For first-time gardeners, the idea of growing lettuce in your backyard may seem easy, especially when spring has arrived and you dream of salad greens. But growing and harvesting lettuce is an actual process that needs to be learned. Luckily, here's the only "how to harvest lettuce" guide you need to bookmark.
How To Grow Lettuce
You can definitely harvest lettuce, but in order to do so, you need to learn how to properly grow lettuce first. Growing your own lettuce can be a big money-saver, while also being pretty simple to plant on your own. But before you hit the store looking for lettuce seeds, do some research of the types of lettuce so that you can pick up exactly what you want.
There's loose-leaf lettuce (loose head), oak leaf, romaine, butterhead, iceberg lettuce, and summer crisp (crisphead lettuce). Pro tip: Any leaf lettuce variety is great for homegrown because it grows pretty fast and can be harvested for weeks.
After picking up your seeds, you need to choose an area where your pots or raised beds can get direct sunlight for 6-8 hours for germination. "Once you've picked your spot, prepare the bed for planting by digging in an inch or two of compost or aged manure. If you like, you can also dig in a slow release organic fertilizer at this time," the pros at Savvy Gardening share.
If you choose to use containers, pick ones that are more than 4 inches deep and have holes at the bottom for draining. With either that or your garden bed, "there are two ways to plant lettuce seeds... Direct sow seeds in the garden or containers (or) transplant lettuce seedlings that were started indoors under grow lights or purchased from a garden centre."
Because lettuce plants are made for cool weather, early spring and fall are the best growing seasons. If you harvest leaf lettuce during this time, you'll get a sweeter taste.
How To Harvest Lettuce
Because there are different types of lettuces, you need to pay attention to which harvest length is ideal for which lettuce head. Just because it looks like a whole plant, it may not be ready for full harvest optimization.
For loose-headed leaf lettuce, 2-3 inches long is a good size. 6-8 inches tall is good for harvesting romaine lettuce. "Pick all lettuce before a seed stalk forms," the garden family at Harvest to Table encourages.
You'll want to use a sharp knife to harvest the whole heads and leaves. Work from the outer going in, working with your outer leaves at slow snips, so that the younger leaves can stay intact for future use.
Even though the head of lettuce is pretty heat-tolerant, an unusual hot weather can ruin the entire plant. In this case, you'll want to harvest the lettuce and store it in a plastic bag in the fridge. "Crisphead lettuce can be stored for two weeks under optimal conditions. Leaf and bibb will store as long as four weeks if the leaves are dry when bagged."
After tackling lettuce for your home garden, you'll definitely be ready to turn your backyard into a vegetable garden.