If you are a beginner in horticulture, you have to know that growing lettuce is the easiest to start in this world, although not the most. But you must read this article to learn how to grow lettuce. It can be sown almost any time of the year if it is not very cold or very hot, and it does not require too much care. It does not present major sanitary problems, in general, and adapts quite well to any soil.
How to grow lettuce?
By making staggered plantings, you can have ready-to-eat lettuces at any time of the year, either by collecting them when they are still small, if we have planted many, or waiting for them to reach their maximum size.
Lettuce is an annual plant of the Compositae family characterized by its broad leaves arranged in the shape of a rosette.
There are two main types of lettuce according to growth habit:
☛ Some form a dense heart or “bud” in the center whose leaves are very tender and generally paler in color than the outer leaves. This is the usable part. The outer leaves are usually discarded because they are less tender. They usually take a little longer to develop fully.
☛ The others grow more openly, the leaves are not clustered in the center of the rosette, and both the inner and outer leaves have a similar texture and taste. In this type of lettuce, almost all the leaves can be used. Lettuces in this group tend to take less time to fully form since, as the leaves grow open, they take up much more space and quickly become huge.
There are many, the result of thousands of years of hybridization and selection, but we will be left with adapted to cultivation throughout the year, winter or summer.
Depending on the local climate and the season of the year, it is necessary to choose one variety or another – adapted to those conditions – since if it is not done well, the cultivation will most likely not be successful.
Suitable soil for its development
Lettuce adapts well to any soil, although it is true that it prefers loose, fertile, and well-drained soils to develop optimally. It does not support waterlogging.
Its large leaves evaporate a lot of water when the sun is intense, and its roots are poorly developed, so if the soil has a good water retention capacity, we will have to water less frequently.
Favorable climate for lettuce
At different times of the year, it can be grown in any non-extreme climate. In temperate zones, once the frosts have passed, cultivation outside can begin. It can be grown throughout the year in mild climates, such as coastal, equatorial, and subtropical areas.
In very hot climates, or during the hottest times, summer varieties should be sown since the others will come to flower very soon, and we will not be able to take advantage of the cultivation for consumption.
It supports high temperatures worse than low ones, growing from 10-12 ℃ and survive at temperatures close to 0 ° C.
The best variety will have to be carefully chosen for each climate and each time of year. If we ask a local horticulturist or nurseryman in the area, they will surely advise us on this.
If we are going to grow it in summer, we can plant it among other crops that give it a little shade and freshness, such as tomatoes, peppers, etc. Otherwise, if it is very exposed to the sun and wind, and the soil retains little moisture, we will see how the leaves – which, being so large, evaporate a lot of water – quickly lose freshness and wither if we do not remedy it. Its optimum growth temperature is between 15 and 20 ° C.
The duration of the cultivation – how long it takes to grow – of lettuce is usually 50 to 60 days for early varieties and between 70 and 80 days for late varieties.
It can be done both in the nursery and in the seat planting, depending on the time of year and the place’s climate. If it is cold at night, it is preferable to sow in a protected seedbed so that the plant develops in more favorable conditions and, later, transplant it outside when conditions improve and the plant is stronger.
The germination of lettuce seeds is optimal with temperatures between 18 and 21 ℃. At a lower temperature, the germination time is extended, while if the temperature is too high, it can inhibit the process.
In seedlings sowing, you can choose to do it in alveoli, one for each seedling, in a box without divisions or even in the ground, since lettuce tolerates bare-root transplantation very well, that is, pulling the plant from the seedbed without soil at the root.
Before transplanting, the soil must be loose, aerated, and fertilized. Hoeing and grading in several passes are usually sufficient.
The fertilizer, preferably organic, must be incorporated into the soil during the tillage or, better, in the preceding crop. If the latter is not possible, it must be very decomposed.
Once the seedlings reach about 10 cm in height and when conditions are favorable, we transplant them to the final round, in rows, beds, or interspersed with other crops. If you have questions about dates, check out this article on when to transplant lettuces. Depending on the variety that we are planting and the moment in which we will harvest it, we will have to leave one separation or another between plants.
If we consume them tender, we can do a broadcast seat sowing and gradually select the plants we will consume. On the other hand, if we are going to wait for the lettuce to fully mature, we will have to plant them at a distance between plants of 25 – 30 cm so that when it grows, a plant does not touch its neighbor.
Lettuce is very sensitive to both a shortage and excess of water. Therefore, the irrigation will be aimed at keeping the ground moist but without getting waterlogged.
Drip irrigation is recommended since the lettuce does not get wet, water is saved, and the soil maintains constant but not excessive humidity. It can also be watered by flooding the furrows (risk of waterlogging), by sprinkling (the plants get wet), or by manual filling of the tree pits (time-consuming).