How To Select a Site
Lettuce plants thrive in full sun and partial shade. Spring crops last longer into the season if protected from the summer heat by afternoon shade. Soil should be well-draining but also hold some moisture. Consider planting nearby a companion like tomatoes, marigolds, or broccoli. Not only will the taller plants shade them as the season warms, they will also help prevent pests from accessing your plants.
How To Prepare Ground
Prepare outdoor beds 2-3 weeks before your last frost or as the soil temperature warms to around 45°F (7.2°C). A light frost or even a snow won’t hurt your seed. Lettuce seed is small and germinates best in loose, well-worked soil. While working the soil, add nitrogen-rich amendments like compost or worm castings to feed the plant as it grows.
Gardeners hoping to get a jumpstart on the season can plant indoors or in a greenhouse. Prepare containers with sifted potting soil and compost. Plant indoor lettuce seeds 4-6 weeks before your last frost.
What You’ll Need:
- Garden spade or shovel
- Garden soil, compost, or worm castings
- Lettuce seed
- Garden hose
Lettuce seeds are small, it is far easier to sprinkle the seeds rather than plant one at a time. If you desire rows, rake straight lines with a spade that will act as a guide and sprinkle seed along them. Another option is to broadcast the seed across an area or planting bed. Cover the seeds with ¼ inch of compost, worm castings, or garden soil and water thoroughly.
How To Tend Lettuce Plants
Loose leaf varieties thrive when packed tightly together, but some heading lettuces like romaine will grow larger when thinned. When your seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them to encourage larger heads. Space looser heading varieties like Butterhead 8 inches apart. Thin tightly heading lettuces to 13 inches apart.
Water 2 to 3 times a week increasing to twice a day during hot and dry spells. If the soil feels dry to the touch, give the plants more water.
Most lettuces mature in 45-55 days, but some heading varieties like romaine can take up to 100 days. Loose leaf varieties are picked throughout the season, starting with the lower leaves and working your way up the plant. Heading types are ready when they feel firm. Cut them at the base below the leaves to avoid early decay.