Most of the home gardeners prefer growing lettuce organically in home garden. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is actually an annual plant of the daisy family and most often grown as a leaf vegetable. But sometimes it is also grown for it’s stem and seeds.
Lettuce is a cool-season crop that grows well in the spring and fall in most regions, and can be grown in winter in the tropical regions.
The seedlings are hardy and can even tolerate a light frost. So, you can start growing lettuce if you are living in the areas with colder temperature.
Lettuce is popular throughout the world as a green vegetable and consumed in salads or in many other ways. Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Depending on the variety, lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin K. It is also a good source of folate and iron.
However, you can enjoy this great vegetable if you start growing lettuce organically in your home garden. And home grown organic lettuce is far superior in both taste and vitamin than that of the store bought lettuce.
How to Start Growing Lettuce
Growing lettuce is relatively easy and it grows quickly. You have to plant lettuce several times in a growing season for continuous harvest, because the plants grow quickly. However, here we are describing everything about growing lettuce from planting, caring to harvesting.
Choose a Variety
First of all choose the right variety for growing lettuce organically in home garden. There are several varieties available, but you have to choose the right one.
You can consult with your local agriculture extension officers or any existing home gardeners for better recommendation about selecting the right variety.
You should select the variety that grows well and easily available in your area.
Mission, King Crown, Wallop, Paris White Cos, Burpee Bibb and Red Sail are some common and popular lettuce varieties.
After selecting your desired variety, purchase seeds from any of your nearest seed supply stores. Lettuce is grown throughout the world, so the seeds should be easily available in your area.
Today, there are some seed suppliers with online stores. So, you can also order the seeds online. Don’t forget to know more about the quality of the seeds before purchasing.
Best Time for Growing Lettuce
Lettuce is actually a cool-season crop and grows well during the colder months. So, you can start growing lettuce when the temperature is between 7 and 18° C.
Lettuce prefers moist and cool conditions. So you don’t have to worry about chilly weather because the seedlings can tolerate a light frost.
Preparing the Soil
Lettuce can be grown in almost all types of soil and can tolerate shade. But the plants grow well in loamy soil which is rich in organic materials.
The soil should be loose and well drained, so that it remains moist without staying soggy. You can make raised beds for maximizing lettuce production.
Because raised beds warm up faster than the surrounding ground and it also drain water well.
Prepare the soil perfectly by adding well-rotted aged manure or homemade compost before planting either seeds or transplants.
If you prefer growing lettuce in raised beds, then ensure that the seedbed is well-tilled.
Planting Lettuce Seeds
After preparing the soil perfectly, you can sow seeds directly in the soil or plant the transplants. We recommend sowing the seeds directly into the soil for growing lettuce in home garden.
Planting the seeds in rows will be good for additional caring. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch deep. Space about 12-15 inches between 2 rows.
And you can thin the seedlings to 4-8 inches apart (depending on the variety), when the seeds germinate.
If you want to have an earlier production, then you can start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date.
Then harden the seedlings for about 5-7 days, and after that transplant outside between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the last spring frost. Water immediately after planting the transplants.
After planting lettuce seeds or transplants, the plants will require additional caring for better growth and production. Here we are describing more about additional caring for the lettuce plants.
Fertilizing: Lettuce plants don’t require additional fertilization if you have already prepared the soil perfectly by adding lots of organic materials such as manure or compost. Although, you can use additional liquid fertilizers such as compost tea.
Watering: The soil needs to be moist constantly for better growth of the plants. Lettuce plants require moist soil but the soil should not soggy. So, ensure well drainage system.
Mulching: Adding a layer of mulch will be good for retaining moisture in the soil and also for controlling weeds. Try to use organic materials for using as mulch, such as grass clippings, dry leaves, straw or homemade compost.
Controlling Weeds: Remove the weeds from garden when preparing the soil for growing lettuce. You will need to weed by hand if you notice additional weeds. You can also use a hoe for controlling weeds. But be very careful while hoeing, because the lettuce plants have very shallow roots.
Thinning: Lettuce plants will not grow well if they are overcrowded. So thin the plants to 4-8 inches apart (depending on the variety) after germination.
Because these plants are taller than lettuce plants and they will provide shade for the lettuce plants. And this will ultimately reduce bolting.
Pests and Diseases
Lettuce plants are susceptible to some common garden pests and diseases. Aphids, earwigs, slugs and cutworms are some common pests which you may notice while growing lettuce organically in your home garden.
You can sprinkle wood ashes or diatomaceous earth over the soil around the plants to get rid of the slugs. And applying garlic spray will be excellent for preventing other pests.
Lettuce plants grow very fast and become ready for harvesting shortly. This is a great benefit of growing lettuce in home garden.
You should start harvesting when the plants reach their full size, just before maturity.
Because the mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and will go bad quickly. So, you will need to check your garden everyday.
You can also harvest the leaves simply by removing the outer leaves so that the center leaves can continue to grow. Harvesting lettuce in the morning will be good, just before the leaves have been exposed to sun.
These are the ways for growing lettuce organically in home garden. Hope you have enjoyed this guide! Good luck!