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How To Grow: Perfect Organic Lettuce

Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener

Spring is coming! This is the perfect time of year to brush up on your knowledge of growing techniques. Here at MIgardener, we want to share all of our favorite growing secrets; from our garden to yours. As you read through this series of growing guides, you’ll find there is nothing simpler than growing organic!

There is nothing quite so good as home grown lettuce. By skipping lettuce at the grocery store and growing it in your garden, you’ll have immediate access to fresh, vitamin rich, organic lettuce right on your doorstep for a fraction of the price! Home grown lettuce might seem like a luxury, when it is actually one of the simplest vegetables to grow at home.

Temperature:

Early spring, when the nights average about 40°f and the days from 50-60, is the perfect time to get started on your lettuce planting. It’s best to start your lettuce seeds 2-3 weeks after the last frost and mature them inside until the sprouts are visible. You can plant lettuce as soon as it starts growing from seed because it tolerates cold temperatures better than other vegetables.

Watering:

Lettuce enjoy even moist soil for their entire life. Lettuce likes spring and fall weather which usually receive a higher percentage of the year’s rainfall. Having soil that is damp like a wrung out sponge is perfect. Too much water will lead to rot, but too little can lead to wilting and thin skinned lettuce which is soft, floppy, and bitter.

Sunlight:

Lettuce requires partial sunlight. Which means it’s best to plant it in a semi-shaded area so it can soak up the sun from 5-6 hours a day. Any more than this and the direct sunlight will cause it to bolt early, grow bitter,  and flower before you have the chance to harvest it.

Soil Prep:

Grow Organic Lettuce

Lettuce roots are much finer than you’d find on other plants, so they require loose soil to allow for proper establishment. Lettuce thrives in neutral to alkaline soil, so the ph level should test around 7 and no higher than 7.5. When working with clay heavy soil, it’s important to amend (adjust) it by mixing in even amounts of sand and compost. This makes a good environment for lettuce and evens out the ph of acidic soil. Turn soil before planting in order to get rid of weeds to make it easier to work with.

Fertilizer:

Lettuce is a heavy nitrogen feeder. In order for lettuce to grow strong, it’s important to feed it a nitrogen rich fertilizer. Trifecta+ is an all purpose fertilizer that has the perfect amount of nitrogen for growing lettuce, and any other nitrogen rich fertilizers (ex. blood meal) work well to encourage leaf growth.

Sprinkle approximately 1 cup of fertilizer per every 3-5 square feet of garden space. Rake in your fertilizer of choice to the top layer of soil where the roots will begin to establish.

Planting Tips:

Grow Organic Lettuce

  • Test soil by making sure it crumbles in the hand, your shovel should glide in easily as you turn it and be free of clods and clumps.
  • Space: 5-6 inches appart for head lettuce OR 2 inches apart for high intensity lettuce
  • Plant in the same bed as spinach, asparagus, cabbage and other alkaline soil lovin’ plants to best utilize your space.
  • harvest the outter leaves ina method called Cut and Come Again to regrow your lettuce and harvest more out of a smaller space.
  • Make sure to water lettuce once or twice per week, or as frequently as the soil 1″ below the surface feels dry to touch.
  • For more on growing organic; check out our videos!

Have you started mapping out your garden for 2019? What varieties are you looking forward to planting most?