By Kat Yares, Garden Guides Contributor
Lettuce is the common name for a variety of different plants of the
genus Lactuca grown primarily for their edible leaves. Most types
of lettuce are grown for the use in salads, although the leaves are
often used on sandwiches, burgers and as a garnish. Lettuce can be
grown in a garden, greenhouse or container. Greenhouse or container
lettuce can be grown year-round for a constant supply. Lettuce is
considered an annual by most gardeners, but if allowed to bolt,
will seed itself without having to replant.
Prepare lettuce beds by adding humus or compost to the soil. Soil
should drain well, but be capable of retaining moisture.
* Most lettuces enjoy cooler temperatures, so lettuce should be
planted accordingly. To extend the season, plant leaf lettuces in
the early spring and head lettuces in the heat of the summer.
* Lettuces left to bolt and go to seed can cross with other
lettuces, including wild lettuce.
* Leaf lettuces have more nutrition and antioxidants than head
lettuces like iceberg.
Choosing a Variety
There are 6 favorite types of lettuce grown in a home garden. Bib
lettuce has loosely formed heads and a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Chinese lettuces are grown mostly for the stems and are used in
stir-fries and other dishes. Iceberg, or crisphead, lettuce forms
tight compact heads and is used mainly in salads, but has very
little nutritional value. Romaine lettuce is used primarily in
salads but can also be used on sandwiches. Batavian lettuce falls
somewhere between a loose-leaf and a head lettuce.
Broadcast or scatter seed evenly on the soil bed. Cover lightly
with soil. Alternatively, plant in rows approximately 1 1/2 inches
apart. One seed packet should plant around 100 feet and produce 80
heads of lettuce or almost 50 lbs. of leaf lettuce.
Aphids, cutworms and slugs cause most problems with lettuce. Spray
lettuce with an insecticide to avoid insect damage. Mold can
develop on plants that are packed too closely together and stay
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest leaf type lettuce as needed when the leaves are young and
tender. Head lettuce should be harvested when the head is firm to
pressure. Do not pinch the heads as this can injure the heart of
the lettuce and affect storage times. Lettuce is always best when
eaten fresh, but can be stored up to 2 weeks in the crisper section
of the refrigerator.