There’s no right or wrong way to grow or plant lettuce. It’s a matter of what works best with your set of variables — which are many in any garden.
If you don’t have enough lettuce to suite you after mid March — or if you’re having trouble getting it to grow — you need to try another approach. The only way you’re going to know what works best for you is to try them all.
Two things you should also consider before you begin.
#1. How you want to harvest. If you graze continually like I do, not much space is required between plants. If you want to have big heads of lettuce allow about 6 inches between plants.
I use a watering can filled with my rain water reserve to water in my seedlings after planting in the garden. After that, I depend on rain.
Even if I were set up to water, I wouldn’t — unless I could save more rain water. Although I’ve hauled a bucket or two to select spots in my garden in times of drought, I always fear that the water from the tap will cause more harm than good. It’s filled with chemicals and chlorine. I read years ago in Organic Gardening Magazine (back in the days when it was really great) that water like our tap water causes plants to be unable to take up the nutrients they need.
Four Ways to Grow Lettuce
You can adjust any of the methods to better suit your situation. Or you can come up with you own method.
#1 Direct Seeding can be the quickest most hassle free method of getting lettuce. I say can be — because some people don’t have as much success with it as others. With me — sometimes it’s a big success; sometimes it’s not.
Scatter your seed or plant in rows — whichever you prefer. Cover lightly with a sprinkling of straw. Water or wait for rain. When it get’s about an inch high – thin if you want. Since I graze all my lettuce everyday, I don’t bother with thinning if one spot or two is a bit thick. (I have MANY lettuce spots in my garden.)
#2 Start in Flats and Transplant into the Garden
This was my most successful approach for almost 30 years. I scattered my seed in a flat in my seed starting area outside and waited for it to germinate. If the temperatures were right, it germinated in a couple of days.
When the lettuce was about an inch or so high, I scooped out a handful each day and took it to the garden to plant. I make a furrow with my finger and placed each seedling about an inch or two apart. Pulled the soil over the roots in the furrow. Watered between furrows. Sprinkled with straw. And waited.
If you have a slug problem you can use Escargo around the lettuce to keep it from being damaged. (You want the EscarGo Slug and Snail Control rather than the EscarGo Supreme which has additions that may be harmful to the beneficials.)
#3 Start in Flats; Transplant to Pots; Plant in Garden
Here’s one reason for the extra step of transplanting to pots before planting in the Garden:
For the last month we’ve had no more than a drizzle of rain. Drought in the summer is bad enough, but I really hate drought in the spring. Because that’s when there’s so much planting taking place. I use a watering can to water in the lettuce right after it’s planted, and then I depend on the spring rains.
Some of the beds that I allocated for lettuce this spring have gotten a bit drier than usual because my straw was not as deep on those beds. (Hind sight is good but never solves the immediate problem.)
So in early April — rather than transplant the inch high seedlings to the garden, I’ve transplanted them to small pots. (2 or 3 seedling per pot)
As of today – about 10 days after potting — I’m planting them in the garden. The roots are much more developed and after watering them in I think they’ll do ok if we get some kind of break in the drought by the end of the month.
#4 in Gallon Plastic Jugs using the Wintersown Method
This is one of my favorite methods. You start out with your growing medium being moist and you can pretty much forget having to worry about keeping the soil moist because the jug acts like a terrarium or little green house.
Sow the seed (not too thickly) into the soil in the bottom of the jug. Tape the top to the bottom so there is no air gap. Remove the jug’s cap for ventilation . Wait for it to germinate and grow. Transplant to the garden or to small pots as described in the methods above.
Final Thought – Plant Consistently
The only other thing you need to do to have lettuce most of the year is plant consistently. Do succession planting in September through October. Keep under row covers or cold-frames for the cold of winter. Start planting again the first part of the year through May. Even if you loose some like I did this year you should still be harvesting a bowl full of baby lettuce and greens at least once a day by mid March.
Lettuce – Time to Plant
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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