert eggs in the upper leaf surface, which in turn become maggots. Use of the insecticide spinosad in commercial farming has seen a reduction in infestation, although with all things, some evidence now points to their resistance to it.

Beetles – Beetle varieties are soil infecting insects for the most part; their larvae hatch in the soil and often feed on the roots of the lettuce plants.

Slugs and snails – Slugs and snails adore the tender, young green lettuce and can voraciously erase any hint of seedlings almost as soon as they are planted. They hide during the daytime hours among weeds, plant debris, stones, boards, ground cover and anything close to the ground. Hence, it’s important to maintain a clean area surrounding the lettuce shoots to deter them. Also, utilize drip irrigation to reduce the humidity and moist areas where these critters congregate. Some types of plants such as nasturtiums, begonias, fuchsias, geraniums, lavender, rosemary and sage are avoided by slugs and snails, so including these plants among or near lettuce rows should help.

Traps, organic bait and barrier placement are all useful tools in the removal of snails and slugs. Water the area slightly to encourage the slugs and snails to come out and bait in the afternoon or early evening. If you are not squeamish, a successful method of removal is to hand pluck the insects from habitable areas two hours after dark with the aid of a flashlight.

Lettuce Insecticides or Chemical Control

If cultural controls such as use of mulch or removal of debris and vegetation, and biological controls like natural predation, aren’t handling the lettuce pest problem, you may need to resort to chemical controls.

Azadirachtin, which is a natural compound derived from the neem tree, is effective against caterpillars and aphids. Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural soil bacterium, which can aid in the eradication of caterpillars.

Spinosad is used to control the Lepidopteran larvae and leaf miners. Its use over years; however, has resulted in resistance in some insects species. Compounds containing Methoxyfenozide are also used to control infestation of caterpillars.

How to plant lettuce

Carol Sharp Corbis / Getty Images

Lettuce is regarded as a cool-season vegetable, and in most home gardens, it is planted in the early spring, harvested in late spring to early summer, and then discarded in favor of other vegetables for the middle of the summer. Some gardeners may replant a second crop of lettuce as the days grow cooler in fall, but most do not grow lettuce at all in the midsummer period, focusing instead on warm-season vegetables. Savvy gardeners may plant lettuce among other warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, so that by the time the lettuce is finished in early summer, the warm-season vegetables are beginning to take over the garden space.

Lettuce grows best in a temperature range of about 45 to 75 degrees. In weather hotter than this, the leaves begin to get bitter to the taste. When leaf lettuce bolts—begins to send up its flower shoots—it’s a signal that the production of edible lettuce is done for the season. Leaves harvested after this point will be quite bitter to eat.

But there are some ways in which you can keep lettuce producing throughout the summer.

When to Plant Lettuce for Summer

Lettuce can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the early spring. Depending on the variety you plant, lettuce seeds can begin germinating in temperatures between 40 and 85 degrees. But lettuce will ideally germinate when temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. Seedlings usually emerge between seven and 10 days after planting.

Choose the Right Lettuce Variety

First, choose leaf varieties rather than head-forming lettuces. You can start harvesting leaf lettuces as soon as the outer leaves reach about 4 to 6 inches in height. If you cut just these outer leaves, it allows the remaining center leaves to continue growing, and you’ll have baby leaves to enjoy. This is called “cut and come again” harvesting, and some lettuce varieties are marketed as being especially suitable for this kind of harvesting. Not only do you get to start harvesting early, but cutting like this tends to shock the lettuce plant, preventing it from thinking it has matured and is ready to bolt and go to seed. Here are a few “cut and come again” varieties that have a uniform, upright growth for best baby leaves:

  • Romaine
  • Summer crisp
  • Oakleaf types with flatter, lobed leaves
  • Grand Rapids types with broad, crinkled, frilly, loose leaves

Head-lettuces, on the other hand, take a while to develop mature heads, and they sometimes bolt even before decent edible heads can form. Leaf lettuces are a much better choice for continued production. Some common head-lettuce varieties include:

  • Bibb
  • Butterhead
  • Iceberg
  • Green leaf and red leaf

Harvest Leaf Lettuce Frequently

If you keep lettuce leaves cropped short, the plants will continue to produce new leaves well into the summer. Allowing leaves to become large and mature signals the plant to send up seed bolts, which is the point where it will no longer be edible. Keep your leaf lettuce cropped short, even if it means discarding some leaves because there is more than you can eat.

Provide Some Shade

Plant your lettuce in the shade of taller plants, like tomatoes, corn, or even vining crops like cucumbers and squash. You can do this when you first start seeding in the spring or wherever there are bare spots in the garden to fill. Lettuce needs more sun in the cool spring than it does in summer, and positioning lettuce plants around taller plants, such as tomatoes, will provide full sun in spring while the tomatoes are still short but will offer relief from the intense summer sun. Sun cloth suspended above the lettuce plants on poles can also help shade the plants and delay their bolting impulse.

Keep Lettuce Plants Well-Watered

Regular watering makes plants very forgiving of high temperatures. The evaporation of water from soil provides natural cooling. Water your lettuce plants every day—and even more often if it is extremely hot and dry. The lettuce leaves are mostly water and will desiccate and wilt in strong sunlight and dry soil. Lettuce roots tend to be shallow, so frequent watering is more important than deep watering.

Transplant

If all else fails and it looks like your lettuce plants are ready to bolt, dig them out of the ground and replant them. As with “cut and come again” harvesting, this is a shock to the plant’s system, and it will once again focus on growing roots and delay setting seed. Don’t keep them out of the ground or allow the plants to dry out—just the act of lifting them and immediately replanting is enough of a shock.

Start a Second Crop in Summer

The early-season planting of lettuce can be harvested into early summer if you follow the previous tips, but eventually, it will surrender to genetics and bolt with flower shoots. If you want to have lettuce to harvest in late summer, you will probably have to plant a second crop in early summer. Lettuce seed can be difficult to sprout in warm, dry conditions. Try these four steps to get them going:

  1. Find a somewhat shady spot in your garden, and give it a deep soaking of water. Then lay a board over the damp soil. The board should be at least as large as your intended planting area.
  2. Periodically lift the board and re-soak the soil for another two to three days. This should lower the temperature of the soil.
  3. Now, plant your lettuce seeds in the prepared area, and water them well. Replace the board over the seeded ground.
  4. Lift the board, and water every day until you see signs of germination, at which time you can remove the board. It should take about seven to 10 days for the lettuce seeds to sprout. Keep watering whenever the soil dries out. This can mean watering more than once a day, while the seedlings are tiny.

Once the plants are a few inches tall and ready to start harvesting, they should not need a great deal of additional water.

Plant a Fall Crop

Finally, keep your lettuce seeds handy for a fall planting, when growing conditions are once again perfect for lettuce plants and the growing is easy. Leaf lettuces grow quickly, and within a few weeks of cool fall weather, you can have some of the tastiest lettuce of the year.