Gardening

How to plant lettuce

Lactuca sativa

Lettuce is one of the best known and most cultivated vegetables in the world, and it has a large number of cultivars, which vary mainly in the shape, color and texture of the leaves, with lettuce being grown for the consumption of its long and thick stems (asparagus lettuce). Common examples of groups of cultivars are butter lettuce, lettuce or iceberg lettuce, loose-leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce.

Climate

The ideal temperature for growing lettuce is between 10 ° C and 24 ° C, although there are cultivars that tolerate higher temperatures and others that tolerate lower temperatures. High temperature can induce early flowering (tipping), preventing the formation of a leafy head.

Brightness

Lettuce needs good light, preferably with direct sunlight, but is tolerant to partial shade. Thus, in hot climates, lettuce can benefit if planted in order to receive partial shade during the hottest hours of the day.

Ground

Plants need well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, fertile, with good nitrogen availability. The ideal pH range for the soil is 6 to 7.

Irrigation

Lettuce must be irrigated frequently to keep the soil moist, but without the soil remaining soggy.

Planting

It is important to choose cultivars adapted to the temperature of the season in which cultivation will take place. There are so-called winter cultivars for growing in mild or cold temperatures, and so-called summer cultivars for growing at higher temperatures.

In mild weather, the seeds can be sown in the final location or in sowing, modules and other containers, and then transplanted. For other regions with a hot climate, it is recommended that the seeds be planted in a nursery where the environment is cooler, as the seeds can become dormant at temperatures higher than those in the ideal temperature range, resulting in low rates of germination. Another possibility is to plant the seeds directly in the garden in the late afternoon, irrigating afterwards, which reduces the probability of seed dormancy, since the temperature will tend to be milder. Leave the seeds less than 1 cm deep in the soil.

The transplant of lettuce seedlings can be done when they have 4 to 6 leaves. In hot climates, transplant preferably on cloudy and rainy days, or in the late afternoon with the soil already well irrigated, as the lettuce seedlings can wither and die if the transplant occurs when the weather is hot and dry.

The spacing between plants can be 20 to 35 cm for most cultivars, usually using 20 or 25 cm for smaller cultivars or those that will be harvested early, and 30 or 35 cm for larger cultivars.

Lettuce can be grown in pots and planters. It is also one of the most cultivated vegetables in hydroponic systems.

Cultivation

Heavy rain and hail can greatly damage the fragile lettuce leaves. If your region is subject to these conditions, it is better to build a protection with agricultural screens or plastic films on the garden to protect the lettuce trees.

Remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients.

Harvest

Harvesting can be done between 55 and 130 days after sowing, depending on the cultivar planted and the cultivation conditions. In many of the cultivars, the plant can normally sprout after cutting the head of the lettuce, thus providing a new harvest of smaller heads after a few weeks. To do this, cut the plant about 2.5 cm above the ground, allowing a small piece of the stem to remain, where the new shoots will appear.

With loose leaf cultivars it is easy to collect the necessary leaves individually, without cutting the whole plant.

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