Ideal Season: Cool
Sun: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Ideal Soil Type: Sandy Loam Soil
Ideal Temperature: 50-72°F (10-22°C)
Maturation Period: 50-80 Days (depending on the variety)
Looseleaf lettuce is becoming one of my favorite crops to grow. In fact, I wish it was the first thing I had tried as a beginning gardener because it is surprisingly easy to grow from seed to harvest, does not succumb to many if any diseases, and can be harvested several times in a year.
What is Looseleaf Lettuce?
Looseleaf lettuce is a variety of lettuce that does not develop large, tight heads. Instead, it grows into just what its name suggests: in loose leaves―or, until they develop a stem, in leaves that can be picked from the outer edges. They are also called “cut and come again” lettuce since they can be harvested multiple times (Doiron, 2010).
Planting Looseleaf Lettuce
Although it is ideal to start with “sandy loam soil with a high level of moisture-retaining organic matter,” lettuce does well in most soil types so long as the weather is cool (Doiron, 2010). This lettuce does well with full sun and partial shade, so long as the plant does not get too hot.
Personally, my gardening space is small, so I actually crowd my looseleaf lettuce so that I can obtain higher yields. The lettuce is supposed to be 8”-12” apart, but I managed fine with 4”-6” of space between rows.
Water the lettuce in the mornings to avoid slug damage, and check for caterpillar eggs, slugs, and snails. Once every one to two weeks, I will use Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fertilizer to feed the plants.
Harvesting Looseleaf Lettuce
Harvest the outer edges along the stem or cut the entire plant. I prefer to cut the entire plant and plant more seeds between harvests (succession planting). With this method, salad can be harvested until summer. By summertime (or when the temperature is higher than 72°F (22°C), the plants become too bitter.
Last year, I tried to harvest some late blooming lettuce, only to have to compost it because it was horribly bitter!
Washing Looseleaf Lettuce
After harvesting the lettuce, use a natural vinegar vegetable wash to remove any bugs, eggs, critters, and soil.
If you’re far removed from nature, it can be daunting to have to deal with wiggly things on your lettuce, but you do get used to it after a few harvests.
Soak the lettuce in the vegetable wash, rinse the leaves thoroughly to wash off the remaining bugs, eggs, critters, and soil. Cut off any bruised pieces and remove the stems (they are extremely bitter). Compost the scraps, and lay the lettuce flat onto paper towel to dry.
Store the lettuce in a container or baggie with paper towel or cotton cloth until ready to eat.
Varieties of Looseleaf Lettuce
Gold Rush Lettuce
Green oak leaf lettuce
Red oak leaf lettuce
Red sails lettuce
Red velvet lettuce
Doiron, R., (2010). Grow Great Lettuce. Mother Earth News, 4(239), 54-58.
West Coast Seeds, (2022). Red Sails. Retrieved from https://www.westcoastseeds.com/products/red-sails#full-description-anchor