Freshly harvested lettuce leaves in a colander

Lettuces – Grow Guide

Find out how to grow your own crop of lettuces, with our guide to sowing, planting, maintenance and harvesting.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do Sow in May

Do not Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do Sow in August

Do Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Harvest
Harvest

Do not Harvest in January

Do not Harvest in February

Do Harvest in March

Do Harvest in April

Do Harvest in May

Do Harvest in June

Do Harvest in July

Do Harvest in August

Do Harvest in September

Do Harvest in October

Do Harvest in November

Do not Harvest in December

  • Average Yield

    8-12 heads per 3m row

  • Spacing

    15cm apart

    30cm between rows

  • Depth

    1cm

Overview

Growing your own lettuces, whether in pots or in the ground, means you can produce a fantastic variety of flavours, colours and textures. Lettuces are cheap to grow from seed and can be picked fresh for each meal so there’s no waste. They’re even pretty enough to grow among your flowers.

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Eat lettuces as soon as possible after harvesting, as the leaves will quickly go limp.

Growing lettuce from seed

thinning-lettuce-seedlings-2

Sowing and planting

Prepare the soil by digging in lots of well-rotted garden compost before sowing. This helps to prevent lettuces bolting or running to seed in hot or dry weather, especially in light soils.

Sow seed thinly along a 1cm deep drill (trench), made by pressing a bamboo cane into the soil. Cover seeds thinly with soil (they germinate better with some light) and water in. Leave 30cm between rows.

When the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them out to 10-20cm apart. Use the thinnings in a salad. Water along the row to resettle the soil around the roots of remaining plants.

For a steady supply of lettuces, sow seed every 14 days from March through to September.

Tending the crop

Don’t ever let the soil get too dry, especially if the weather is hot, or the crop will bolt. Mulch the area around your lettuces to seal moisture into the soil and feed your plants. Early- and late-season sowings are less inclined to bolt.

harvesting-lettuce-leaves-2

Harvesting lettuce

Start picking baby loose-leaf lettuces at 6 weeks; at 10 weeks for hearting types. In hot weather you’ll notice a difference in the succulence of your lettuces according to the time of day they’re picked. They’re best in the early morning, before the leaves dehydrate in the sun.

Storing lettuces

Eat lettuces as soon as possible after harvesting, as the leaves will quickly go limp, especially during warm weather. If you can’t eat all your harvest at once, then you can store lettuces for a few days in the salad drawer in the bottom of the fridge.

Preparation and uses

Separate the leaves, then just give them a good wash in cold water and a shake dry.

Use them as the basis of a crisp salad or as a sandwich filler with cooked meats or cheese. If you have a glut, try using them to make a refreshing chilled lettuce soup.

Troubleshooting

Slugs and snails can cause serious crop damage, so use copper-impregnated matting or mulch the soil with sharp grit or crushed seashells. Red or purple leaves seem to be less prone to attack.

Downy mildew fungus can ruin a crop. This is a particular problem in wet weather towards the end of the summer. Avoid splashing the leaves when watering and space the plants far enough apart to ensure there is good circulation of air.

Organic tip

Grow dill or chervil close to lettuces to ward off aphids.

lettuce leaf square
lettuce-varieties-3

Lettuce varieties to try

There are two main types of lettuce: those that form a head/heart or loose-leaf types.

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  • ‘Little Gem’ – classic mini cos type, sweet and crunchy, very compact heart, dark green leaves
  • ‘Mascara’ – frilled oak-leaf shaped leaves, deep red colour, slow to bolt
  • ‘Mortarella’ – romaine type with attractive, rich green leaves
  • ‘Salad Bowl’ (Red and Green) – non-hearting, crops all summer long, pick leaves as needed, slow to bolt
  • ‘Winter Gem’ – mini cos type, suitable for growing over winter (sow August to January) if protected from frost, mildew resistant