How To Grow Lettuce: The Complete Guide

How To Grow Lettuce: The Complete Guide

Whether you are a gardening novice or an experienced green thumb, this article has everything you need to grow lettuce at home. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right variety to planting, caring for, and harvesting your lettuce. So, let’s begin your journey to growing your own vibrant and healthy lettuce!

Lettuce as vegetable

Fresh lettuce is delicious and healthy, and you can easily grow lettuce in your garden or greenhouse. The vegetables are already ready for harvest in spring. For this, you sow it in the cold frame or seed trays. You put the bowls on your windowsill.

Then ensure the floor is sufficiently dry and does not stick or smear. With the cultivation, you shorten the cultivation time in the bed. In late spring and summer, no-till your beds to plant and harvest lettuce again. Then separate the leafy greens.

If you sow the lettuce directly into the bed, wide varieties “shoot” less strongly, meaning they don’t tend to flower prematurely. Instead, a deep root system grows. With this, they reach deeper water supplies in the subsoil, Which means you have to water the lettuce plants less.

Grow lettuce

Sowing lettuce

Lettuce needs light to germinate. Therefore you only sift over the seed with a thin layer of sand.

Depending on the variety, lettuce germinates at different temperatures. At temperatures above 20 °C, however, wide types tend to inhibit germination. If it is too cool, the seeds need more time to develop.

As a rule, you sow lettuce outdoors from the end of March or the beginning of April. But you can also plant lettuce all summer long. So you always have fresh leaves to harvest. For this, you reseed every 14 days until September. In summer, however, make sure that your bed has enough shade. Otherwise, the ground will heat up too much.

Planting lettuce

You can sow or plant lettuce. With pre-grown seedlings, you can harvest them four weeks earlier. You sow the vegetables in seed trays or cold frames to do this. Breeding pots have individual pots about 4 cm to 5 cm in size.

Harden off the plants in a sheltered spot. Depending on the type, lettuce needs different planting distances. Use a dipping stick with a scale not to plant the vegetables too deep. 4 cm to 5 cm is a good planting depth. The root base is just above the ground. If the crop is too deep, the leaves will not develop properly. In addition, the risk of diseases increases.

Place young plants so half the soil press pots look out of the ground.

Romaine lettuce

Location and care of lettuce plants

Lettuce does not have any great demands on the soil. Just avoid substrates that are too acidic and too heavy. They tend to clog quickly.

Water light sandy soils sufficiently and provide shade. In the spring, they warm up quickly. As a result, you can harvest earlier. It is best to use deeply loosened, humus-rich, and low-nitrogen soil. These provide the ideal growing conditions for lettuce.

If you plant your lettuce in spring, choose the sunniest bed. In summer, you take a cooler location. You cannot grow all varieties in the same area every year. With garden salads and chicory salads, you keep a four-year break. For a preculture, you plant leeks, spinach, or onions. Green manure is also recommended.

To keep the leaves from becoming hard, lettuce needs regular watering. An undersupply also leads to slow growth and increased shooting. Once the heads close and the lettuce starts to firm up, waterless. In this case, do not pour the water over their heads. Instead, you water the soil around it.

If the vegetables grow in good garden soil, fertilizing is not necessary. Do not spread stable manure before cultivation. Otherwise, the risk of rot increases. To keep the soil moist and weed-free, mulch it. As an alternative to mulch, you can regularly chop the soil.

Growing lettuce in planters

Most types of lettuce also grow well in window boxes, planters, and pots. However, do not use a substrate that is too rich in nutrients. Mixing two parts of humus-rich garden soil with one part of sand is best. Lettuce, such as Lollo rosso or Lollo bionda, is particularly suitable for pot growth.

There are also so-called baby leaf salads. These strains do not develop a head. You sow them densely and harvest them when they are “baby,” i.e., from a cutting length of 6 cm to 8 cm. Suitable types are, for example, oak leaf lettuce, radicchio in red and green, and colorful lettuce; This also works with young spinach or chard.

For example, growing trays of baby leaf lettuce can also be raised on the balcony. You can make the panels yourself. To do this, first lightly moisten a piece of kitchen paper. Then you sprinkle it thickly with lettuce seeds. Place another piece of paper on top and press firmly. Now place the layers in a shallow dish with the substrate. Press everything down and pour carefully. Always keep the bowl moist. After about three weeks, you harvest the leaves. Use scissors for this.

How much sun does lettuce need?

Lettuce is a cool-season crop that prefers moderate temperatures and partial shade. However, it still needs a good amount of sunlight to grow properly. Lettuce should receive around 6 hours of direct sunlight per day; This means planting it in an area that receives morning sun or dappled shade during the hottest part of the day.

 Lettuce may benefit from afternoon shade in hotter climates to avoid heat stress. If you’re growing lettuce indoors, you can use grow lights to provide the necessary light. Providing the right sunlight is crucial for growing healthy and tasty lettuce.

How long does lettuce take to grow?

The time it takes for lettuce to grow depends on the variety you choose to plant and the growing conditions. Generally, lettuce takes around 45 to 60 days to reach maturity from the sowing date.

However, some lettuce varieties, such as loose-leaf lettuce, can be harvested around 30 days after sowing. It’s important to note that lettuce grows best in cooler temperatures, between 45-75°F (7-24°C), and can take longer to mature in warmer weather. Factors such as soil quality, watering, and fertilization can also affect the growth rate of lettuce.

How to harvest lettuce

Harvesting lettuce is a simple process and can be done in a few easy steps:

  1. Please wait until the lettuce has reached the desired maturity: The first step in harvesting lettuce is waiting for it to reach maturity. The plant’s outer leaves should be at least 4-6 inches long, and the center should be full and firm; This is usually around 45-60 days after planting, depending on the variety.
  2. Cut the leaves: Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the leaves at the base of the plant, leaving the stem and roots intact. Cutting the outer leaves first is best, leaving the inner ones to continue growing.
  3. Decide on the type of harvest: There are two types of lettuce yield: the cut-and-come-again method or harvesting the entire plant.
  4. a. Cut-and-come-again: This involves picking only the plant’s outer leaves, leaving the center intact to continue growing. To do this, cut the outer leaves at the base of the plant, going 1-2 inches of growth. The center leaves will continue to grow, and you can harvest the outer leaves again in a few weeks.
  5. b. Harvesting the entire plant: If you want to harvest it immediately, cut it at the base of the stem, leaving the roots intact. This method is best if you want to gather a large amount of lettuce at once.
  6. Rinse the leaves: Once you’ve harvested the lettuce, rinse the leaves thoroughly in cold water to remove dirt or debris. Gently shake off any excess water.
  7. Store the lettuce: Once clean and dry, store it in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Using the cut-and-come-again method, keep the harvested leaves separately from the growing ones.

Diseases and pests

If the humidity is too high, downy mildew is a danger. Days of rain also favor an infestation. Discard affected plants immediately; This will prevent the fungal disease from spreading. Additionally, spray the salad with homemade horsetail manure. There are now varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew. Plant these if you don’t want to worry about them.

Regionally, rabbits can also become a problem when growing lettuce and other types of vegetables. For example, raised beds, rabbit wire and chain link fences, or a greenhouse will help you here.

However, the most dangerous lettuce pest is usually the slug. Protect young plants with an effective slug repellent. Plastic collars or snail fences are used to deter snails.

Here are two popular lettuce varieties;

Romaine lettuce origin

Cos lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. longifolia) is bind, summer endive, cooking, or romaine lettuce. It belongs to the garden salads. It is called “binding lettuce” because it commonly ties the outer leaves together. The inner leaves remained elegantly pale. New varieties grow upwards by themselves these days.

Appearance and growth

The Romaine lettuce is an annual plant that grows into elliptical to oval heads about 30 cm to 40 cm high. The leaves stand up steeply and form a strong midrib. Depending on the variety, the heads are more or less closed. The color of the leaves also varies: shades from green to reddish brown are possible here.

Romaine lettuce

Growing romaine lettuce

You can easily pre-cultivate romaine lettuce in February and March. To do this, grow it with potting soil in seed trays over which you put a glass. You can usually harvest the first heads of lettuce a few weeks later.

You can sow romaine lettuce directly in the garden from April to July. Plant it in rows about 12 inches (30 cm) apart. After separating, increase this distance a little so the plants are about 35 cm apart. In cool regions, a film is advisable to cover the plants.

How to grow romaine lettuce?

You can move the pre-cultivated plants to the vegetable patch in April or May. Again, make sure there is a sufficient distance of about 35 cm. Water the lettuce generously after planting and keep the soil well moist later.

Water the romaine lettuce, especially on hot days, so the soil does not dry. Use compost for occasional fertilization. However, don’t put too much fertilizer on the plants, or the lettuce will turn bitter.

The ideal soil for the salad is rich in humus, loose, and mulch. If your romaine lettuce grows with loose leaves, you can carefully tie them together; This keeps the inner leaves lighter and particularly delicate.

Harvesting romaine lettuce

In July – about six to eight weeks after planting – you can harvest the first heads of lettuce. They should then have reached a height of about 30 cm to 40 cm. For the harvest, cut off the heads just above the ground. Then separate the individual leaves and wash them thoroughly. Some varieties can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Tip: You can boil the firm stalks of the leaves and then season with salt, pepper, and butter.

Romaine lettuce varieties

Numerous different varieties of romaine lettuce look different and taste different. You should know these varieties:

  • Kasseler Strünkchen: This variety is particularly good for cooking.
  • Little Leprechaun: This variety of romaine lettuce is characterized by red-brown leaves.
  • Devil’s Ears: This variety has particularly long leaves with dark red colored tips.
  • Trout shot: This variety has a brown-red marking on the leaves.
  • Parris Island Cos: This variety grows particularly crisp and upright.
  • Remus: Remus is significantly larger than the other romaine lettuce.
  • Valmaine: This dark green romaine lettuce is suitable for early summer cultivation.

Iceberg lettuce

Where does iceberg lettuce come from?

Iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. capitata nidus tenerimma) was cultivated in America in the early 20th century. From there, the salad was shipped. Since there were no other cooling options, it was stored on blocks of ice and icebergs, which earned it the iceberg lettuce. Iceberg lettuce comes from the lettuce group (Lactuca sativa var. capitata) and belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae).

Iceberg lettuce

What does iceberg lettuce look like?

The leaves of the iceberg lettuce lie close together. It forms an almost spherical, solid head. It owes its alternative name, “cornsalad,” to its firm and crunchy leaves.

Unlike other lettuce, iceberg lettuce tolerates higher temperatures quite well; This makes it a good summer salad. The plant has a taproot and a basal leaf rosette. Later it forms a branched inflorescence with many yellow flowers. The leaves are light green, red-brown, or red-edged, depending on the variety.

How to grow iceberg lettuce

Sow or plant iceberg lettuce outdoors from spring to late summer. Grow young plants from March on the windowsill in a seed tray, in the cold frame under the foil, or in the greenhouse.

Iceberg lettuce is a light germinating plant. Therefore cover the seeds only thinly with potting soil. 10 °C to 18 °C are well suited for germination. Transplant the seedlings into small pots as soon as the first cotyledons appear. Place the young plants in the bed from the fifth leaf at a 30 cm x 35 cm distance.

From May, you can also sow iceberg lettuce directly outdoors. Remember that you can harvest earlier if you plant early young plants. Don’t plant iceberg lettuce too deep, or it won’t form leaves. Cover the plants with soil up to the root collar. Mix in some compost as well for good results.

Cultivate iceberg lettuce

Iceberg lettuce tolerates short droughts quite well. Still, water it regularly, especially when the seed is up, and the head is forming. You pull out weeds regularly. Mulch the soil; this will keep it loose. Do not damage the roots or leaves when working. A little nettle manure is good for the iceberg lettuce while it is growing.

Harvest and use iceberg lettuce

You can harvest the iceberg lettuce about twelve weeks after sowing. Harvesting is possible until October. The new variety of Batavia lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. longifolia) is ready for harvest eight weeks after sowing.

Harvest the lettuce once the leaves and head are fully developed. Don’t wait any longer than a few days. Cut off the head just above the ground. It’s best to do that in the morning. Then the leaves are particularly fresh and crisp.

Iceberg lettuce stays fresh for about two weeks in the refrigerator. Remove the bracts before further processing.

Crop rotation and mixed cultivation in iceberg lettuce

Good preceding crops for iceberg lettuce are leeks, spinach, or grains. Suitable plant partners are radishes, celery, or tomatoes. Other lettuce and daisies, in general, are not good precultures for iceberg lettuce. Pay attention to a cultivation break of four years.

Iceberg lettuce varieties

The different varieties of iceberg lettuce differ mainly in the color and shape of the leaves. And the cultivation period is also different from each other.

  • “Great Lakes”: first iceberg lettuce with a large, closed head, cultivated from early summer to September
  • “Maravilla de Verano”: can stand on the bed for a long time, reddish
  • ‘Reine des Glaces’: very large head with light green serrated leaves
  • “Winnetou” and “Rosa”: red salads
  • ‘Frillice’: develops green leaves and loose heads
  • “Laibacher Eis”: Resistant to powdery mildew, has reddish leaf edges
  • “Grazer Krauthäuptel”: suitable for year-round cultivation
  • “Gelber Kaiser” and “Batavia Blonde de Paris”: large varieties with yellow leaves

diseases and pests

Iceberg lettuce is quite robust. However, snails attack young plants quite often. Protect the lettuces with copper snail fences, lettuce collars, and slug pellets.

Aphids and wireworms also occur on iceberg lettuce. If the humidity is high and it rains, you can prevent downy mildew by spraying the lettuce with horsetail manure.


Growing lettuce is a fun and rewarding experience that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their gardening experience. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can grow fresh and healthy lettuce at home, providing a great addition to your meals and a sense of pride and accomplishment. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to enjoy your labor’s fruits (or, rather, the leaves)!

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