Learn tips and tricks for growing lettuce.
The cooler weather of spring and fall provides the perfect conditions for growing lettuce. The wait time for harvesting is short, especially with leaf types, which you can pick as soon as leaves are big enough to nibble. Another thing to know about growing lettuce is that it doesn't need a lot of room. It grows easily at the base of tall vegetables, in open spots in flower beds, or in pots.
Here's how to grow lettuce in your home garden.
Lettuce thrives and grows fastest in full sun, but it also grows well in light shade. In warmest regions, try to select a growing spot that offers afternoon shade.
The ideal soil for growing lettuce is moist but well-drained. Create a rich rooting environment in traditional in-ground planting beds by mixing 3 inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil into the top 6 inches of soil. Lettuce is shallow-rooted and also does well in bowl-type pots filled with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains compost but is less dense than in-ground soil. In raised beds, blend equal parts in-ground soil and container mix, or 100 percent organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
The best time of year for growing lettuce is during cool seasons - spring and fall. Ideal temperatures are between 45°F and 80°F. For the first week or two after planting, protect newly transplanted lettuce seedlings if frost is in the forecast. Once lettuce is actively growing and producing new leaves, it can handle chilly nights.
For the fastest path to harvest, plant young lettuce plants like those from Bonnie Plants®. Whether you choose frilly Green Leaf Lettuce, strikingly colored Red Romaine, or chef favorite Gourmet Salad Mix, it won't be long at all before you get to start picking and nibbling those tasty leaves.
Another option is to plant lettuce seeds directly into soil outdoors in planting bed or pots. Simply moisten the soil, sprinkle lettuce seeds where desired, cover with a very light layer of soil, and gently tamp it down. (For recommended planting times for your region, contact your local extension office.) Lettuce seed germinates in 7 to 14 days. Snip lettuce seedlings to thin them to the spacing suggested on the seed packet - anywhere from 6 to 12 inches, depending on type.
Lettuce has shallow roots, so plants need consistent watering. Check at least twice a week and water if the soil is dry down to 1 inch deep. Containers of lettuce need to be watered more frequently than garden beds, especially in the summer.
Surround (but don't cover) lettuce plants with 2 to 3 inches of Scotts® bagged mulch, straw, shredded leaves, pine straw, or other locally available material. Mulch helps keep weeds from growing by blocking sunlight, keep soil moist, and keep lettuce clean.
In addition to great soil, regular fertilizer feedings will encourage the best growth from your lettuce. Applying Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition (a water-soluble fertilizer that feeds both the soil and your plants) beginning a month after planting is an easy way to keep lettuce growing strong all season long. Follow label instructions to know how much and how often to apply.
As summer heat arrives, lettuce plants will start to form flowers and leaves will become bitter. You can either pull the plants or leave them to help attract pollinators.
Another way to keep lettuce growing long after the weather turns hot is to raise it in an indoor hydroponic garden like the sleek, modern Miracle-Gro® Twelve™ Indoor Growing System. Plants grow directly in water—no soil required!—that circulates around their roots, delivering plenty of moisture, nutrition, and air. A grow light provides just the right amount of light, too. In all, the system provides ideal growing conditions for lettuce.
For heading types of lettuce, wait until firm heads have formed, then cut them off at soil level. For leaf-type lettuce, begin picking individual leaves as soon as they're big enough to eat. Snip leaves from the outside, leaving the center of the plant to continue to grow.
Consider growing different types of lettuce and combining them to create a custom salad blend that pleases both eye and palate. In the garden, lettuce makes a fantastic design element in both edible and ornamental beds.
Ready to start planting and growing your own lettuce? Click on any of the product links above for more information, to purchase the product online, or to find a retailer near you.