If you love a great, fresh salad, consider growing your own lettuce in a backyard vegetable garden. Lettuce is also versatile enough to be grown indoors in a hydroponic gardening system or in a container garden. In most climates, lettuce can be grown almost all year long, with the hot summer months being the only unsuitable time. Here are a few tips on growing your own fresh lettuce.
Types of lettuce plants
There are several varieties of lettuce plants that will grow well in a home vegetable garden. The standard iceberg lettuce is actually a member of the crisphead family of lettuce, known for its crunchy leaves. Looseleaf types of lettuce do not form a traditional head, but grow their leaves in bunches instead. This permits a more continuous harvest because individual leaves can be cut off without killing the entire plant. Butterhead lettuce has small, round heads with frilly-looking leaves. Romaine lettuce plants form oblong heads with longer leaves than the other headed types of lettuce.
The shelf life of lettuce seed is shorter than most vegetables, so try to plant your seeds in the same year you purchased them. Using seeds obtained from other gardeners or through a seed exchange may not be a good option for growing lettuce because of this short viable lifespan. Commercial lettuce seeds are the best because you can see right there on the package how old the seeds are. Most varieties of lettuce seed are now available from the bigger commercial seed vendors.
Lettuce prefers cooler weather, generally spring and autumn in most climates. Home vegetable gardens in warmer climates may also be able to grow lettuce in winter or the early part of spring. As long as the weather remains suitable, you can continuously plant new seeds as you harvest the mature lettuce plants. You will know when the temperature is too warm to grow lettuce because the plants will flower. Lettuce plants that have flowered will have a bitter taste and are unsuitable for eating. Most salad greens grow in a similar manner, so the tips given here for growing lettuce can also be applied to growing cabbage, spinach, or other leafy vegetables.
Plant lettuce seeds about one-half inch deep in damp soil. You can plant the seeds in a rather dense pattern to start off with and then thin out the plants as they sprout. This maximizes your chances of covering your entire garden area even if some of your seeds do not germinate. Once the lettuce plants are growing, be sure to keep them adequately watered and pull out any weeds from your garden. Lettuce plants are rather low-maintenance as long as they are kept moist and weeds are not allowed to choke out the lettuce.
— edited for FunctionalGardens