How to Grow Lettuce {Start to Finish}

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mesclun lettuce seed packet botanical interests

This morning I started a flat of  Valentine Mesclun Lettuce and placed it under a set of grow lights in the office. The cool thing about lettuce is you can grow it year round, and you can grow it inside too. Which is awesome in the winter time when the weather pretty much stinks.

picture of lettuce seeds botanical interests

Lettuce seeds are super tiny, and if you are careful one packet of seeds should be enough for an entire season of salad. But, if you are a salad freak like I am, then I would grow as many varieties as I possibly could.  My favorites are Romaine, Buttercrunch, Mesclun, Gourmet Baby Greens, and Oak Leaf lettuce.

romaine lettuce starts{I started this flat of Romaine lettuce I started about 7 weeks ago}

Where to Plant Lettuce:  Lettuce can be planted in garden beds, raised beds, or pots.  It likes cooler temperature and can be planted in a shady area.

recycled wood pallet garden

Planting Seeds:  Plant 1/8″ deep, with 1/4 to 1/2″ seed spacing.  Space rows 6″ apart.

Growing Tips:  Lettuce thrives in milder temperatures, so it is best planted in early spring.  It can be started indoors anytime of year.

picture of lettuce grown in a garden

How to Harvest:  Snap off mature leaves, but careful not to pull up the whole plant.

recipe bbq chicken salad

 My Favorite Lettuce recipeBBQ Chicken Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, and Apples

Did you know the average American eats 30 lbs of lettuce per year?  Holy cow!  How do you think you compare to the average?

Looking for more delicious salad recipes? Check out the book Super Salads: More Than 250 Super-Easy Recipes for Super Nutrition and Super Flavor By Reader’s Digest.

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Comments

  1. I’d love to get some grow lights to have lettuce year round (as well as start other seeds), but my husband mentioned the electricity is expensive, thoughts?!

    • Hi Tara,

      I use a fluorescent tube shop light with a full spectrum fluorescent tube in it that runs on a timer for 12 hours a day when I’m starting seeds. I’ve used up to 4 lights at a time and had minimal change in my electric bill (at most a couple dollars a month-cheaper than a head of lettuce and I was starting A LOT of seeds). Fluorescents tend to be pretty energy effcient.

      • Thank you! I have read several people that have commented using just regular flourescents. I may start there.

  2. Mavis I just wanted to let you know what you have been eating in your salads. The fifth picture down with the differents leaves laid out on a board…the third one in from the left(the upright one not the one laid on its side)…thats KALE!!! Lol

  3. Hi Mavis,

    Do you have a general guideline as to how close together you plant head and bibb lettuces?

  4. Madam Chow says:

    Mavis, have you made kale chips in the oven? It’s easy and makes a tasty snack instead of chips.

  5. Hi Tara & Mavis,

    I am wondering what the diff is in say, reg flourescent bulbs & the full spectrum if any? We have a ceiling shop light that can be installed & am glad to hear i can use it rather than buy special,fancy grow lights! Wondering also when growing lettuce inside, if the temp will slow the lettuce growth since they like cool weather?

    • Just curious if you put the plants/seeds closer to the light or just simply sit them on a table in a room with the lights on. Also, would you consider growing seeds in a basement with the lights? Our house is pretty small, but we do have a basement(averages about 50 degrees though). Thanks.

      • Hi, I have the lights on chains so I can raise and lower them, alternatively you can raise the seed flats. At first, you need the lights to be almost touching the seedlings, as the seedlings grow you keep the lights just out of reach of the plant. Otherwise you will have “leggy” plants that grow tall but are really spindly.

        As to the basement – if it’s not too damp/cold then I don’t see why not. Seeds usually need heat to germinate so you don’t want it to be too cold and if it’s too damp they might rot.

        I’ve gotten really good at seed starting, it’s once they end up outside that things get all topsy turvey on me.

        Yougrowgirl dot com has a lot of good information on growing from seed, just type in “seed starting” into the search bar on her blog. Also, if you search for “seed light” she has a great DIY on building a cheap but effective lighting system- it’s how I learned to start from seed.

  6. Do you move the lettuce outside in the spirng?

  7. I’m trying to think about what kind of container to grow this in. How deep does it need to be?

    • I like to use Smart Pots. They are great for just about anything. A 7 gallon smart pot should be enough of lettuce. It will run you about $8.50 each.

  8. I bought a hot house to start seeds. It has a warmer to go underneath. Do I still need grow lights? I haven’t set it up yet, but have been meaning to.

  9. Mavis,
    I absolutely love your blog! Our food budget has reduced drastically this year due to job changes, so now we’re on the same journey! We currently have 9 raised beds and 16 chickens and 3 meat rabbits. It’s been an adventure. We’re on off time in the garden now; in Northern PA we’re under a foot and a half of snow and probably will be until April. But I do want to try growing things indoors and starting seeds. This will be my third winter trying it. The first year we lost all of our seedlings to damping off and mold. Last year we used a grow light and kept half of them, but we still lost the other half to damping off and mold. :( I’ve never had success with lettuce or herbs inside. I use a seed starting mix and make my own cells out of newspaper, toilet paper tubes or egg cartons. Any tips on having success with my seedlings or growing inside?
    Zoe

    • I think when you are growing the seedlings inside, light is key. I used to grow my tomato seedlings in the windows and they would get a bit leggy if I was not careful, so I switched to grow lights last year.

  10. Hi,
    What is the height of the raised beds and what is their length and width ?
    Thanks

  11. Jana Williamson says:

    I grew red leaf lettuce and spinach for the first time this year and have kept it alive all winter long. I am in Texas. But when the temp dips past freezing I bring it in and when it is above freezing set it back out on the porch. It grows back fast too. I plan to plant more salad type greens in a few weeks for the spring season.

  12. I planted some salad mixture of lettuce in a container and it’s doing very well, unlike the lettuce I planted in my garden. I was just wondering, when are the leaves big enough to harvest? Does it matter?

  13. Mavis. What is your favorite lettuce and why? I like lettuce that can be ripped or cut up and holds up to dressings. I don’t like wilted wimpy lettuce. If it gets soggy I pick it out of my salad. YUK!!!

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