I love to grow lettuce because it is easy to grow in any type of garden: school, container or backyard. Lettuce is easy to start from seed, will cut-and-come-again—meaning it will regrow when harvested—and is easy for everyone, including kids, to harvest and taste. Plus, it tastes superb picked fresh from the garden!
First, choose the variety you want to plant. Leaf lettuces are the easiest to grow. Leaves grow loose, not in a tight head, and are cut-and-come-again. We like to plant Black Seeded Simpson, Oak Leaf, Lolla Rossa, and Red Sails. Butterhead types consist of green leaves wrapped loosely around a soft yellow center. We plant the Bibb and White Boston varieties. Of the Cos or Romaine lettuces, we like to plant Winter Density, Sierra, and Nevada. Finally, we do not recommend Crisphead or Iceberg lettuces for the Houston area as they tend to rot in our warm, humid climate. We often like to mix lettuce seeds to grow a salad!
Lettuces require 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, 6 to 8 inches of good, sandy soil, and 4 square feet of growing space. Lettuces sprout when temperatures are between 60-75 degrees. You can start planting lettuce in October and reseed through February. For cut-and-come-again varieties, begin by amending your soil with compost or lightly tilling in Microlife to prepare your soil. Then, broadcast the small lettuce seeds across the planting area, “tickle” the seeds into the soil—don’t pat—so that they are covered in a thin layer of soil, no more than 1⁄4 inch. Lastly, water in the seeds and keep soil moist while seeds are sprouting. For a continuous harvest of salad greens, sew seeds every three weeks.
Harvest by cutting the leaves off with scissors, or simply pinching the base of the leaf tightly with your fingers. Lettuces that grow into heads will require you to harvest in sweeping motion with a knife as the base can be quite thick. Or, systematically pick leaves from the outer edge of the head of lettuce.
Refer to Dr. Bob’s book and planting guide for optimal planting times. We hope you enjoy growing many kinds of lettuce this winter!