How to Grow Lettuce

Botanical Name: Lactuca Sativa

Lettuce originates from the Mediterranean region. It is a leafy green vegetable with various types, such as iceberg, romaine, and leaf lettuce. Lettuce is popular for salads and sandwiches due to its crisp texture and mild flavour.

Do you want to know how to grow lettuce? If so, let’s dive in.

  • How to Grow Lettuce
  • How to Grow Lettuce
Planting Guide Image

Lettuce Planting Guide

Method

Sow direct or raise seedlings

Sowing Depth

3 – 6 mm

Season

Cool

Germination

7 – 14 days & 8 – 27°C

Hardiness / Life Cycle

Hardy Annual

Row Spacing

35 – 40 cm

Plant Spacing

25 – 30 cm

Position

Full or part sun, well drained soil

Days Until Maturity

60 – 75 Days

Storage

Eat fresh. Keep in a paper bag in fridge.

When to Plant Lettuce in Australia

What growing
region am I in?
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Cool Plantable in Jan Plantable in Feb Plantable in Mar Plantable in Apr Plantable in May Plantable in Sep Plantable in Oct Plantable in Nov Plantable in Dec
Temperate Plantable in Jan Plantable in Feb Plantable in Mar Plantable in Apr Plantable in May Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jul Plantable in Aug Plantable in Sep Plantable in Oct Plantable in Nov Plantable in Dec
Sub-Tropical Plantable in Feb Plantable in Mar Plantable in Apr Plantable in May Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jul Plantable in Aug Plantable in Sep Plantable in Oct Plantable in Nov
Tropical Plantable in Jan Plantable in Feb Plantable in Mar Plantable in Apr Plantable in May Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jul Plantable in Aug Plantable in Sep Plantable in Oct Plantable in Nov Plantable in Dec
Arid Plantable in Mar Plantable in Apr Plantable in May Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jul Plantable in Aug Plantable in Sep
Cool Temperate Sub-Tropical Tropical Arid
Jan Plantable in Jan Plantable in Jan Plantable in Jan
Feb Plantable in Feb Plantable in Feb Plantable in Feb Plantable in Feb
Mar Plantable in Mar Plantable in Mar Plantable in Mar Plantable in Mar Plantable in Mar
Apr Plantable in Apr Plantable in Apr Plantable in Apr Plantable in Apr Plantable in Apr
May Plantable in May Plantable in May Plantable in May Plantable in May Plantable in May
Jun Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jun Plantable in Jun
Jul Plantable in Jul Plantable in Jul Plantable in Jul Plantable in Jul
Aug Plantable in Aug Plantable in Aug Plantable in Aug Plantable in Aug
Sep Plantable in Sep Plantable in Sep Plantable in Sep Plantable in Sep Plantable in Sep
Oct Plantable in Oct Plantable in Oct Plantable in Oct Plantable in Oct
Nov Plantable in Nov Plantable in Nov Plantable in Nov Plantable in Nov
Dec Plantable in Dec Plantable in Dec Plantable in Dec
What growing
region am I in?

Growing Lettuce

Lettuce is not cheap to buy, it doesn’t store well and it’s easy to grow without taking up much space – it is really a no brainer to grow your own lettuce if you’re a lover of fresh salads!

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore different methods of growing lettuce, including traditional soil-based gardening, container gardening, and hydroponics. You’ll learn the step-by-step process of planting lettuce, to preparing the soil, to caring for the plants and harvesting your fresh, crisp leaves. 

Lettuce is available in a huge range of varieties. We choose to include loose leaf mixes in our Survival Seed Kits as they’re faster to grow and they benefit from being picked. It also gives you a mix of seeds so that you can continue growing the best performing ones. Because our seeds are all heirloom, they can self seed and we actually haven’t planted any lettuce in years, it just keeps coming back every autumn from the seeds dropped there last Summer!

When to Plant Lettuce

In Australia, the timing for planting lettuce can vary based on the region and the prevailing climate. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine when to plant lettuce in Australia:

  • Cool and Temperate Regions: In cool and temperate regions, such as Tasmania, Victoria, and parts of New South Wales and South Australia, lettuce can be planted during spring and autumn. Start planting in early spring after the last frost date or in late summer for a fall harvest. These seasons provide the ideal temperatures for lettuce growth, with cooler weather reducing the risk of bolting.
  • Subtropical Regions: In subtropical regions, like much of Queensland and northern New South Wales, lettuce can be grown throughout the year, except during the hottest months. Plant lettuce in the cooler months of autumn, winter, and early spring to avoid the scorching heat of summer. Opt for heat-tolerant varieties like Cos or Butterhead lettuce for better success during the warmer months
  • Tropical Regions: In tropical regions, such as northern Queensland and the Northern Territory, lettuce is best grown during the dry season when temperatures are milder. Plant lettuce in the cooler months of the year, typically from April to September, to avoid extreme heat and high humidity. Provide shade and regular watering to protect lettuce from the intense tropical sun.
  • Alpine Regions: In alpine regions, like the Snowy Mountains and other elevated areas, lettuce can be planted during the short growing season of spring and summer when the weather is relatively mild. Pay attention to frost dates and select varieties with a shorter maturity period to ensure successful growth in the limited alpine growing season.

 

It’s important to consider local conditions and microclimates specific to your area when determining the best time to plant lettuce. Consult regional planting calendars, local gardening resources, and experienced gardeners in your area for more precise guidance on when to plant lettuce in your specific location in Australia.

How to Grow Lettuce at Home

Growing lettuce at home is a straightforward process that requires proper preparation and care. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to grow lettuce in your home garden:

  • Variety Selection: Choose lettuce varieties that suit your taste preferences and growing conditions. Common types include Butterhead, Romaine, and Leaf lettuce. Consider factors like flavour, heat tolerance, and growth habit when selecting the varieties.
  • Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil by removing any weeds and debris. Loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller and mix in compost or well-rotted organic matter to improve its fertility and drainage. Lettuce prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (around 6.0-7.0).
  • Planting Lettuce Seeds: Sow lettuce seeds directly into the prepared soil, following the spacing recommendations provided on the seed packet. Lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, firming it gently. Water the area lightly to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
  • Watering and Sunlight: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged throughout the growing season. Water deeply and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Place your lettuce garden in a location that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, although some varieties tolerate partial shade and this will vary in different weather conditions which we’ll discuss later in this article.
  • Thinning and Transplanting: When the seedlings have developed their first true leaves, thin them out to provide sufficient space for proper growth. If overcrowded, lettuce plants can compete for nutrients and become stunted. Alternatively, you can transplant seedlings that were started indoors or purchased from a nursery. Space the transplants according to the recommended spacing for the specific variety.
  • Fertilisation: Lettuce plants benefit from a balanced fertiliser application. Apply a slow-release organic fertiliser or a liquid fertiliser according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilisation, as it may result in leafy growth with reduced flavour.
  • Weed Control: Regularly inspect your lettuce bed and remove any weeds that compete for nutrients and space. Be cautious while weeding to prevent disturbing the shallow lettuce roots.
  • Protection from Pests and Diseases: Monitor your lettuce plants for common pests like aphids, slugs, or snails. Use organic pest control methods, such as handpicking or using insecticidal soap, to protect your plants. Proper air circulation and avoiding excessive moisture can help prevent diseases like downy mildew and lettuce rot.

How Long Does Lettuce Take to Grow

The time it takes for lettuce to grow varies depending on the variety and growing conditions. Generally, lettuce can be harvested in 45 to 60 days after planting.

However, some leafy lettuce varieties, like mesclun mix or baby greens, can be harvested as early as 25 to 30 days after planting.

Keep in mind that these are approximate time frames, and factors such as temperature, light, and moisture can influence the growth rate. Regularly monitor the growth of your lettuce plants, and harvest the leaves when they have reached the desired size and texture.

How to Grow Lettuce in Pots

Growing lettuce in pots is an excellent option for those with limited space or wanting the convenience of container gardening. It has the added benefit of a longer growing season because you can move the pots be shaded from the midday sun as the weather warms up, slowing down the lettuce from bolting to seed.

Follow these steps to grow lettuce in pots:

  • Pot Selection: Choose a pot that is at least 30 – 40 cm deep with adequate drainage holes. Opt for a wider pot to accommodate multiple lettuce plants if desired.
  • Potting Mix: Use a well-draining potting mix or a combination of compost, peat moss, and perlite. Avoid using heavy garden soil as it may impede drainage.
  • Planting Lettuce: Sow lettuce seeds or transplant seedlings into the pots, following the recommended spacing for the specific variety. Ensure the seeds or seedlings are planted at the appropriate depth, typically around 5 mm deep.
  • Watering and Sunlight: Water the pots regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist. Provide 6-8 hours of sunlight per day or place the pots in a location with partial shade if the weather is hot.
  • Fertiliser: Container-grown lettuce may require more frequent fertilisation due to the limited nutrient availability in the potting mix. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertiliser or a diluted liquid fertiliser according to the package instructions.
  • Care and Maintenance: Monitor the pots for weeds and remove them promptly. Thin out the lettuce seedlings if they become overcrowded. Maintain proper watering and protect the plants from pests and diseases.
  • Harvesting: Harvest the lettuce leaves when they have reached the desired size and maturity. Cut the outer leaves with clean garden shears, leaving the inner leaves to continue growing. Regular harvesting promotes new leaf growth.

How to Grow Lettuce Hydroponically

Hydroponic systems offer an efficient and space-saving way to grow lettuce without soil. Follow these steps to grow lettuce hydroponically:

  • Hydroponic System: Choose a suitable hydroponic system for growing lettuce, such as nutrient film technique (NFT) or deep water culture (DWC). Set up the system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Nutrient Solution: Prepare a balanced nutrient solution specifically formulated for hydroponic lettuce. Follow the recommended dilution ratios provided by the manufacturer.
  • Planting Medium: Use an inert planting medium like rockwool cubes or grow sponges to support the lettuce seedlings. Place the seedlings in the planting medium and secure them in the designated slots or holes in the system.
  • Nutrient Circulation: Ensure the nutrient solution is continuously circulating in the hydroponic system, providing the plants with the necessary nutrients and oxygen.
  • Lighting: Provide adequate artificial lighting for the lettuce plants, as they require a minimum of 12-14 hours of light per day. LED grow lights are a popular option for indoor hydroponic setups.
  • pH and EC Monitoring: Regularly monitor the pH and electrical conductivity (EC) levels of the nutrient solution. Lettuce prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 5.8-6.5, and the EC should be maintained within the optimal range for lettuce growth.
  • Watering and Nutrient Solution Management: Ensure the lettuce plants receive enough water and nutrients by closely monitoring the hydroponic system. Adjust the nutrient solution strength and replenish it as needed.
  • Harvesting: Harvest the lettuce leaves as they reach the desired size. Cut the outer leaves, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing.

How to Grow Lettuce From Scraps

You can regrow lettuce from scraps, reducing waste and providing a continuous supply of fresh greens. Follow these steps to grow lettuce from scraps:

  1. Select Fresh Lettuce Heads: Choose a lettuce head that is fresh and healthy, preferably one that still has some intact leaves attached to the stem.
  2. Cut Off the Leaves: Remove the leaves from the lettuce head, leaving about 1-2 inches of the stem intact.
  3. Place in Water: Fill a container with about an inch of water and place the lettuce stem in the water, ensuring the cut end is submerged.
  4. Provide Adequate Light: Place the container in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight, as it may cause the lettuce to wilt.
  5. Change Water Regularly: Change the water every few days to prevent bacterial growth and ensure the lettuce stem remains hydrated.
  6. Wait for New Growth: After a few days, you should start to see new leaves emerging from the center of the lettuce stem. Allow the plant to continue growing in water until the roots become more developed.
  7. Transplant to Soil: Once the roots have grown to a few inches in length, transplant the lettuce into a pot or garden bed filled with well-draining soil. Bury the roots and part of the stem, leaving the new leaves above the soil surface.
  8. Care for the Transplanted Lettuce: Water the transplanted lettuce regularly to keep the soil moist, and provide partial shade during the hottest part of the day. Harvest the outer leaves as they mature, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing.

Conclusion

Growing lettuce at home is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that allows you to enjoy the freshness and flavour of homegrown greens. Whether you choose to cultivate lettuce in your garden, in pots, or through hydroponics, following the appropriate methods and providing the necessary care will ensure a successful harvest. By understanding when to plant lettuce, how to grow it from scraps, and even how to grow lettuce in water, you can embrace a sustainable and self-sufficient approach to your salad bowl. Start your lettuce-growing journey today and savour the delight of picking your own vibrant lettuce leaves right at home.

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