Learning how to grow lettuce is easy: this staple salad ingredient will delight you all summer long given the right environment to thrive in. Lettuce does best as a bedding plant, although it can also be grown in large containers.
The best bit? You can grow lettuce to cut as you need it, so you'll always have a crop at the ready. We tend to plant from seed and then around three weeks later, we plant from seed again; that way, we never run out of fresh salad leaves in the summer months.
And don't be discouraged if you don't have a garden big enough for a vegetable plot – you can grow lettuce in containers in the garden, and even indoors.
Find out how to give it the best start and deal with any problems that commonly affect this crop.
Find more garden ideas at our dedicated page.
How to grow lettuce
1. Choose high-quality, well rotted compost for growing your lettuces. If the soil in your garden is poor, you'll need to replace the top layer with adequate quality compost from a garden centre.
2. Plant seeds in shallow rows 30 centimetres apart and cover very lightly with soil or vermiculite. Planting too deep or covering too much will result in poor germination.
3. When the shoots are about two inches tall, thin out the plants to encourage better, bushier growth and air circulation. You can use the thinned out shoots in salads.
4. Ensure the soil does not get too dry, especially during the hottest part of the summer, or the lettuce will go to seed. Mulch to help retain moisture.
5. Plant more seeds every two weeks between May and September for a continuous crop.
How to grow lettuce from leftovers
Yes! You can do this! Here's how:
1. Instead of throwing out leftover lettuce leaves, simply place them in a bowl with a bit of water in the bottom. Old jars will do or cut the tops off plastic drinks bottles for this.
2. Keep the bowl somewhere that gets plenty sunlight and after three or four days, you’ll notice roots beginning to appear along with new leaves. When this happens you can move your lettuce to soil.
3. Plant in a sunny spot in rich soil so that you just cover the roots. You can pinch off the outer leaves and eat them as the lettuce grows, or wait for them to reach 15cm to 20cm tall.
See more on growing your own salad from leftovers in our video, below.
Common problems with growing lettuce
Lettuce is easy to grow, but it is also prone to several pests and diseases. Slugs are the most common pest that affects lettuces – a slug infestation can completely destroy your crop. To repel slugs, add some sharp grit to your mulch, ring fence the lettuce plants with copper banding, or, if nothing else works, lay down slug pellets. Slugs also hate plants such as lavender and rosemary, so plant them next to your lettuce as a deterrent.
Lettuces are also prone to powdery mildew if they're too wet towards the end of the summer. To mitigate this problem, plant them in a spot that gets at least some sun during the day, and always water at the base of the plants, avoiding spraying the leaves.