If you’re a beginning gardener, salad greens are great veggies to start with since they are fast-growers, simple to plant, and take up very little space, depending on the variety. They grow well in a garden bed, containers, or raised beds, and there are many types of lettuce to choose from. Learn how and when to plant lettuce indoors and outside according to your USDA hardiness zone, and use your fresh leafy greens to prepare a recipe.
Lettuce is a cool-season crop, and there are many lettuce varieties, from Great Lakes, Bibb, and Simpson to Boston, Oakleaf, and Red Sails. Some are Romaine types, while others are crisphead, butterhead, loose heads, or loose-leaf lettuce, and all of them are pretty easy to grow at home.
The key to growing your own lettuce plants is to pick varieties of lettuce that grow well in your hardiness zone. It’s also vital to know the best time to start lettuce seeds indoors and outside to ensure you get a head start on the growing season.
Planting and Growing Lettuce at Home
The lettuce growing season varies, depending on the lettuce type and your location. For example, leaf types reach maturity in about a month, iceberg lettuce takes 55 to 90 days to grow, and many lettuce varieties bolt during hot weather. It’s vital to pick the right lettuce type for your area.
Learn about USDA hardiness zones and when to plant lettuce in zone 5 and under or when to plant lettuce in zone 6 and up. Discover how to sow lettuce seeds and when to plant lettuce seedlings in the outdoor garden. Find lettuce plant care tips and how to use your fresh greens in a dish.
Lettuce Growing Season Based on Region
It’s vital to know when to plant lettuce in zone 7 as opposed to zone 3 or 4 since these regions have varying climate conditions, and the lettuce growing season differs by type. Learn the difference between zones and the climate conditions for the most common types of lettuce.
USDA hardiness zones are areas of the United States broken up into sections based on the average lowest temperature. The zones help you pick whether you grow a Romaine lettuce plant or another variety that grows well in your area. For example, hardiness zone 7 has an average winter temperature of 0 to 10°F while zone 10 has milder temperatures of 30 to 40°F.
Lettuce prefers cool weather with temperatures around 65°F with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. If you do not know your soil type, consider testing it at your local cooperative extension office and amending it if necessary.
Crisphead, butterhead, Romaine, and loose-leaf are the four main types of lettuces, and warm temperatures cause bolting in some lettuce varieties. Crisphead grows ideally when the temperatures are between 45 and 70°, butterhead grows well between 45 and 80°F, and Romaine and loose-leaf prefer average temps of 60 to 65°F.
When to Plant Lettuce Indoors
There are many lettuce varieties, and some take longer to grow than others. An ideal way to get a head start on your garden if you live in an area with a short growing season is to start them from seed inside your home. Here is the best time to plant lettuce seeds indoors and how to get them to germinate.
Prepare for seed sowing a few weeks before the last frost in the early spring. The final frost date varies by region, and it’s essential to check the hardiness zone for your area before planting.
Fill peat pots with potting soil and press the seeds a quarter of an inch into the dirt or according to the seed packet instructions for the fast way to grow lettuce. Spray them lightly with water and set them in a warm area of your home to encourage germination.
When to Plant Lettuce Seedlings in the Garden
Once your seedlings reach the desired size and the temperatures outside begin to lose their winter chill, it’s time to move them to the garden. Find out when to plant lettuce seedlings outdoors and how to care for your plants as they mature.
Once the outside soil temperature is above 35° and workable, it’s time to start transplanting the lettuce seedlings into the garden or cold frame. If you desire a fall crop, plant the seeds or seedlings in the late summer before the first frost date.
Choose a garden area where your plants receive full sun and amend the garden soil with organic matter. Check the original seed packet for plant and row spacing directions and plant the peat pots in the garden accordingly.
Different lettuce types require different spacing. Buttercrunch lettuce needs ten to twelve inches between plants, while head lettuce wants twelve to eighteen, and leaf lettuce requires only four inches.
Water your plants right after planting and spread mulch over the soil to retain moisture and stop weed growth. Consider installing floating row covers to protect your lettuce from unexpected frost and garden pests like aphids.
Lettuce tip burn is the result of water stress on fast-growing lettuce. The plant can’t move water and nutrients to the rapidly growing leaf tissue, affecting the outer leaves and inner leaves. Providing your plants with adequate spacing and air circulation may lessen the chance of this occurring.
Harvesting Your Lettuce Crop
Picking your lettuce is the best part of the job. You can harvest the entire head of lettuce or individual leaves as they become large enough. The right time to harvest leaf lettuce is when they are several inches long.
Make Stir-Fry with Fresh Garden Lettuce
One can only eat so many salad bowls before getting bored. If you’re looking for another way to prepare your garden lettuce, this stir-fried lettuce is quick and easy to prepare and a great alternative to traditional salads.
Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl and set it to the side. Wash and dry the lettuce and tear the leaves into larger than bite-sized pieces. Heat a large frying pan or wok on medium-high heat and pour in the salad oil and garlic.
Stir until the garlic takes on a little color, and add the lettuce. Cook until the leaves are slightly limp, add the soy sauce mixture, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve the salad hot.
Lettuce plants are perfect for growing in the garden, whether you decide to grow iceberg lettuce or Romaine lettuce, and a salad bowl isn’t complete without them.
Choose the proper lettuce type for your region and start the seeds at the right time of the year, and your plants provide you with an abundance of greens at the end of the growing season.
We hope that knowing when to plant lettuce based on your area helps you produce healthy and tasty lettuce plants, and we’d love it if you’d share our lettuce planting guide with your gardening friends and family on Pinterest and Facebook.