If you grow only one vegetable other than tomatoes, it should be lettuce. Growing lettuce is so easy, takes up little space, and you can even grow it among flowers.
here are a few things to think about when adding lettuce to your garden. Since lettuce is a cool weather plant it’s best to plant them in the spring or fall. You can also do succession planting to be able to have lettuce harvest all season long. To succession plant, you’ll want to plant a few seeds and then a week or two later plant a few more. This way your lettuce will be ready to harvest at different times, so you don’t have a huge harvest of all at once.
When to Plant
Lettuce is a cool weather plant and does well in most areas when planted in the spring and fall. Lettuce seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost. Lettuce seeds can be direct sown into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Lettuce usually grows well at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees. Hotter weather tends to make lettuce bitter and it can bolt.
Where Plant Lettuce
Finding a good spot in the garden for lettuce is important. Since lettuce is a cooler weather plant they like some shade. It’s best to plant lettuce in an area that has part sun. I like to plant my lettuce around my tomatoes plants. The tomato plants give the lettuce a little shade. If you are limited on garden space, lettuce grows very well in containers too.
Give the lettuce a little room between plants, if in rows plant 4 inches apart for leaf varieties and 8-12 inches apart for head varieties. If you are using the square foot gardening method you should be able to plant 5 plants per square foot.
Soil conditions for Lettuce
Lettuce likes to be planted in a loamy soil that is fertile. Be sure to work in some compost or fertilizer before planting and then after transplanting the lettuce add a little fertilizer to the soil in about three weeks.
Watering and Care
You’ll want to keep the lettuce soil moist but not soggy. Lettuce can wilt if the soil is too dry or the weather is too warm. If the soil is moist but the lettuce is wilting in the heat of the day, water the leaves to cool the plant down. If you need to weed around lettuce plants, be sure to hand weed. The lettuce roots are shallow and care needs to be taken when weeding around them.
There are a few ways to harvest lettuce. You can remove the larger outer leaves when you just need a few leaves of lettuce. Let the rest of the leaves remain and continue growing. If you want to harvest the whole head, instead of pulling it up cut it at the base leaving a few leaves and then water the stock right away. After a week or so you should see lettuce begin to regrow from the stock that was left. If you need the space for another plant. Cut off the head and then remove the stock and roots.
Be on the lookout for aphids and earwigs on lettuce. They like to get down into the plant and snack on it. For aphids, I will spray the plant with a stiff spray to dislodge the aphids. We also purchase lady bugs each year to release into the yard to help control aphids on plants. Earwigs can be picked off the plant. When I harvest lettuce I always turn the head upside down and give it a shake to get rid of any earwigs that might be in the lettuce.