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Enjoy this article where you will learn the best way to grow romaine lettuce. You will learn how to grow huge heads of lettuce that aren’t bitter tasting. Keep reading to learn how to grow romaine lettuce.
Homegrown lettuce can either be sweet and crisp or it can taste so bitter that you want to spit it out when you try to eat it.
I have learned quite a few different techniques along the way that make growing lettuce easier while yielding sweet lettuce heads.
|Botanical Name||Lactuca sativa|
|Plant Type||Salad green|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil Conditions||Fertile soil that stays consistently moist|
|Harvest Time||60-80 days after sowing|
|Difficulty||Easy, Medium, Hard, Extreme|
Should I direct sow romaine lettuce
Romaine lettuce seeds (or any lettuce seeds for that matter) are super easy to start from seeds. The germination rates are usually high so you should not have trouble sprouting lettuce.
You can either direct sow the lettuce into the ground or start them earlier in the season under a grow light or in a greenhouse.
I have used both methods and found that for romaine lettuce it will grow better if started early. You also can thin the plants better in a pot than in the soil.
If you do not want the extra work of starting seeds in pots I would recommend you start the seeds in the ground.
When to start romaine lettuce seeds
If you are going to start your plants before putting them in the garden you will have to pay attention to your last frost.
I find it best to start my romaine lettuce seeds 5-8 weeks before my last frost, but you can really start them anytime you feel is best. Romaine lettuce can take chilly weather, but it does not do well if it gets frosted on.
Starting romaine lettuce seeds
When starting your lettuce seeds make sure to start them in an organic seed starting mix. This will give your seedlings the best start.
I reuse seed starting trays from plants that I previously bought at a greenhouse to start my seeds in (cost savings!). Fill the tray with seed starting mix, mist heavily, and plant your romaine lettuce seeds.
Lettuce seeds should be “surface sown”. This means you don’t really have to cover the seeds in soil. I like to sprinkle just a little soil over the top so the seeds do not wash away.
I also like to mist my seeds rather than using a watering can. After they sprout I will move onto a watering can but right now I do not want to wash the seeds away.
Caring for romaine lettuce seedlings
Within a week or two you should see your first sprouts. The first leaves are called cotyledons (which is really fun to say). These do not look like the final leaves, but these are the first leaves the plant puts forth.
After the true leaves appear you can start to water your seedlings with a watering can. You will also want to use a soft fertilizer after these true leaves appear.
I like to use both Epsom salts and fish emulsions. While there are mixed ideas about using Epsom salts in the garden they do add magnesium and sulfur to the soil which can help plant growth. I do notice my plants greener after using Epsom salts and they do not hurt your plants so I still like to use them.
Your romaine lettuce will need thinning if you want healthy heads of lettuce. It is best to thin to one plant per cell.
If you are careful you can pull up the seedlings, root and all, and transplant them into new pots. I have done this to save many plants and they do great.
If you do not want that many extra plants you can just compost them or even eat them like microgreens.
Planting romaine lettuce in the ground
It is best to start planting your romaine lettuce around your last frost date. A week or two one way or the other is fine. You can find your last frost date here.
I would watch the weather to make sure your are not going to get a frost before you plant. While the plants will still survive a frost I find they do better without frost.
Best place to plant romaine lettuce
Lettuce will get bitter from too much heat, strong sunlight, and dry weather. While the plants do need a lot of sunlight, a few hours of full or dappled shade is beneficial.
My trick for both saving space and growing great romaine lettuce all has to do with my cucumbers. I grow my romaine lettuce under my cucumbers. You can read about growing cucumber on a trellis here.
I have found that using a trellis is the best way to grow cucumbers plus it saves garden space. But there is still “wasted space” underneath the trellis.
I plant my lettuce under the trellis for a symbiotic relationship with the cucumber plants. Not only are these plants companion plants the cucumbers will offer shade to the lettuce below when they grow over the trellis.
A scoop of compost does the trick
Under every transplant I place a scoop of well finished compost that I made after cleaning out my chicken coop. This compost really helps get the lettuce off to a great start!
This is key to having sweet lettuce leaves. Keep the soil moist by watering deeply once every week if you do not get rain.
Another way to keep the soil moist and conserve water is by using mulch. I like to use fresh grass clippings that have not been sprayed with herbicides. This layer of mulch will also help to keep the weeds at bay plus it keeps soil from splashing on the lettuce.
When to harvest romaine lettuce
After a few weeks in the ground your lettuce should start to form heads. Make sure that you harvest the lettuce before it bolts.
Bolting is when the lettuce starts to grow flowers. When lettuce plants bolt they taste very bitter so it is best to harvest before then.
If your romaine lettuce starts to grow taller from the center of a plant that is a tell tale sign it is about to bolt. If you notice this happening you should harvest your lettuce heads right away before they get bitter.
Harvesting romaine lettuce
The best time to harvest lettuce is in the cool of the morning. Just like with herbs it is best to harvest lettuce after the morning dew dries but before the sun is strong.
Harvesting in the morning will make sure that your lettuce is sweet and crisp. If you harvest at the end of the day your lettuce will be bitter and wilted.
I simply pull the whole lettuce head out of the ground and chop off the roots. To keep your lettuce fresher longer make sure to immediately rinse your lettuce in the coldest water that will come out of your faucet.
I like to use my salad spinner to get the lettuce clean without bruising the leaves. I will rinse and spin twice before placing it in a glass bowl to go in the fridge.
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