Planting, growing and harvesting lettuce

Planting, growing and harvesting lettuce

If you've never tried fresh garden lettuce, you're missing out. Its taste and vitamin A are higher than those bought in the store. Here is information on how to plant, grow, harvest and store lettuce.

About the lettuce 

Lettuce is a cool season crop that grows well in spring and fall in many areas. This crop is perfect for beginners; it is easily planted from seed in the soil as soon as the soil can be worked. Because lettuce grows quickly, the best way is to plant small seeds at a time, shaking the plant.

 Lettuce is a great green because they grow quickly, produce for a long time, and don't need much as long as the plants are watered properly. In addition, lettuce grows well in beds, making it ideal for small spaces. Lettuce is perfect for containers that can be placed on patios, balconies and porches.


Planting, growing and harvesting lettuce

Lettuce prefers an area with 5 to 6 hours of sun, but it can benefit from afternoon shade when the temperature rises. The soil should be loose, well-drained and ooh but not hard. In the week before planting, turn it over with lots of compost for added fertility. When planting lettuce

  • Soil temperatures between 45°F and 65°F (7°C and 18°C) are ideal. Cold-adapted species can survive low temperatures. 
  • Direct sowing is recommended. Sow the seeds in the soil 2 to 4 weeks before your last frost date or as soon as the soil can be worked.
  • Or, to get a head start, start seeds indoors about a month before your last frost date. Soak the seeds for 3 days to a week before putting them outside.
  • If you buy seedlings (small plants) from a garden center or nursery, you can plant between 2 weeks before your last frost and 2 weeks after your last frost.
  • In many places, it will be possible to plant lettuce again in autumn or even in winter. Check our planting calendar for planting dates.

 Tip: To plant fall crops, create a cool soil in late August by keeping the soil moist and covering it with mulch. A week later, the soil under the bale will be about 10°F (6°C) cooler than the rest of the field. Plant a three-foot row of lettuce every two weeks - just turn the mulch over the garden. 

How to plant lettuce and spacing

  • Since the seed is small, efficient planting is important. Rocks and large clogs of earth will prevent fruiting. 
  • Plant the seeds 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. Lettuce seeds need light to grow, so don't plant them too much. 
  • The seeds can be sown in a single row or spread out for wider sowing (loosleaf varieties are best for this). When propagating, small plants reach 1 to 2 inches in height for proper spacing. 
  • The space between the trees depends on the different types:
  • Loose-leaf lettuce: Plant or thin 4 inches apart.
  • Romaine (cos) and butterhead (freehead, Bibb, Boston): Plant or thin 8 inches apart.
  • Criphead (iceberg): Plant or thin 16 inches apart.

  •  Separate rows of lettuce 12 to 15 inches apart. Sow another seed every two weeks for a continuous harvest. 

  •  Consider planting rows of chives or garlic between your lettuces to combat aphids. They act as "barrier plants" for lettuce.

  • A lot of water is used with slippery nozzles when turning or sowing seeds.

For fall crops, refresh the soil in August by watering it and covering it with mulch. A week later, the soil under the bale should be a few degrees cooler than the rest of the garden and ready to be planted in 2-foot rows of lettuce. Repeat the process every two weeks by rotating the lawn around the garden. As fall cools down, plant as usual for fall harvest.


You can make the transition easier by using a temporary lid made from a bottomless milk carton or plastic bottle. These will protect your plants from the cold just to help them get started. Newly planted lettuce can also be helped by a simple cover or wool.

  • Fertilize 3 weeks after application with organic alfalfa feed or other slow-release fertilizer to provide continuous nitrogen. 
  • Make sure the soil stays moist but not too wet. It should drain well. Overwatering leads to disease or slow growth.

  •  Lettuce will tell you when it needs water. Take a look. If the leaves are melting, water them at any time, even during the heat of the day, to keep them cool and slowly turning. Using a row cover can also help prevent lettuce from drying out in the sun.


  •  An organic mulch will help conserve moisture, prevent weeds, and cool the soil during the summer months. 
  • Weed by hand if necessary, but be careful not to damage the shallow roots of your lettuce plant.

How to delay bolting

  • Bolting is a common problem caused by heat (over 70°F/20°C) or changes in day length. When a lettuce plant matures, it begins to produce midribs and seed pods, and its leaves have a bitter taste. 

  •  To delay growth, cover plants with shade cloth so they get dry light. Be sure to keep watering during the best part of the growing season.

  • Planting your garden around tall greens, such as tomatoes or sweet corn, can reduce summer heat loss. Winter and Lettuce Lettuce is a good candidate for winter gardening!

Recommended varieties

  • Crisphead: "Great Lakes", "Ithaca", "King Crown", "Good", "Summer" 

  • Romaine (Cos)/Butterhead: 'Burpee Bibb', 'Cosmo Savoy', 'Green Towers', 'Little Gem', 'Paris White Cos', 'Parris Island', 'Valmaine' 

  • Loose Leaf: "Simpson Black Seed", "Green Ice", "Ibis", "Lollo Rossa", "Oak Leaf", "Prizehead", "Salad Bowl", "Slobolt" 

  • Red leaves: "New Red Fire", "Sails Red", "Ruby Red" (Not recommended for hot places; red color absorbs more heat.)


Bring the lettuce in the morning when it's perfect but still small and tender. Check your garden daily for leaves that are ready to harvest; Ripe lettuce becomes bitter and dry, it will spoil quickly.

  • Before maturity, you can harvest leaf lettuce by removing the outer leaves so the middle leaves can continue to grow.
  • Harvest romaine butterhead and looseleaf varieties by removing the outer leaves, digging up the entire plant or cutting the plant about 8 inches above the ground. There is usually a second harvest from the first or third method. 
  • Criphead lettuce is picked when the center is firm.

How to store lettuce

  •  Store lettuce in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
  •  When you're ready to use, put the drained lettuce in cold water for a few minutes. Then put it in a salad spinner or tea towel. Run the spinner to remove the water from the lettuce.


  • Has the lettuce wilted? Place the leaves in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes and let them soak for about 15 minutes.



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