How Do You Grow Healthy, Crisp Lettuce?
When you think of lettuce, the first thing that comes to mind is a salad. Although a wide variety of lettuce types are used in salads, they’re also wonderful to make lettuce wraps, sandwich fillings (BLT anyone?), juices, soups, stir-fry and sauces.
Store-bought lettuce has already gone through a lengthy process of cultivation, storage, handling and transport before it gets to your plate. Growing your own lettuce will allow you to get the best nutrition out of your greens. Since you can pick them fresh, when they’re in peak condition, there is less nutrient loss. You can also keep them free of pesticides and chemicals.
Lettuce is easy to grow. These tips will help you nurture your own gorgeously crisp lettuce greens.
What To Know Before Planting Lettuce
You don’t need an expansive garden to grow your own greens. Lettuce can even be planted in patio containers. It is a spring and fall crop and grows best at temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many varieties mature within 30 days, but if you’re impatient to enjoy your greens they can be harvested earlier as micro-greens.
Planting Lettuce Seeds
Lettuce likes cool weather and that means you can start planting varieties such as romaine, leaf and butter lettuce in early spring. Fall lettuce can be planted in late summer. Depending on the variety, lettuce seeds germinate in temperatures between 40 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Lettuce seeds are small and can be planted ¼ to ½ inch deep in the soil.
We suggest planting lettuce seeds successively with 10 to 14 days in between. This way your greens won’t be ready to harvest all at once. During the cooler fall and spring months, a spot that receives full sun is ideal for planting. If you grow your greens during summer, you’ll want to provide partial shade, especially for the germination phase.
Loose, cool soil with decent drainage is optimal for lettuce. Adding compost or manure can increase drainage and provide essential nutrients. The greens don’t do well in low pH soil. If you’re struggling with your crops, get a soil test kit. Adding lime can help bring soil pH to 6.0.
You don’t need to be concerned about lettuce developing deep roots. Instead, you rather want to encourage leaf growth. Watering needs to be light and consistent, just enough to keep the soil moist. Overwatering your greens can lead to disease and root rot.
If the leaves start to brown and curl, it could be that moisture is not consistent. Trim the browned leaves and start a consistent watering routine. Lady beetles, neem oil and horticultural soap are all organic ways to keep your greens aphid-free.
When you harvest your lettuce will depend on the type you’re growing, what you’re using it for and your personal preference. Unlike other vegetables, lettuce can be eaten at almost any stage of its growth which is generally within 30 to 70 days of planting.
Harvest lettuce in the morning for the best quality. You can either just remove a few leaves at a time as needed or cut the entire head off at ground level. Give your fresh garden greens a good rinse, pat them dry and enjoy a tastier, fresher and more nutritious salad than you’ll ever get on the shelves.