How do you Grow Lettuce from Seed?
This can be a difficult question to answer for beginner gardeners because of complex factors like weather, soil, and pests.
This article will help solve this problem and give ALL experience levels of gardeners Easy-to-Follow Tips on growing lettuce from seed.
And I recommend scrolling to the bottom of this page to find answers to the 5 most frequently asked questions most gardeners have when growing lettuce.
Tip #1: Choose THESE 4 Lettuce Types
While there are hundreds of varieties of lettuce you can grow, I am recommending 4 kinds to choose from.
These are the easiest types when trying to learn how to grow lettuce from seed.
A) Loose Leaf Lettuce
Looseleaf Lettuce is considered the most popular type of lettuce in North America and range in colors from purple to green.
The reason this type of lettuce is called looseleaf is because it doesn’t form a head and has numerou varieties.
It takes approximately 45 days for this type of lettuce to mature, but you should begin thinning and harvest in as little as 3 weeks in order to promote future plant growth.
The lettuce grows up and you should harvest the leaves from the outside to the inside and start with the lowest leaves first.
Finally, looseleaf has the highest nutritional value but also is known to bolt or seed the quickest in warm weather.
B) Butterhead Lettuce
Butterhead lettuce is another incredibly popular type of lettuce in North America and is named this because it forms soft, loose heads.
While the plant grows smaller than other types of lettuce, it has a tender but delicious flavor.
Depending on where you live, this type of lettuce can be harvested anywhere from 30 to 70 days.
Not only this, but it tends to do better in cooler temperatures and may even get bitter if the weather turns too hot.
Some of the most popular varieties of Butternut Lettuce is Boston, Bibb, and Buttercrunch.
C) Romaine Lettuce
As you can tell from the above picture, Romaine lettuce tends to grow straight up from the ground and is one of the most popular types of lettuce used in restaurants.
Romaine lettuce stands out by its crispy, crunchy, and dark green color.
Romaine lettuce will take about 60-70 days to mature and you will know when to harvest Romaine lettuce when the center leaves grow together to form a lengthy head.
While this type of lettuce can seed like others, it is also the most heat tolerant and you can plant it both in the spring and fall.
D) Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is one of the tastiest types you can grow but is also the hardest to grow and takes the longest to mature at 80 days.
While this type of lettuce is much less heat tolerant than other lettuce, it does store and transport much better.
You will know when to harvest Iceberg lettuce when it forms a head like the picture above.
Because of how difficult it can be to grow, it is also the most expensive type of lettuce sold in restaurants and you can expect the least amount of harvest if you grow it.
Tip #2 Starting Seeds Indoors
Because of its ability to withstand low temperatures, growing lettuce from seed can happen indoors and outdoors. Please read below for instructions on how to grow lettuce from seed both indoors and outdoors.
Step 1 – Begin Planting Seed 6 weeks Before the Last Frost
You will want to start your seeds inside approximately 6 weeks before you plan on moving your lettuce into your garden or moving your planter outside.
- You will first want to start by buying your seed. I recommend buying from Amazon because it is quick and inexpensive.
- You will then want to take 3-inch GrowKo Peat Pots and fill them up to approximately 80% full with Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.
- Next, spray your soil 5 to 8 times with a spray bottle. You will want the soil to be moist, not damp. Damp soil can cause unwanted fungus.
*Find Your Last Frost Date HERE*
Step 2 – Lightly sprinkle 4-5 Seeds Per Pot
- Because of how small lettuce seeds are it is sometimes to grab the1 or 2 seeds and plant them. Instead, sprinkle 4-5 seeds per pot about 1/8 inch deep and then gently brush the soil over the seeds. *Note, it is ok if more than 5 seeds fill a hole.
- Then spray the soil again 5 to 8 times until it turns a dark color.
The video below also gives a great tutorial on how to plant seeds.
Step 3 – Provide Your Seeds with At Least 8 Hours of Sunlight
- After planting your seeds, provide at least 8 hours of sunlight by placing the pots by a window or a Grow Light if your windows do not receive enough sunlight.
*If you put your seeds closer than 4 inches they will burn and die. If you put them further away than 4 inches there is a chance they won’t get enough sun to germinate.*
You will also want to keep the room temperature between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. With that being said, you can even grow lettuce seeds in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- This is the temperature needed so that your seeds can turn into plants.
If you don’t have an area that will stay consistently around 50-65 degrees, I would recommend investing in a Plant Heating Mat.
- A Plant Heating Mat is the perfect way to keep your pots and seeds at a consistent temperature that we may not otherwise be able to.
Step 4 – Spray, Spray, Spray
After your initial planting, you will need to spray the soil once to twice a day for approximately 10 days.
It will take approximately 10 days for your seeds to germinate or “pop” through the soil.
Once your seeds have germinated and sprouted through the soil, you will want to continue to spray them twice a day for 4 more months until they are ready to transplant outside.
Step 5- Prune & Transplant your Lettuce Plant into a Larger Pot
Once your lettuce grows for about 3-4 weeks you can either begin to thin it to allow only one plant to grow or keep all plants in the pots. If you keep all plants there is a chance that they will not grow as full as just one lettuce.
You can do this by taking scissors and snipping the smaller of the plants right at the soil line. This will allow the healthier lettuce plant to grow to its full potential.
Next, you can transplant your lettuce plant to a 5 Gallon Nursery Pot.
Again, you will want to fill these pots about 80% full with your potting mix.
Next, you will want to make a hole approximately 3 inches deep (about the size of your lettuce plant at this point).
Then turn your existing small pot upside down, pinch the bottom of it, and then gently pull the soil and your plant out.
You will then place it in your 5-gallon pot and fill it with soil.
Immediately after you do this, spray the soil about 5 to 10 times.
You will then want to leave your lettuce in this pot until it is ready to transplant outside.
Step 6 – Introduce your Lettuce to Outside Weather
This next step is what most beginner gardeners miss, but is critical to your success.
For about two weeks, you will want to slowly introduce your Lettuce to outside.
On the first day, you will want to place your Lettuce (still in its pot) outside in direct sunlight for approximately 2 hours.
Each day thereafter, place the Lettuce outside for an additional hour until you build up to 6 straight hours.
Tip #3: Transplant Lettuce Outside
Once the last frost of the year has happened you can transplant your Lettuce outside. If you transplant your lettuce before the last frost it may die. To help prevent this I recommend planting it in a raised garden bed.
- Related: Best Raised Garden Beds
Below, is a 2 step process for transplanting your Lettuce outside into your garden.
Step 1 – Do THIS if you will be keeping your Lettuce in its container all summer!
If you decide to keep your Lettuce in the pots then there is no need to transplant. You will only need to apply compost or Miracle-Gro Potting Mix
- Apply approximately 1/4 inch of potting mix to your planter
- As soon as you apply your fertilizer make sure to water the Lettuce for approximately 15 to 30 seconds
- Every week until harvest water your Lettuce twice a day and keep it in full sun to promote fruit growth.
If you want to learn more about growing Lettuce in containers, I recommend watching the below video:
Step 2 – Do THIS to Transplant your Lettuce into your Garden!
- About 1 month before you plan on transplanting your lettuce into a garden dig holes about 8 inches deep and filling it with compost. Space holes 12-18 inches apart.
- Dig your holes in an area that will receive partial shade.
- Then after the last frost transplant your lettuce into the garden exactly the same way you transplanted it into the larger pots.
- Immediately after you transplant your lettuce outside add
Miracle-Gro Plant Food and water the soil for about 30 seconds.
- Finally, water your lettuce once a day for about 30 seconds. Continue doing this until you harvest your lettuce mid-summer.
- Related To: Best Garden Hoses
Tip #4: Starting Lettuce Seeds in a Garden
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow outside, no matter where you live.
Whether you do not have the ability to start your seeds indoors or just want to start your seeds directly in a garden then I recommend following the below directions:
Step 1: Start Your Seeds After the Last Frost
You should always start your lettuce seeds after the last frost. Lettuce seeds will germinate best at temperatures between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
With that being said, they can even grow in weather as low as 40 degrees!
If you want to know your last frost date then I recommend Clicking HERE.
Step 2: Plant Your Seeds This Way!
Once you decide to start seeds outside you will want to do the following simple steps:
- Find a location that is partial shade and cooler and has a pH level between 6.0-7.0.
- Dig 1/8 inch holes with the tip of your finger or a pencil.
- Keep holes approximately 2 feet apart to allow for the most lettuce grow.
- Lightly sprinkle 4-5 lettuce seeds in each spot. It should be noted that not all seeds will germinate and you can always thin your plants out after they grow.
- Lightly cover your seeds and spray 8-10 times until the soil turns a dark brown color.
Step 3: Continue Watering your Seeds
After you initially plant your lettuce seeds you will want to water them 2-3 times a day until the soil is dark brown.
You will do this until the seeds germinate and then continue doing this until they become at least 3 inches tall.
*If the weather is hotter than usual for your garden then you may need to water several more times a day then described above.
Tip #5: Effectively Care for your Lettuce THIS Way!
Below are caring tips for your Lettuce throughout the summer:
- Keep Your Soil Healthy – Quickly inspect your soil for fungus, harmful insects, and weeds before you plant and throughout the summer. Remove and replace it with new soil as needed.
- Water the soil, not the plants. By watering leaves, you increase the risk of spreading fungus and other diseases. Do not overwater as it will increase the likelihood of disease.
- Remove diseased and dead plants. This is the easiest way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. If you notice yellow spots on leaves it means you may have blight fungus and will want to remove the leaves.
- Plant your lettuce at a new spot yearly. This is key to preventing seasonal diseases and insects from attacking the same plants year in and year out.
- Prevent Insects. The best way to prevent them is through an insecticide. If you don’t want aphids, slugs, or cabbage worms ruining all your hard work I recommend purchasing Garden Safe Pesticide
Tip #6: Effectively Harvest Lettuce THIS Way!
Below are several tips to remember when harvesting lettuce:
- Harvest your Lettuce 3 to 10 weeks after planting.
- Harvest your lettuce frequently. This will help thin it out, ensure the best flavor possible, and helps to prevent seeding.
- Always pick your lettuce where it meets the stalk.
- Pick your lettuce from the outside to the inside.
Frequently Asked Questions (5 Questions)
1. What are the best ways to store lettuce?
Below, will give you several guidelines to store lettuce longer:
- Once you harvest your lettuce it will store at room temperature for only 1-day maximum.
- If you wash your lettuce and place it in a zip-lock bag your lettuce can last 2-3 days.
- If you wash your lettuce and place it in a zip lock bag with several layers of damp paper towels your lettuce can store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
2. What are the Best Uses for Lettuce?
There are numerous uses for lettuce in food. Below, are some of the best ways to use lettuce:
- Salad Wraps
- Related: 38 Non-Salad Lettuce Recipes
3. What type of Lettuce Seeds should I Use?
There are four types of seeds that can be used to grow lettuce; heirloom, organic, hybrid, and GMO.
I recommend using Heirloom or Hybrid seeds. Gardeners do not have access to GMO seeds and organic seeds is a marketing term and not truly a type of seed.
- These seeds contain all the lettuce original traits and produce some of the most beautiful and best-tasting lettuce out there.
- The downside of this seed is that it is the costliest (due to its rarity).
- In addition, expect the least amount of yield from this type of seed due to susception of disease and other elements.
- Hybrid seeds were made from combining the genes of the same group of plants. This is not a bad thing.
- This type of seed is what most gardeners use when learning how to grow lettuce from seed.
- The goal with hybrids is to produce a plant that contains the best features of both parent plants.
- This seed is critical if you want the most resistant plant against mother nature’s elements, insects, and diseases or want the most yield!
4. What Type of Fertilizer Should I Use for My Lettuce?
The best type of fertilizer for lettuce is compost.
- Related: Ultimate Composting Guide: What to Compost
- Related: Yimby Tumbler Composter: 5 Reasons to Buy Today
And if you don’t have the time or ability to create compost then I recommend buying Miracle-Gro Plant Food for your lettuce.
5. What Type of Soil Should I Use for My Lettuce Plants?
If you will be keeping your lettuce plants in containers all year then you will want a well-draining potting mix that provides the correct amount of nutrients like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.
If you will be planting your lettuce into a garden then you will want to add a nutritious garden soil mix into the ground, such as Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro