Growing Organic Lettuce - The Complete Guide

Growing Organic Lettuce The Complete Guide

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How to Grow Organic Lettuce

It's a shame so many people automatically associate the boring old "iceberg" with the word "lettuce." The world of lettuce is full of color, texture, and flavor. If you cultivate your own, you will have this world at your fingertips.

Or the tip of the spatula, as the case may be. The homemade organic lettuce is a delight. You can have it whenever you want a crisp, fresh salad, and the color and flavor combinations you can enjoy are limited only by your imagination.

Types of lettuce

There are five main types of lettuce:

  • Crisphead:ย These are generally the most difficult types of lettuce to grow, primarily because they require a long, cool season to mature, and most of us simply don't have these conditions in our gardens. Crisphead varieties are ready for harvest approximately 95 days after planting. In most of the United States, to grow crisp clods, you need to start the seed indoors at the end of winter.
  • Cos (Romaine): romaine lettuce also requires a very long cold season; 70 to 75 days until harvest. Gardeners in areas with very short cold spells should start planting indoors. However, the Romans have a distinct advantage over crisp ones, as you can harvest the outer leaves of the head as it continues to grow in the garden.
  • Butterhead: The most famous butterhead lettuce is "Boston Bibb". Butterheads are known for their very smooth (buttery) texture. They form loose buds, which mature between 55 and 75 days after planting. If you can't wait that long, you can harvest the outer leaves of the butterheads and new leaves will sprout from the center of the rosette.
  • Batavian: Batavian is probably the least known type of lettuce. They can be seeded and harvested as broadleaf lettuce, but they ripen into round, crisp heads fairly quickly, making them ideal for gardeners who love crisp lettuce but have a short cold season. Batavian are ready for harvest (heads) 55-60 days after sowing.
  • Looseleaf:ย  Wide lettuces are the easiest to grow. They can be easily sown and harvested in a matter of weeks, just like tasty lettuce. Broadleaf lettuces are harvested by collecting or cutting the leaves of the plant. New leaves will form and as long as you plant fresh seeds every two weeks they will provide lettuce for many salads.

Growing Organic Lettuce The Complete Guide

Selecting a Site to Grow Lettuce

Lettuces are easy to grow, especially if you give them the conditions that make them thrive. Lettuce requires at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

If you live in a very hot climate or have summers where temperatures tend to reach the mid-eighties, try giving your lettuces a sheltered spot from the afternoon sun. It can avoid heat compression. If you can't protect them from the sun, consider installing a shade screen.

Lettuce also needs good, loose, and rich soil to grow well. Ideally, a well-modified soil with compost or rotten manure is ideal. Soils rich in organic matter retain moisture better, which is very important for these shallow tubers to be happy.

If you have poor soil in your garden and want to ensure you have a decent lettuce crop, consider building a raised bed and filling it with a mixture of potting soil, manure, and compost, or plant the lettuce in a container. Any pot or container at least four inches deep will do.


Lettuce can be grown from seed, indoors, or directly in the garden. You can also buy transplants at the nursery. If possible, try to buy organic seeds or get started. There are many good catalogs that contain organic seeds and many garden centers are beginning to offer organically grown plants.

To start seed indoor:

Lettuce seeds should be planted eight weeks before the date of the last frost. Sow in a starter sterilized mix or a mix you make. The soil must be kept cool, below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure you give them plenty of light by placing them in a sunny window or lighting them under the light. They can be planted after the last frost date. Be sure to harden the plants for three to four days before planting them in the garden.

To plant seeds outdoors:

Lettuce can be easily planted in the garden, as long as the last frost date has passed and the soil is cool enough. Lettuce generally does not germinate if the soil temperature is above 80 degrees.

Simply sow the seed in rows or blocks, following the directions on the seed package. You will probably need to prune emerging seedlings; you can use thinning in a salad. For a continuous harvest, sow more seeds every two weeks during the season.

To plant transplant:

If you buy plants or start your own indoors, you can plant them in danger of frost. To plant, simply dig a hole twice the depth and width of the root, place the plant in the hole with the crown of the plant at ground level, and firmly firm the soil around the root.

Water them well to compact the soil and eliminate air pockets. Generally, the lettuce should be a foot apart and the loose leaves should be six inches apart.

Growing Organic Lettuce The Complete Guide

Grow your own lettuce


The most important factor in your success with lettuce is meeting your moisture needs. Since lettuce has shallow roots and is made up mostly of water (almost 95% water, in fact), it just won't grow if you let the soil dry out.

The roots of lettuce are found at the top 7 to 10 cm from the ground. If you put your finger on the floor and your top thumb is dry, you will need to water. This may require watering several times a week in hot, dry weather.


Fertilization is also important. If you are growing in soil full of organic matter, fertilizing may not be necessary. However, providing high nitrogen fertilizer to lettuce will allow your plant to grow well and produce regularly.

Fish emulsion is an ideal organic fertilizer for lettuce. Apply the fish emulsion at half the recommended dose every two weeks. It is best to apply the diluted fish emulsion directly to the ground. You can also use it as a leafy food, but be sure to wash the lettuce well before eating.


Like everything in the garden, lettuce benefits from a good layer of mulch. Install 2 to 3-inch layers of organic mulch, such as wood chips, straw, leaves, or grass clippings around the lettuce, making sure to leave some space around the plant to prevent rot.

This layer of mulch will help retain moisture, keep the soil cool, reduce the amount of weeding that needs to be done, and keep the lettuce clean, preventing soil from splashing the leaves during watering.


Lettuce is affected by a few pests and diseases. Slugs are your biggest enemy and can be fought by installing a beer saucer to secure them or by sprinkling diatomaceous earth or crushed eggshells around your plants.

These sharp substances pierce the belly of snails when they glide over them and kill them.

Aphids can also be a problem. If so, try dropping them with a squirt of water from the hose or try a homemade spray to get rid of them.

Earthworms can be a problem too, and the best way to protect yourself is to wrap a thick paste of paper or cardboard around the base of any newly planted lettuce plant.

If your pests are of the four-foot-long pod variety, the best defense is to install a metal fence around the garden or around the bed where you are growing the lettuce. You can also try spraying the plants with cayenne pepper to deter rabbits.

Lettuce is easy to grow, as long as you meet the basic requirements. And the benefits of doing so are worth it - being able to harvest salads filled with tasty, organic, homegrown lettuce just minutes before mealtime is a luxury you'll enjoy throughout the growing season.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About How to Grow Lettuce from Seed to Harvest

Source: OYR Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening

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Growing Organic Lettuce The Complete Guide

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