Romaine Lettuce.

How To Grow Lettuce From Seed To Harvest

Lettuce is a leafy green that’s easy to grow and is packed with nutrients. Whether you want to add some greens to your salad or make a sandwich, lettuce is a perfect choice. Starting lettuce from seed is a simple process that you can easily do at home. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of starting lettuce from seed and caring for it until harvest.

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What Lettuce Seed Variety Should You Grow?

Before you start planting, you need to choose the right variety of lettuce. There are many different types of lettuce, and each one has its own unique flavor and texture.

Some popular varieties include Butterhead, Romaine, Iceberg (also known as Crisphead) and Looseleaf lettuce. Our personal favourite is Romaine. It’s great for sandwiches and salads and it is the one we’ve had the most success with.

Romaine Lettuce Seeds
Romaine Lettuce Seeds

How To Start Lettuce Seeds?

Once you’ve chosen the type of lettuce you want to grow, it’s time to plant the seeds. You can either start your seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors to get a bit of a head start.

How To Start Lettuce Seeds Indoors?
  • Plan on starting your lettuce seeds indoors about 4 weeks before you plan on planting them outside.
  • Choose a pot or container with drainage holes or make soil blocks.
  • Fill the container with a high-quality potting mix. Make sure the soil is moist but not too wet.
  • Place 2 or 3 seeds in the middle and lightly cover with soil.
  • Water the soil gently, being careful not to dislodge the seeds.
  • Place the container in a warm, sunny spot where it will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.
  • After about 5-7 days, you should start to see sprouts.
  • When seedlings are about 2cm or 1inch in high thin so that only the best plant is left in each pot.
  • Sow more Lettuce every 2-3 weeks for a consistent harvest.
How To Direct Sow Lettuce Outdoors?
  • Find a sunny spot in your garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun.
  • Check your soils pH level. Lettuce prefers slightly acidic soil in the range of 6.0-6.5. We use this soil tester to test our soils pH levels.
  • make a small shallow trench with your finger spacing each row about 6 inches apart.
  • Scatter the lettuce seeds in the trench, making sure to space them out as evenly as possible.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Don’t bury them too deep, as lettuce seeds need light to germinate.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until germination.
Row of lettuce seedlings planted very densely

How To Transplant Lettuce Seedlings?

If you sowed your lettuce seeds in their final resting place you can skip this part and move on to how to care for your lettuce. If you started your lettuce in a small container and need to transplant it, here’s how:

Young Lettuce Seedling
  • Timing: Lettuce prefers cool weather and will bolt when temperatures get to high. They can be transplanted outside mid spring. We put ours out 2 weeks before our last frost date, around April 20th.
  • Location: Same with direct sowing, you want to find a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. The perfect spot would give your plants 6 hours of morning sun and some shade during the hotter afternoon hours.
  • Spacing: Plant each seedling 4-6 inches apart if you plan on harvesting just the outside leaves. If you plan on letting your lettuce grow into a full head, plant them 10-12 inches apart.

How To Care For Your Lettuce?

Once your seedlings have started to grow, it’s important to care for them properly to ensure a healthy harvest.

Six lettuce seedlings recently planted into a garden bed basking in the sun.
  • What temperature can lettuce tolerate?: They can tolerate temperatures as low as 25ºF (-4ºC) and might be in danger of damage if it gets colder than that. Once temps get above 80ºF (26.5ºC) lettuce will tend to bolt and go to seed.
  • Watering: Lettuce plants need consistent moisture to grow, so make sure to water them regularly. Avoid watering the leaves, as this can lead to rot and disease. Instead, water the soil around the base of the plant.
  • Fertilizing: Lettuce plants don’t require a lot of fertilizer, but you can add some organic compost or a balanced fertilizer to the soil every few weeks to help them grow.
  • Light: Lettuce plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day to grow properly. If you don’t have a sunny spot, you can use grow lights to supplement the natural light.
  • Thinning: Once your lettuce plants have grown a few inches tall, you may need to thin them out to give each plant enough space to grow. Simply remove the weaker plants, leaving about 6 inches of space between each plant.

How To Harvest Lettuce?

Romaine Lettuce ready to be harvested.

Lettuce plants typically take 4-6 weeks to reach maturity. Once the leaves are large enough to eat, you can start harvesting your lettuce. Here’s how:

  • Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the outer leaves of the plant.
  • Leave the inner leaves intact so that the plant can continue to grow.
  • Rinse the leaves under cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  • Enjoy your fresh, homegrown lettuce in a salad or sandwich!

If your lettuce stays in the garden too long either by accident or on purpose it will start to bolt and flower. We do this on purpose every year to harvest some fresh seeds from the lettuce varieties we enjoy to replant next season. We have a “How to save lettuce seeds” guide if you’re interested in learning this skill as well.

Lettuce plant beginning to bolt and go to flower.
Lettuce plant beginning to bolt and go to flower.

In conclusion, growing lettuce from seed is a simple and rewarding process. With just a few basic steps, you can enjoy fresh, healthy lettuce from your own garden. Just remember to choose the right variety, provide plenty of sunlight and moisture, and care for your plants properly, and you’ll be on your way to a bountiful harvest. We have more growing guides for you to enjoy and we are adding more all the time.

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