Maintaining Your Romaine Lettuce Plants
Maintaining romaine lettuce, like other types of lettuce, is quite easy. Romaine is flavorful and nutritious, not to mention an attractive addition to your garden. It's medium green in color and grows up and out of the ground in tightly formed bunches rather than in heads. With the proper garden maintenance you will be able to enjoy your freshly grown romaine lettuce from the early summer into autumn.
Lettuce is known as a cool season crop, so it is best to plant in the early spring and late summer depending on where you live. Seeds can be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost to get a jump start on the season. Work a generous amount of organic material into your soil at least a week before planting time. Harden off transplants outside for a week before planting. Sow seeds directly once the soil can be worked. Fall crops can be planted in August if the soil is cool.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "To cool late summer soil, wet the soil and place a straw bale over it for a week before planting seeds."
As with all vegetables, spacing is important because you need to give the plants enough room to grow abundantly. Lettuce rows should be about 8 to 16 inches apart, and the plants in each row should be about 10 inches apart. Lettuce can be planted in garden boxes, beds and even around other vegetables. Romaine and other varieties require full sun planting where the temperatures are cooler, but for moderate regions it can be planted in partial shade or shade areas. Another tip is to plant romaine in intervals--about 10 days between plantings--to keep a supply of lettuce throughout the growing season.
TIP: Susan suggests, "For best results, fertilize lettuce 3 weeks after planting with an organic fertilizer."
Maintenance and Companion Planting
Lettuce does not require a lot of attention but the soil needs to remain moist. Don’t water in the evening. If lettuce stays wet overnight it will be exposed to disease. If you began with romaine starts, you can harvest small portions of each lettuce plant, letting each plant grow to maturity and at the same time having romaine all summer. Remove the outer leaves of several plants for eating, and you’ll be amazed how it comes back, ready to provide more. Try planting chives and garlic between lettuce rows to ward off aphids.
TIP: Susan recommends "Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to protect plants and retain moisture."
Even if you cut off leaves and let the lettuce continue to grow throughout the season, it won’t last forever. For the final harvest, cut the romaine at the base of the plant, wash, dry and store it immediately.