Growing Tips: Head Lettuce

Head, Romaine, Butterhead Lettuce

Quick Reference:

Plant seed shallow, 1/8 inch deep. Most vegetable seed is not light sensitive but lettuce seed responds to light and light enhances germination, particularly in some white seeded varieties. When seeding flats indoors space seed 1 to 2 inches apart and cover lightly with fine soil. Germination 7 to 14 days. Planting the seed shallow provides light and warmer soil for faster germination but the soil MUST be kept moist at all times during the germination process to avoid killing the sprouting seed. Plant spacing in the garden, 16 to 20 inches.

When and where to plant:

Heading lettuce grows great in Alaska's cool weather and most varieties will mature in late summer when the seed is planted directly in the garden. The seed can be planted before the danger of frost is past, as soon as the soil can be prepared and has warmed. Lettuce can tolerate a light frost. Two crops of head lettuce can be grown in most areas of the state. For shorter season areas and for an early crop start seed indoors 5 to 6  weeks before the last frost and a second, main-season crop, planted directly in the garden. Lettuce transplants easily and seedlings should be transplanted in the garden after the last frost. Choose a sunny location, cultivate soil, enrich with plant food and organic matter then smooth the soil surface. Most vegetable seed is not light sensitive but lettuce seed responds to light and light enhances germination, particularly in some white seeded varieties. Plant seed shallow 1/8 inch and sparingly, approx. 10 seeds per foot and cover lightly with fine soil then water well for good seed-soil contact. To conserve moisture cover the planted area with a clear plastic row cover during the germination period, remove the cover as soon as the seedlings show signs of green. Lettuce is a heavy water user and the seed is susceptible to drying out, DO NOT allow the soil to become dry during the germination period. Lettuce seed does not store well and fresh seed should be used each year.     

 Care:

Rapid growth is essential for high quality heads, apply plant food once a month. Because lettuce has shallow roots it needs a constant supply of water. One inch of water a week is needed for optimum growing conditions. Water the soil not the leaves to reduce disease problems. Thin seedlings so the plants are 16 to 20 inches apart.

Harvest:

Start cutting heads when the center starts firming up.