A row of lettuce in the garden.
Credit: sxc.hu/michaelaw

Tips for Growing Lettuce For Maximum Production

There are dozens of different types of lettuce you can grow easily, either from seed or by transplanting seedlings that are started indoors. Lettuce is considered one of the more carefree variety of crops that can be mastered in a relatively short amount of time. Most varieties of lettuce will mature in 45 to 55 days, although the popular variety Romaine takes up to 85 days.

  • Start with soil that is rich in potassium and nitrogen, with plenty of organic compost matter.
  • Pick a site that is in the full sun, drains well, but retains a level of moisture. Raised beds are an excellent way to plant lettuce. A layer of clean straw can also help to retain moisture.
  • To plant from seed, simply place seeds about 1/4 inch deep, tamp down and water. Space them out according to the directions on the seed packet. Some varieties of loose leaf lettuce can grow very close together, while varieties like those known as "crisphead" will need up to a square foot of garden space. Keep in mind, seeds won't germinate in soil that is warmer than 80 degrees F. Lettuce is a cold-to-mild climate crop in general. For exceptionally warm climates, look for heat-tolerant varieties that can be started in peat pots indoors. 
  • If you plan out your lettuce garden ahead of time, you can enjoy cultivating it in succession over many months. Start with early varieties at the beginning of the season, sowing seeds every 2-3 weeks, then switch to more heat-tolerant and Fall varieties as the temperatures rise.
  • Seasoned gardeners will tell you the key to cultivating large lettuce production is water. The lettuce crop water supply needs to be almost constant but moderate. Lettuce is an ideal crop for drip irrigation systems.
  • You can plant many varieties of lettuce with other vegetables that like to grow tall such as peppers, eggplant and broccoli. This type of companion planting will make the most of whatever garden space you have available.
  • Slugs and cutworms are the two biggest pests for lettuce crops. Wood ashes or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around your seedlings will help to keep the pests at bay. You may also want to use paper cup rings as protection as well, especially for young plants that can be quickly ravaged by caterpillars and slugs. 
  • Once true leaves have formed, you can start harvesting. Many varieties of lettuce are less bitter if the leaves have not aged for long. Take an early taste test before harvesting each of the different varieties you plant. Harvest outer leaves first on Romaine or crisphead varieties and let the rest continue to mature.


How to Grow Lettuce Video