Easy tips for growing leaf lettuce in a backyard or container vegetable garden.
Learn how to plant, grow, care for, and harvest leaf lettuce plants in your home garden.
If you are accustomed to eating iceberg lettuce, consider switching and try leaf lettuce.
The loose-headed lettuces such as romaine and those in the butter group are much easier to grow and their green leaves are more nutritious than the heads that are blanched white.
Like most garden vegetables, leaf lettuce prefers well-drained, rich soil.
Recommended varieties include: Bibb, Grand Rapids, Dark Green, Romaine, and White Boston.
The preferred soil pH for growing leaf lettuce is 6.5.
Test soil for adequate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Apply generous amounts of organic compost.
Fertilize soil lightly before planting.
Be careful not to over fertilize, which causes the leaves to be bitter tasting.
Keep soil moist and weed-free.
Reduce overhead watering once the plants have reached 4 to 6 inches in diameter to prevent leaf blemish.
Water in the early morning so that plants are completely dry by the time full sun shines on the garden bed.
Avoid cutting the central growth bud when harvesting outer leaves.
Harvest by thinning or cutting outer leaves 1-2 inches above the soil before leaves turn yellow or the plant bolts.
Leaf lettuce can be stored in vegetable bin of refrigerator in an airtight container for several weeks.
Hybrid plants often do not breed true from seed.
With non-hybrid plants, instead of buying seeds every year, collect and save seeds from the best vegetables you have grown in your garden to replant.
Pick the best overall plants as your seeders.
With crops such as leaf lettuce, where it is the leaves you want to harvest, select a plant that takes a long time to go to seed.
Growing leaf lettuce cross-pollinates readily.
If you want seeds to be true, grow only one species.
After choosing which plants you want to save seeds from, wait until they bolt.
The flower stalk develops in the fall.
Once the stalk is mature, collect the seeds and allow them to dry for a day or so in the sunshine but bring them in at night to avoid dampness.
With luck, you will have seeds in time for a late crop the same year or have plenty the following year.
Store seeds in dry glass jar stored in a cool, dark place until the following season.