Looseleaf lettuce is one of the favorite green leafy vegetables that not only make a salad taste great but also loaded with essential nutrients and minerals that benefit our health. Loose leaf lettuce is incredibly easy to grow in your home garden and can save you money. Well, here’s how to go about growing loose leaf lettuce:
Start seeds indoors
You should start seeds indoors in the early spring. Your seedling containers don’t need to be burry too deep since the plants produce shallow roots. Just cover the seeds lightly with soil, but make sure they receive a little light to germinate.
Planting looseleaf lettuce
Before transferring the seedlings out into the garden, it is important to orient them to weather outside during the day while they’re inside the containers. Experts recommend doing this for about three days to protect them from the shock of cool spring.
Make sure your garden soil is well-drained and moist. Mix your existing soil with compost or peat moss, as compost or peat moss help hold water and the nutrients necessary to keep lettuce growing. It is important to space the seedlings at least 8 inches apart.
You should fertilize your plants, preferably three weeks after transplanting. Be sure to use a slow-release fertilizer or an organic alfalfa meal. Also, use an organic mulch to help retain soil moisture as well as prevent weeds. You should water the plants anytime you see the leaves wilting.
Planting lettuce in the shade of taller plants like tomatoes can help prevent lettuce from bolting in the heat of summer. While loose leaf lettuce is a typical spring crop, you can still grow a fall crop in the cool autumn weather. Create cool, moistened soil by merely covering it with a bale of straw. After a week, you can sow another batch of lettuce seeds.
Harvesting Loose Leaf Lettuce
One fantastic thing about loose leaf lettuce varieties is that you’re able to enjoy continuous harvest as long the temperatures remain 60-65 degree Fahrenheit.
You can start harvesting the loose leaf lettuce once the outer leaves are 2-3 inches tall. For the best harvest, use shears or a pair of scissors and make sure you harvest the leaves in the morning before exposure to the sun. When cutting the leaves, however, you’ll need to be careful not to cut into or below the crown. Precisely, cut an inch above the crown.
You’ll have multiple rows of loose leaf lettuce growing in your garden, with some plants at the same maturity stage and some days or weeks behind. If the plants reach a mature stage, just cut off or uproot them to give room to the remaining lettuce. To enjoy a more revolving supply of fresh greens, make sure you always pick lettuce from different rows each time you’re harvesting.
Cutting loose leaf lettuce, most cutting lettuces will restart vigorously from a cut stem without sacrificing the quality. Therefore, it is a good idea not to cut too close to the ground and to water immediately after cutting. It is also a good idea to water the cut lettuce on consecutive days until new leaves start to show.
Loose leaf lettuce can be used as a living mulch, when planted around taller plants, by shading out weeds and keeping the soil cool.
You may pick the loose leaf lettuce after leaves form, but not after the plant starts to bolt (producing flower stalks). The plants are quite sensitive to excessive heat and light. And when the plants bolt, it means they will stop producing. So, you should also cut them off or uproot.