Grow Your Own Lettuce: It’s Easy
By Amanda Greene, VCE Southside Master Gardener You may think that lettuce is just an accompaniment to salad dressing, like the store-bought iceberg lettuce that you ate growing up. However, there are many lettuce varieties you can easily grow that are better tasting, sweet, crisp and flavorful. When to Grow: Lettuce likes cool weather. It does not grow well when the temperature is above 800F, plus lettuce gets bitter and will bolt (i.e., flowers and stops growing). Spring is an optimal time to grow lettuce in southside Virginia, but you can grow lettuce in the fall and even winter. Once the temperature is consistently above 400F, you can plant lettuce outside. Lettuce seedlings even tolerate a light to medium frost. Many southside Virginia gardeners wait till March to plant lettuce, but often it will grow just as well when planted in February. Where to Grow: Lettuce will grow in a garden, outdoor containers, and even between blooms in a flower bed. Wherever you plant it, lettuce prefers well-drained, loose soil but tolerates a range of soils. The lettuce yield is best in full sun but can be grown in partial shade especially as the temperature increases. Types of Lettuce: Multiple varieties of lettuce grow in our area of Virginia. The basic types are loose-leaf (matures quickly), butterhead (good flavor and quality), romaine (more tolerant of warm weather), French (midway between butterhead and crisphead), and crisphead also known as iceberg lettuce (requires a long cool season). Lettuce color ranges from light to dark green, red, purple, and variegated. It should be noted that Buttercrunch and Black Seeded Simpson are the best leaf type lettuces for Southside.