Growing lettuce will open up literally hundreds of edible leaf options. Most lettuce thrives in cooler weather, so this is one of the crops you can plant early in the year. And many types of lettuce will continue to produce for months, as long as you keep harvesting.
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In fertile soil, lettuce is easy to grow from seed. It tolerates cooler temperatures (and even light frost), so it can be planted early in the season. There are so many different types of lettuce that the biggest problem is often deciding which to plant! This plant transplants well, so in colder climates you may want to start indoors and transplant as the average temperature indicates early spring.
To ensure that the top layer of your soil is fertile enough for this hungry plant’s shallow roots, churn a healthy amount of compost into the lettuce beds before planting.
Leaf lettuces are best grown in the early season because they like cool weather, while head lettuce can tolerate more heat. Be sure to give the plants plenty of room - “head” varieties of lettuce require more room than “leaf” varieties (see spacing guidelines in snapshot box below).
Regardless of whether you start them indoors or out and what variety you choose, make sure the seeds receive a lot of light until they germinate. Only cover them with a small amount of soil (about 0.2 inches/0.5 cm), then keep the well-drained bed moist at all times.
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Lettuce likes full sun and will grow in a wide variety of soil types as long as you have good drainage. However, if the temperature gets too warm (soil climbs above 75 F/24 C), your plants may become temporarily dormant. Therefore, in warmer climates try to give your lettuce plants partial shade during the day.
Because lettuce has shallow roots, it needs to be watered regularly.
It also needs plenty of aeration to prevent disease, so - as mentioned above - don't plant them too close together and be sure to thin seedlings. Watering in the morning is also a good way to help prevent disease.
Looseleaf lettuce varieties can be harvested at virtually any phase, and removing only the outer leaves (instead of pulling up the entire plant or cutting off the plant just above the soil, which are also options) will encourage the plant to continue to grow. Harvesting leaves regularly will also encourage production.
Head varieties should be harvested when the central leaves are fairly firm.
Lettuce can be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator in perforated plastic bags for about two weeks. Since it does not freeze well, we recommend successive plantings every two weeks so that you can have fresh lettuce throughout the growing season.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Lettuce. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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