When you grow lettuce (Lactuca sativa) at home, you soon realize that the taste of homegrown lettuce is far superior to store-bought produce. There is no comparison.
And even better, it is easy to grow lettuce. The harvest is plentiful compared to the space the plant requires, and you can grow it anywhere.
- Lettuce plants – plenty of beautiful and tasty varieties
- Growing 7 different varieties of lettuce from seeds
- The best way to grow lettuce indoors
- 3 different ways to grow lettuce outdoors
- How to grow lettuce from seed
- Harvest your lettuce
- Frequently asked questions:
Lettuce plants – plenty of beautiful and tasty varieties
There are so many different varieties of lettuce. When you hear the word lettuce, you are forgiven for thinking of Iceberg lettuce immediately.
The good news is that there is so much more to explore.
Why not try planting arugula, cress, endive, frisée, mache, radicchio, or romaine lettuce, to name a few?
These varieties all offer different colors, textures, and taste profiles to make your garden look great while giving you garden greens on tap when preparing food.
And it is a highly gratifying experience where the harvest is plentiful for the amount of space and work required.
Growing 7 different varieties of lettuce from seeds
I have picked 7 of my favorite lettuce varieties to grow in a soil bag. That’s right – no need for specialty potting soil mixes, standard garden soil will do nicely.
I hope that you will see that you do not need a lot of space to grow lettuce.
These are my 7 varieties of lettuce to plant in early spring in a container or soil bag.
1. “Intred” – Romaine or cos lettuce, compact, upright, tasty, and crispy
2. “New Red Fire” -large loose leaf lettuce forming loosely bound heads
3. “Lolloo Rossa” – delicate, flavorful curly leaves, not the most crispy variety
4. “Green Salad Bowl‘ – loose leaf green and red lettuce, heat resistant
5. “Red Salad Bowl” – loose leaf green and red lettuce, heat resistant
6. “Australische Gele’‘ – tender loose leaf yellow-green lettuce, cut or pick leaves
7. “Rouge Grenobloise” – loosely formed crisphead lettuce with tender red and green leaves
The mix gives me different colors, flavors, and textures. The plants also grow differently, creating a varied and living growing environment.
The best way to grow lettuce indoors
We also grow lettuce indoors for year-round access to fresh greens. Because even if you can grow lettuce year-round outdoors, you will have better harvests indoors during the hotter summer months as well as wintertime.
Growing lettuce indoors, we prefer to grow loose-leaf lettuce and other greens like arugula using Deep Water Culture (DWC) and Ebb and Flow hydroponic grow beds. Avoid head lettuces as they are more difficult to grow indoors.
Plants are started indoors, and seed starting and pre-germination can be done using rock wool grow cubes or a simple DIY paper towel grow bed.
When growing lettuce indoors during the darker months of the year, you need to use extra lighting for best results. Full spectrum grow lights are available to suit all budgets.
3 different ways to grow lettuce outdoors
Lettuce is a very easy vegetable to grow from seed. And growing lettuce outdoors basically comes down to remembering that lettuce grows best in cool weather as long as you provide water, full sun, and a moist soil that is light and drains well.
You can start lettuce indoors by planting seeds in starter pots and later transplant your lettuce seedlings to your outdoor garden. I do, however not find this to be necessary.
Here are our 3 best ways of growing lettuce outdoors in your garden.
1. Lettuce thrives in pots and containers
Lettuce does not need a lot of space to grow.
But your harvest will, of course, be dependent on the growing space you allocate.
And remember, it makes more sense to choose a wide and shallow container.
Narrow and deep will not generate more harvest as the lettuce plants’ root systems are pretty shallow compared to, for example, root vegetables like carrots or horseradish.
Think planting space rather than deep 20 liter / 5-gallon pots or containers filled with soil. Find a good balance, as too shallow will make it hard to maintain soil moisture, and lettuce plants do not like dry soil.
And no, you do not need to buy a fancy container from a garden store. Pretty much any container will do. Just make sure to make drain holes in the bottom of the container to allow excess water to run off.
Tips: Try growing lettuce in grow bags following the instruction in our video tutorial posted in the article "Grow lettuce in grow bags (and other leafy greens)"
Why not ask if your local garden center has containers to spare? I do it all the time, and I often get odd sizes. Garden centers and nurseries need many same-size containers to grow plants in bulk.
This also means that you need to put a protector under your container to avoid the surface being damaged or stained by excess water.
2. Planting leaf lettuce in soil bags
Growing vegetables in soil bags has to be one of my favorite “garden hacks.”
It is straightforward and produces excellent results. Avoid planting head lettuce as it is more challenging to grow, and the soil bag method works better for lettuce varieties where you harvest lettuce by the leaf or leaves.
Again make sure you make drain holes in the bottom of the soil bag. And protect the surface under the bag if necessary.
Also, ideally place the soil bags raised off the ground on for example a table to protect against soil-dwelling bugs and insects.
Use a garden knife or a pair of scissors to make parallel cuts in the soil bag.
Tip: I often run out of raised beds or table space and instead place pieces of wood under the bag to raise it off the ground. Related: Easy-to-follow guide on How to grow lettuce in soil bags & harvest all season
3. Growing lettuce in garden beds or a vegetable garden
If you are lucky to have a vegetable garden or raised garden beds, you can of course plant seeds in situ, or directly where the lettuce will grow.
When I plant in situ in our vegetable garden I always cover the planted seeds with mulch. I often use grass clippings as they are available and free. Pine needles, hay, and straw are other great alternatives.
Mulch helps keep the soil moist and provides nutrients as it decomposes. The mulch also creates a protective layer between the lettuce plant and any soil-based pests and insects. The mulch layer also prevents soil from splashing onto the lettuce leaves when you water your plants.
How to grow lettuce from seed
Growing lettuce from seed is rather straightforward.
There are however a few things that will make your experience growing lettuce more successful. Follow the step below to get rich harvests throughout the year.
I use the steps below for all the varieties I have listed above.
1. Choose your location
When I use containers or soil bags I always secure a place with good light and preferably full sun. But half shade also works.
I also make sure that the spot does not get too hot.
Lettuce seeds will germinate in cooler temperatures (from 5 degrees Celsius /40 Fahrenheit). The seeds will however not germinate well in hot weather.
2. Prepare the soil
Lettuce prefers loosely structured, compost-rich, and well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. There is no need to add nutrients or fertilizers beyond compost when we plant the seeds.
Later on, when the seedlings are growing, add layers of grass clippings or another organic mulch to improve your soil by adding slow-release nutrients to the soil.
Mix in composted cow manure if you are starting with lean soil that has already produced harvests (succession planting).
3. Plant lettuce seeds
Use your finger or a stick to draw lines in the soil. Aim for a depth of about 1 centimeter (⅓ inch).
Water the soil and allow time for the soil to absorb the water.
Remove the seeds from the seed packet and plant them about 5 centimeters (2 inches) apart. Cover the planted seeds with a loose layer of soil.
Finish by covering the area with a thin layer of grass clippings or another slow-release mulch.
Seed packets will tell you to allow for a distance of about 20 centimeters (8 inches) between rows. I rarely allow for this much distance as I tend to thin out the plants naturally by harvesting the outer leaves of crowded plants early.
When planting rows of lettuce in our vegetable garden I prefer to plant the rows in pairs. I plant two rows close together and then leave space (10 centimeters/4 inches) before planting another pair of rows.
Planting like this will allow the rows to grow together minimizing the growth of weeds between the plants.
3. Water the soil surface gently
Water the soil gently using a water can with a rose or shower head as needed. If you water too much you risk displacing the seeds.
And as we watered thoroughly before planting and added grass clippings to the area you can even skip this step if you feel unsure.
Now you need to keep the soil moist and avoid dry outs. Lettuce can survive occasional light dry outs but it can leave the taste of the harvested leaves bitter.
4. Cover plants with a protective shade cloth (recommended)
Like most other vegetables, lettuce can get attacked by snails, aphids, and other types of lettuce pests and diseases.
We rarely have a problem, but covering your young plants with a protective cloth can help steer off problems.
Snails can be fought off naturally using ash. Simply strew the ash between the rows but do not cover the leaves.
Companion planting chervil can help avoid problems with aphids. You can also try removing them by hand though I know it is a tedious process.
Harvest your lettuce
Harvesting lettuce is as simple as it sounds. Pick individual outer leaves or simply cut the entire plant.
I like to succession plant lettuce every 2-4 weeks for continuous harvest. I often use a combination of different varieties like the 7 varieties listed above.
I find that using different varieties gives us a nice mixture of leaf types, colors, and textures.
I use some leaves for salad greens and others like romaine lettuce for wraps. Some lettuces are harvested early as baby greens while others are left to grow to maturity. Still, if you want tender lettuce it is better to harvest early than late.
You can also cut and regrow many types of lettuce. Cut off the plant leaving approximately 3 centimeters (1 inch).
The plant will regrow, but you will experience diminishing returns. Expect the plant to yield about a third or even a fourth of the initial harvest. If you cut and regrow you should expect no more than 3 harvest cycles per plant and growing season.
After harvesting you should water your lettuce immediately and serve or place in the crisper in your refrigerator. Lettuce will keep for a couple of days in your refrigerator but is by far better eaten fresh.