Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Lettuce from Seeds

What You'll Need
Lettuce seeds
Mature compost
All-purpose fertilizer
Seed tray
Garden fork
Organic mulch

Lettuce seeds are most often used to propagate the nutritious leafy green vegetable that we all love in our salads and sandwiches. Lettuce thrives in cooler climates, and is a popular crop for most home gardeners. It is easy to grow and maintain with some basic care.

Step 1 – Starting Lettuce Seeds Indoors

There are several different varieties of lettuce such as romaine, iceberg, and butterhead. Most lettuce types are easy to grow, with the exception of iceberg lettuce that is particularly picky about growing conditions. Sowing lettuce seeds indoors is a good idea if you want to start early. Though lettuce likes cool growing conditions, it will not do well in extreme cold. Temperatures should ideally be between 15 degrees C to 20 degrees C. Sow the seeds 1/4-inch deep in a seed tray filled with potting mix. Water well so the soil is moist, but avoid sogginess.

Step 2 – Starting Lettuce Seeds Outdoors

You can also sow lettuce seeds directly in the soil if there is no chance of frost. Choose a shaded spot, because lettuce thrives in partial shade and can wilt under the direct glare of the sun. Lettuce plants grow best in rich soil that has plenty of organic material for nutrition. Before sowing lettuce seeds, prepare the soil well. Using a spade or shovel, loosen the soil to about 12 inches in depth and then add generous amounts of mature compost. With a garden fork, mix the soil and compost together and let the soil settle for a few days before sowing the seeds. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and cover with a thin layer of compost. Water well.

Step 3 – Thin the Seedlings

If provided the right temperature and moisture, lettuce seedlings will appear within 2 weeks. When the seedlings are about 3 to 4 inches tall, they can be transplanted outdoors. Before transplanting the seedlings, strengthen them by taking the seed tray outdoors. Keep it in a sheltered location for a few days. This will prevent transplant shock. Depending on the variety of lettuce, there will need to be different spacings between plants. Head lettuce needs a separation of 12 inches between plants whereas butterhead lettuce needs 8 or 9 inches and leaf lettuce needs about 5 to 6 inches. Transplant the seedlings accordingly. If you started the seeds outdoors, thin out the weak-looking ones, and leave the appropriate space between the other seedlings.

Step 4 – Care and Maintenance

Lettuce needs the right amount of water. The correct way to water lettuce plants is to provide small quantities at regular intervals and to avoid too much or too little watering. It is also beneficial to feed the plants regularly with a mild liquid fertilizer. Inspect the lettuce regularly for any signs of disease or infestation. Common slugs can be removed or treated with insecticidal soap. Harvest the lettuce 8 or 9 weeks after planting. Avoid letting the lettuce become over-ripe becaise it will develop a bitter taste.