Planning And Growing Lettuce
Work the area of the garden that dries earliest in the garden by spading or tilling every couple of days for two weeks before planting this will help eliminate weeds that are already germinating and provide a loose friable soil for the seeds to get started in. One last raking using a steel rake an hour or so before planting will help to eliminate the rest of the weeds that have germinated in the last couple of days.
Spread 1lb of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 25 square feet of garden area before early spring planting and rake very lightly.
When growing lettuce you should start sowing as soon as the ground can be worked every 14 days till late spring in the warm summer areas or early summer in the north.Planting heat resistant varieties for the late sowing.
For indoor sowing plant seeds 1/4″ deep about a 1/2″ apart in 4″ deep flats about 4 weeks before the last frost date. Harden off the transplants for 3 days before planting out by reducing water and temperature.Trans plant leaf lettuce 6″ to 10″ apart. for head lettuce space 14″ to 18″ apart.
Direct seeding plant the seeds 1/8″ deep in rows 12″ to 18″ apart. Thin head lettuce to 12″ apart when seedlings have 3 true leaves for leaf lettuce thin plants to 8″ apart. Seed can be lightly broadcast in a bed instead of a row for loose leaf varieties.
Maintenance And Care
Cover lettuce with row covers in early spring especially if frost is eminent. Keep soil moist and do not it dry completely lettuce roots are shallow and do not penetrate deep looking for moisture. when plants are 3 weeks old fertilize with a teaspoon of 10-10-10 per plant. If weather warms up use shade cloth to protect the plants and extend the harvest.
When growing lettuce it is important to harvest at the right time loose leaf types can be harvested once the leaves have reached 3″ or 4″ continuous harvest can be made until the hard stalk starts to form. You can also harvest by cutting of the plants just above the ground and new leaves will form. Romaine types can be harvested at 60 to 70 days. Iceberg varieties take longer and should be harvested as soon as a head develops but before outer leaves turn brown or a center stalk starts to develop.