Lettuce is a great option for green salads as compare to any other leafy vegetables due to its sweet taste and crunchy feel. Why don't you have such leafy greens in your backyard/garden/containers. Because lettuce plants can be grown in a small container to the big garden. So here we will discuss how can you grow your favorite salad green in your home. The green grown in the home tastes better than brought from outside. So try it once.
Lettuce is an annual leafy vegetable, rich in vitamin A. Lettuce belongs to the Asteraceae family. It requires cold weather and consistent watering for growing well. In lettuce, we have four types of varieties
1. Celtuce or asparagus lettuce (variety augustana), with narrow leaves and a thick, succulent, edible stem.
2.Head or cabbage lettuce (variety capitata), with the leaves folded into a compact head.
3. Leaf or curled lettuce (variety crispa), with a rosette of leaves that are curled, finely cut, smooth-edged, or oak-leaved in shape; and
4. Cos or romaine lettuce (variety longifolia), with smooth leaves that form a tall, oblong, loose head.
Lettuce requires cooler months for germination and its growth. In the growing season if it faces warmer weather it starts bolting and produces seeds stock, which turns the leaves bitter and makes it inedible. So in Indian regions, October-November is the best time for planting/sowing lettuce seeds. So they get enough three months for their growth and development in cooler temperatures. Lettuce usually attains maturity from 30 days to 70 days depending on the variety you choose to grow.
- When to plant: The best time to plant/ sow seeds is October to November in Indian climatic conditions.
- Choosing and preparing a planting site: lettuce requires a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight for better growth. So choose a sunny location for planting the lettuce if you are planting directly in the ground. Or you can place planters under the sun to harvest the maximum amount of sunlight. Lettuce grows even if the light is less than 6 hours. But gives the best result under full sun.
- Soil & compost: use well-draining nutrients rich soil for growing lettuce. Use fine quality vermicompost along with potting mix to get the maximum growth.
How to plant:
1. Transplanting method: in this method, you have to sow seeds in pro trays or seedling trays. Put two to three seeds in a single cup. When plants attain the 3-4 leaf stage you can use it for transplanting into the main field.
2. Direct sowing: Here lettuce seeds can be directly sown in the ground in rows by maintaining an 8-12'' space between the plants and a 20-30'' gap between the rows. Water consistently and don't let the soil dry completely. Overwatering may cause the rotting of roots. So you have to water the plants to keep the soil moist not soggy.
How to care:
Care should be taken for the selection of good soil, compost, watering, and preventing plants from the attack of pests and diseases.
soil should be neutral in pH around 6.5 to 7. Use less compact, well-draining soil/ potting mix for planting lettuce. Use a good amount of organic manure/ bio manure/ vermicompost to enrich the soil. If you are using 2 kg of potting mix or soil use 1 kg of organic manure/ vermicompost.
2. Water: water regularly from the day of sowing. As lettuce is a shallow-rooted crop, roots cannot reach the bottom of the container and absorb the water. So it requires consistent watering. In the initial stages of growth and immediately after sowing of seeds water the seeds, seedlings, and baby plants twice a day. That would be sufficient for lettuce plants.
3. Pests and diseases:
lettuce will be attacked majorly by sucking pests. For example aphids, whiteflies, and thrips. For controlling these pests use horticultural soap or neem oil spray as a prophylactic's measure.
- Bolting: when a plant faces hot weather during its growth, it starts producing seed stocks and makes the leaves bitter and inedible. This process is known as bolting.
- Harvesting & storage: You can start harvesting plants from 30 to 70 days after the sowing of seeds. Harvesting time depends on the type of variety, the purpose of use, and many factors. Because different varieties mature at different times. Lettuce is a fast-growing leafy vegetable when it comes to harvesting. This means that if you plant lettuce once, you can harvest it multiple times. Let’s take a look at how you can harvest the lettuce that you have spent weeks nurturing with love and care.
- Always harvest lettuce during the early hours of the morning. The leaves would be more fresh and crisp during this time.
- If you can’t harvest in the morning, you can always do it in the evening as well. But, before you head out to your garden with your harvesting tools, water the plants and wait 15-20 minutes.
- The perfect time to harvest the lettuce leaves is when they grow up to 4-6 inches. You can also harvest young leaves which give a great flavor to salads.
- To promote regrowth while harvesting, pick the outer leaves. If you are using scissors to cut, chop off 1 inch above the base of the leaf.
- Care should be taken to not to damage the plant. Carefully remove the outer leaves to promote new leaf growth.
- To keep the lettuce leaves fresh and crispy, wash them just before use so they don’t go limp.
- You can harvest lettuce leaves three times by planting only once, this is the good part regarding the growing of lettuce plants.
Frequently asked questions about lettuce growing:
1. Can I grow lettuce in pots?
Yes, lettuce can be easily grown in the pots with an optimum spacing of 6" between the plants. Growing lettuce in pots requires a transplanting method of growing lettuce. Select the healthy seedlings and transplant those to main pots with an optimum spacing.
2. Can I regrow lettuce in soil?
Lettuce is a cut and grows kind of plant. It regrows as you harvest the older and matured leaves. To keep growing new leaves from lettuce you have to harvest outer leaves without damaging the new, younger & inner leaves.
3. How long does lettuce take to regrow?
Lettuce takes hardly 6-10 days for re-growing after harvesting of the outer leaves. If you are looking for regrowth of lettuce please do not disturb the root system of the main plant. Care should be taken to keep the soil wet during the entire growing season.
4. What are common pests in lettuce?
Usually, lettuce is attacked by leaf miners, aphids, whiteflies, and cutworms due to their lush green color leaves. To control these pests use neem oil solution spray as a prophylactic spray.
5. How many times can we harvest lettuce?
Lettuce grows well every time after harvesting of outer leaves. Usually, we can harvest a maximum of three times from single sowing of seeds.