Growing Tips: Leaf Lettuce

Leaf Lettuce

Quick Reference:

Leaf lettuce is usually planted directly in the garden. Plant seed shallow 1/8 inch deep and sparingly, approx. 10 seeds per foot. Germination 7 to 14 days. Most vegetable seed is not light sensitive but lettuce seed responds to light and light enhances germination, particularly in some white seeded varieties. Planting the seed shallow provides light and warmer soil for faster germination but soil MUST be kept moist at all times until plants emerge. Plant spacing in the garden, 6 to 12 inches.

When and where to plant: Leaf lettuce grows great and does not have a bitterness problem when grown rapidly in Alaska's cool climate. Leaf lettuce will mature in early summer when the seed is planted directly in the garden before the danger of frost is past. The seed can be planted as soon as the soil can be prepared and has warmed in the spring. Lettuce will tolerate a light frost. For an earlier crop start seed indoors 4 to 5 weeks before the last frost and transplant after the last frost. Lettuce transplants easily. Choose a sunny garden location, cultivate the soil, enrich the soil with plant food and organic matter, smooth the soil surface, plant the seed sparingly and water well for good seed-soil contact. 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. Have fresh, tender leaf lettuce all summer by planting a short row every in 2 weeks. Lettuce seed does not store well and fresh seed should be used each year..


Rapid growth is essential for high quality lettuce, apply plant food before planting and again 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 plants to reduce disease problems. Thin the young plants so they are 6 inches apart and as the plants grow thin to 12 inches apart. Use the young plants that were removed by thinning for a great salad.


Pull the entire plant or remove just the outer leaves and the plant will provide fresh leaves over a long period. Leaf lettuce does not get bitter quickly in cool weather. When lettuce has been grown in heat and/or low moisture it tends to become bitter. Much of the bitterness will disappear when it is stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.