Lettuce is a staple for most households. And learning how to grow lettuce in soil bags can be a game changer. This guide will show you how you can:
- Grow lettuce from seed with minimum effort
- Harvest lettuce regularly
- Care for the lettuce plants
You can start lettuce directly in the ground or use almost any container with drainage holes.
But this article is written to make it even easier. Here I will give you a step-by-step guide on how to grow lettuce in soil bags.
Yes, that’s right. We will use the soil bag the soil is delivered in.
I use regular garden soil in 40 or 50-liter bags. They are economical compared to specialty soils and yield an excellent harvest – every time.
To round off the article, I will give you a few pointers to ensure you have enough lettuce to harvest regularly but not too much at any given time. The technique is called succession or staggered planting . After all, who would store lettuce? Lettuce should be eaten fresh.
- 9-step guide to growing lettuce in a soil bag
- 1. Get your tools and supplies ready
- 2. Get your location set up
- 3. Get the soil bag ready
- 4. Cut one row to expose the soil inside the bag
- 5. Plant the seeds
- 6. Cover the seeds and water
- 7. Cover with floating row covers
- 8. Keep soil moist and watch for the first leaves
- 9. Plant another row of seeds when you see true leaves
- Succession or staggered planting
- What happens to the soil bag afterward?
- What other vegetables can be grown in soil bags?
9-step guide to growing lettuce in a soil bag
1. Get your tools and supplies ready
In the article Prepare moving plants outdoors – “Mise en place” for home gardeners, I introduced the value of preparing before you start a gardening project.
To live as I learn, let’s get organized.
- One 40-50 liter soil bag
- One sharp knife
- Garden scissors
- Lettuce seeds
- Watering can or manual pressure pump sprayer
Optional but strongly recommended:
- Sturdy packing tape
- Stones, wooden plank, or another type of support to keep soil bag off the ground
- Floating row covers
I use all three optional aids as they make all the difference in my growing environment. My lettuce grows strong and healthy, and it helps to keep pests away.
Related: Check out the tools and equipment we use and recommend in The MattMagnusson.com What we use section.
Read on our check out our Video published on YouTube.
2. Get your location set up
Place your support on the ground to create the necessary support to keep the soil bag off the ground.
You can pretty much use anything. For example, it works great to place 3-5 pieces of firewood on the ground and then balance the soil bag on top. But use what you have at hand.
Raising the soil bag off the ground is important for two reasons:
- It creates a barrier between the soil bag and any ground-dwelling slugs, snails, and other unwanted insects.
- It prevents the soil bag from sitting in water collected on the ground and helps the soil bag drain properly.
3. Get the soil bag ready
Preparing the soil bag is a simple 3-step process that takes me less than 2 minutes.
Step 1. Firm up the soil bag by taping the edges
Tape the edges of the bag to keep the soil from falling out as you cut the bag open.
Taping around the edges will make the bag firm. I usually add two layers of tape.
Step 2: Make 10-20 small puncture cuts in the bottom of the soil bag
Use a knife to make small puncture holes in the bottom of the soil bag. And yes, you get to decide which is the bottom side.
Step 3: Place the soil bag in place
Place the soil bag on your support and ensure the entire bag is off the ground and feels solid.
Smooth out the soil to ensure it is evenly distributed throughout the bag.
4. Cut one row to expose the soil inside the bag
Before you cut, you need to plan and mark how many rows of lettuce you will grow.
The soil bags I use hold 40-50 liters, and I always plan to cut three rows. But not all three at the same time.
Use your garden scissors to cut one row across the soil bag lengthwise. Make the cut about 1 cm / half an inch wide to make it easier to water and plant your seeds later on.
Why one and not all three rows at once? To ensure I can harvest regularly but, at the same time, never have too much to harvest, I stagger my planting.
5. Plant the seeds
Use your finger or a garden tool to make a shallow row in the soil, water lightly, and plant the seeds according to the spacing on the seed packet.
For lettuce, I usually scatter the seeds, and I always overseed. I can always thin out seedlings later; baby lettuce greens are delicious.
6. Cover the seeds and water
Do not overwater; a gentle sprinkling is enough. You want the soil to be moist, not wet.
7. Cover with floating row covers
I cut a piece of row cover material twice the size of the soil bag to allow for the growth of the lettuce plants.
But be flexible; if you are growing Romain lettuce, you need more fabric and leaf lettuce less.
8. Keep soil moist and watch for the first leaves
I use a watering can to keep the soil moist. Be careful not to overwater and risk dislodging the seeds.
9. Plant another row of seeds when you see true leaves
When you see true leaves, it is time to plant the second row of lettuce seeds. Start at step 4 above and repeat the process.
And that is it. You have now created a lettuce growing station that will yield lettuce for several weeks to months.
If you live in a small household, start by cutting half the distance of the first row. You know have 6 sections to plant and harvest following the method of staggered planting.
Succession or staggered planting
The terms succession or staggered planting are often used interchangeably. And they are, by most accounts, the same thing.
Succession or staggered planting aims to ensure we can harvest reasonable amounts regularly.
Because having too many veggies to harvest is also a problem and leads to potential waste and poor use of resources.
Succession planting focuses on the result and the timing of the harvest. You do not always utilize every square inch of our growing area; instead, you focus on having enough but not too much at any point in time.
Succession planting can take different forms. You can choose to grow different types of vegetables that mature at different times. Or, you can stagger your planting and not plant all your seeds at once.
Winter sowing is a form of succession planting where we grow warm- and cold-season crops at different times of the year to ensure our garden is always working for you.
Both principles are valid, but here in this article, we focus on staggered planting to always have fresh lettuce to harvest. Garden-to-table for the win!
What happens to the soil bag afterward?
Here you have two options: enrich the soil and start over or use it in your garden.
I have successfully used the same bag for up to three cycles by adding compost to the soil after harvest.
You will notice that the soil will get looser when you harvest the entire row of lettuce plants, and it is relatively easy to add soil amendments like compost.
What other vegetables can be grown in soil bags?
Given enough depth, you could grow any vegetable in a soil bag.
I prefer smaller growing greens as it is easier, but romaine lettuce and kale will work as long as you feed the plants as they develop.
I avoid growing plants where we harvest the root or plants that need vertical support in soil bags. Beans, peas, tomatoes, garlic, beets, and peppers are all examples of plants that are difficult to grow in soil bags. Adding support to a soil bag is possible, but for me, it takes away from the simplicity of the method.
And for me, the combination of regular harvests and simplicity is part of the beauty of growing lettuce in soil bags.