Organic Consumers Association

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How to Grow Great Lettuce

If you're growing your own vegetables, now is the right time to start your lettuce. Lettuce of all kinds thrives in cool temperatures and consistently moist soil, so spring and fall, when temperatures are between 45 and 75 F, are the best times to grow them. Popular lettuce types include:

  • Loose-leaf varieties — Fast-growing delicate leaves that grow from a central stalk; cutting the outer leaves rather than pulling the whole head will allow the plant to keep growing new leaves to replace what you harvested
  • Butterhead (Boston) — Soft, tender leaves with white heart; requires cool weather and optimal soil quality to thrive
  • Mesclun blends — Spicier greens such as radicchio and mustard add flavor and color to your salads
  • Romaine — Heat-tolerant with crunchy long leaves. Use red or red-speckled varieties to add color to your meal
  • Crisphead (iceberg) — Heat-hardy with thick, crunchy leaves, high in fiber but low in overall nutrition

When and What to Plant for Spring

First, check your Farmer's Almanac (The Old Farmer's Almanac is now available online1) to find the last frost date for your local area. Lettuce should be sown six weeks before the last frost date. Ideal soil temperature is between 55 and 75 F. Within this range, seeds will sprout in two to eight days.

If your seeds resist sprouting, they're probably too old. Lettuce seed should be replaced annually. Fresh seeds have a germination rate of about 80 percent, and a single standard seed packet will produce about 80 heads of lettuce.

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