What to Plant: Seeds
Dates: See Vegetable Planting Calendars
Nutrition: Vitamin A & C, calcium, potassium, iron, carotenoids, foliate (applies to leaf types ONLY – crispheads have very little nutrition)
Seed Viability: 5 – 6 years
Soil Temp: 41ºF – 80ºF (75ºF)
Planting Depth: 1/8 inch
Spacing: 8″ x 8″
SqFt Spacing: Leaf, 4 per square; Head, 1 per square
Days to Harvest: 40 – 75 (depends on variety)
Length of Harvest: Perpetual until hot weather sets in
Origin: India, Central Asia
Bed prep: Prepare beds by adding compost and SROF at ¼ cup per square foot. Mix well by spading. Rake smooth. Lettuce can be grown in almost pure compost. We recommend 2-year old leaf mold compost.
Planting: Water the bed before planting. Broadcast the seed thinly on the prepared surface. Pat down gently and keep moist. A sprinkling of damp sand will help to keep the seed in place, but do not cover the seed completely. Water well with a misting nozzle. A sheet of white paper may be pinned over the seed until germination begins. Light weight row cover may also be used. Lettuce seed needs light to germinate. Check frequently and do not allow the soil to dry out at any time from seeding to germination.
Watering: Keep evenly moist at all times. Dry soils may cause bitterness.
Aftercare: Keep bed free of weeds. Mulch with a light material such as rice hulls or pine straw.
Harvest: Cut 1/2 of the plant with scissors leaving the other half to grow. Cutting keeps the harvested leaves cleaner. Do not leave harvested portions in direct sun. Do not wash the harvested leaves until you are ready to use them. They may be kept in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp, not wet, paper towel and placed in an open zipper bag until use.
Aphids – Sucking plant juices
Cutworms – Cut through stem of plant above soil level
Butterheads, romaine, and looseleaf varieties do best here. Avoid crispheads. Lettuce is pretty cold hardy, but row cover should be added if temps go to low twenties or teens.
Lettuce can be planted thickly, with the thinnings used in salads if you choose.
Extend the season by planting some under tomatoes, trellised beans, or under shade cloth. Lettuce can be planted in the shade for a summer harvest, but quality is decreased. Lettuce also does well in containers or tucked between taller perennials.
A selection of different colors and textures of lettuce are beautiful planted in a patchwork quilt pattern in the garden. Mark each variety and keep track of the better performers each year.
One of the oldest food plants known to man. Herodotus wrote of lettuce being served in ancient Greece. It was served at the end of the meal because it was thought to have sleep inducing properties.
It was a favorite vegetable in ancient Rome. The word “lettuce” is derived from the Latin root word “lac” meaning “milk,” referring to the milky juice found in mature lettuce stems. Emperor Caesar built a statue to honor lettuce because he believed it cured him from an illness. While the Greeks served lettuce at the end of a meal, the Romans served it at the beginning to enhance the appetite.
Columbus and other European explorers brought lettuce seeds to the New World. Our early colonists included lettuce in the first gardens planted in American soil.