How to Grow Organic Lettuce Perfectly

How to Grow Organic Lettuce Perfectly

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is one of the easiest vegetables one can grow, and best if it is organic. But did you know organic lettuce can be easily grown in your own home? In addition to being an easily accomplished option, homegrown lettuce is healthier, tastier, and fresher. This article will teach you how to grow organic lettuce perfectly and enjoy its benefits.

Types of Lettuce

There are 4 main cultivars of lettuce grown:

  • Butterhead/Round
  • Iceberg/Crisphead
  • Looseleaf/Leaf
  • Romaine/Cos

Besides these, there are other cultivars grown, such as Red Leaf lettuce, Stem/Celtuce lettuce, and Oilseed lettuce.

lettuce plants
Romaine/Cos lettuce cultivar

The most popular lettuce cultivar grown in the US is the Crisphead or Iceberg lettuce, although this lettuce is also quite low in nutrients. The one most used in salads is the Looseleaf/Leaf lettuce. Varieties of Looseleaf lettuce mature the fastest, in as little as 40-50 days from planting to harvest. The other cultivars take a little longer, normally from 70-75 days.

When to Plant Lettuce

Lettuce is best planted during spring or fall, as it is a cool season crop. For fall planting, cold frames are a great option, as they can protect your lettuce from any sudden frosts. They are best planted by sowing their seeds directly into tilled soil. The temperature of the soil should be below 20°C for smooth germination, and a soil pH of between 6-6.5 should be ideal. 2 weeks before the last spring frost should be alright for spring planting.

lettuce growing on the ground

Preparing the soil

Preparing the soil is a key step in growing organic lettuce. Good soil preparation allows the roots to grow and absorb the nutrients needed for proper plant development. Also, well-prepared soil helps to retain moisture and prevent compaction.

The first step before preparing the soil (or substrate) is to choose the ideal location. The first step is to choose a location with at least 6 hours of daily sun. Clear the ground of rocks, roots, and plants that compete for nutrients.

After clearing the land, it’s time to prepare the soil itself. Start by turning over the soil with a hoe or a trowel till it’s loose and aerated. Then add organic matter to the soil. Organic matter helps improve soil fertility, increases its holding capacity, and provides essential plant nutrients. You can use animal manure, organic compost, dry leaves, straw, or other available organic material.

After adding the organic matter, it’s time to level the soil with a rake and let it sit for a few weeks before planting. This rest period allows nutrients to be released and the soil to become more balanced.


After choosing the proper seeds, the next step is to plant them. Dig holes about 1 cm deep, and depending on variety, space them between 4-15 inches apart. Meanwhile, the rows should be about 15 inches apart. As a rough spacing guide for the cultivars:

  • Butterhead/Round – 8 inches apart
  • Iceberg/Crisphead – 15 inches apart
  • Looseleaf/Leaf – 4 inches apart
  • Romaine/Cos – 8 inches apart

Place one or two seeds in each hole and cover them with soil, being careful not to bury them too deeply so they can germinate easily.

lettuce field
A lettuce field. Note the spacing between the plants and rows.

Care for the seedlings after planting, watering them regularly to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Organic lettuce doesn’t like very wet soils, so it’s important not to overwater it. You should fertilize the seedlings regularly to get the necessary nutrients for good growth.

lettuce seedlings
New lettuce seedlings.

When the seedlings reach about 10 centimeters in height, it’s time to transplant them to their final location if you started them elsewhere. Choose an overcast day or transplant in the late afternoon to keep the seedlings from suffering from strong sunlight. Dig holes in the soil the same size as the seedlings and place a seedling in each hole. Cover the roots with the earth and water carefully.

For fall planting, the seeds can be started indoors and then hardened off to acclimatize them to the increasingly cool conditions outside. Plant the seeds about 5 weeks before the last average frost date for your area (as a rough guide).

In the first weeks after transplanting, it is necessary to take care of the seedlings so that they adapt to the new environment. Water them regularly, but avoid soaking the soil. It is also vital to protect seedlings from pests and diseases using organic control techniques such as crop rotation, the use of repellent plants, and proper fertilization.

Organic lettuce care

Keeping lettuce healthy and free of pests is critical to successful growth. Water the plant regularly at the base of the plant, and avoid wetting the leaves to prevent the appearance of fungus. The best fertilization for lettuce is that made with organic fertilizer, rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you notice any signs of pests or diseases, use organic remedies to control the problem.

snail lettuce pest
Snails are lettuce pests. The best way to remove them is simply by hand.

Companion Plants

Lettuce may suffer from aphid infestation. Leaves will wrinkle and dark spots appear on your lettuce as a result. “Barrier plants” that help keep aphids away from lettuce include:

  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Marigold

There are other plants such as carrots, beets, radishes, asparagus, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, etc., that can be planted nearby lettuce. The exceptions are cabbages, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, because they end up competing with lettuce for the same nutrients.

Harvest organic lettuce

Knowing the right time to harvest lettuce is crucial to ensure its perfect flavor and texture. When the leaves are well-developed, you can start harvesting. Cut the lettuce at the base of the plant, leaving at least an inch of the stem so it can grow back. After harvesting, wash the lettuce under running water and store it in a tightly closed plastic bag.

lettuce plantings


Growing your organic lettuce is a great way to enjoy healthy, tasty food. By following the tips in this article, you can successfully grow your organic lettuce. Remember to choose the ideal location, prepare the soil properly, choose the right seeds, take care of the plant, and know when to harvest. With a little patience and dedication, you can enjoy fresh, flavorful organic lettuce whenever you like.

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