Virtually every gardener loves to grow lettuce. There is a large variety from which to choose and each one of them is easy to grow. They are very productive and take up a minimum amount of space. And lettuce is mostly free of diseases and pests. No wonder it’s called a “low-maintenance” plant!
If you start the seeds indoors, the seedlings will be ready to transplant into your garden in about four weeks. Here are some planting tips to ensure a successful harvest:
1. Select an area where the soil drains well
If you want to maximize your lettuce production, start with well-drained soil that retains some moisture. Soil that is rich in nitrogen and potassium works best, so work in some rotted manure, compost, and leaf mold.
2. Rotate your crops
Even though lettuce has few pests or diseases, lettuce rot can occur when the lower leaves are in contact with soil. It will eventually spread throughout the plant. One way to prevent fungal or bacterial diseases is to rotate your crops. Lettuce should not be planted in the same bed two years in a row.
3. Plant in early spring
Transplant the seedlings as soon as the soil can be worked. It’s better to plant them on an overcast day to keep shock and stress to a minimum. If a hard freeze threatens, protect the seedlings with a cloth or row cover.
4. Water first, dig second
Moisten your bed thoroughly before transplanting the lettuce. Make sure there’s enough water to moisten the top 6 inches of soil without making it soggy. Dig your holes to the same depth as the seedling pot. Space them according to their variety (information should be on the seed packet or seedling pot).
5. Brace your leggy varieties
Use your fingertips to firm up the soil around each seedling. If the seedling wants to fall over, place a small twig next to it and lean the seedling against it. Your leggy lettuce should show strong growth within 7 to 10 days of transplanting as long as it gets enough sun and water.
6. Try tucking your seedlings
If you're gardening with limited space, you can tuck your lettuce around taller plants such as peppers, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. The lettuce helps keep the soil moist for the other plants, and they, in turn, help the lettuce by providing shade as they grow.
7. Water and mulch
Lettuce needs moderate but constant water. Unless it rains regularly, give your plants a deep watering at least once a week, even more frequently during dry periods. Add a layer of straw or compost as mulch to help retain moisture.