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wide shot of rows of planted lettuce in a field
An essential ingredient in any salad, lettuce is easy to grow and a staple of the vegie garden and kitchen. Suitable for gardens of all sizes, plant lettuce in pots or garden beds, adding a new punnet or row of seeds every couple of weeks to ensure a continuous supply of fresh leaves.

What you need to know about lettuce

Name: lettuce, cos lettuce, head lettuce, loose-leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, romaine, Lettuce sativa

Height: 15–40cm

Foliage:annual plants with green or red foliage 

Climate: all climates and areas. Protect from heavy frost.

Soil:plant in a soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure. An alkaline pH is preferable to acidic soils. 

Positionprefers part shade, but will grow in full sun in autumn and winter. 

Feeding: not required if soil is improved prior to planting. 

Watering:regular watering is required, especially in dry or hot conditions. Do not allow to dry out, but do not overwater in humid environments. 

Appearance and characteristics of lettuce

Lettuces are varied in their leaf type, colour, shape and form, but all have similar growing conditions and requirements. Red leaf lettuces are usually a little more bitter than green leaf types, which makes them perfect for spicing up salads. 

Head lettuce, like iceberg, is harvested all at once as soon as it reaches adequate size. 

Loose-leaf lettuce is harvested as individual leaves reach maturity, helping to extend their season and harvest. 

Cos lettuces, also known as romaine, can be harvested as a head, or as individual leaves as required.

close up of a lettuce head

How to plant and grow lettuce from seeds

  1. Seeds can be sown directly into garden beds or pots, or raised in seedling trays for transplanting once they develop 3–4 true leaves. 
  2. If raising from seed, sow in a good-quality seed-raising mix (preferably organic for any edible crops). Barely cover with soil, and then water. 
  3. Seed should germinate in seven days. Learning to grow lettuce from seed is a great skill to develop, as this will help to extend your harvest, sowing a few punnets every fortnight. 
  4. Once large enough, plant in pots or directly into vegie garden beds. 
  5. Space around 10–20cm apart, depending on variety. 
  6. For seed sown directly, thin seedlings as they develop. But don’t waste the seedlings—these can be transplanted or used as a microgreen. 

Caring for lettuce plants

Lettuce is a very easy crop to grow. Simply plant and water as required. Harvest when needed and keep sowing or planting fortnightly to extend your harvest and to ensure you have ample lettuce all year round. For cool-season crops, sow and grow in part shade during the warmer months and harvest quickly to prevent lettuce becoming tough or bitter. 

Lettuce has a shallow root system. Mulch to conserve soil moisture and water regularly to prevent soil drying out, which can cause lettuce to bolt (run to flower), or worse, become bitter. 

A soil enriched with compost and manure prior to planting is usually sufficient, but applications of seaweed solution during the seedling stage can increase root development, and tolerance to soil moisture fluctuations.

Diseases and pests affecting lettuce

Snails and slugs are a constant problem for lettuce crops. Protect with snail and slug pellets, traps or a ring of Diatomaceous Earth. 

How to propagate lettuce

Lettuce is propagated by seed. When plants “bolt” this means that they are becoming tall and leggy, pushing up flower heads and producing seed. Each individual plant will produce an abundance of lettuce seed.

Simply let the lettuce flower and then dry slightly. 

  1. Remove the entire flower stalk and place inside a paper bag. 
  2. Hang upsidedown for several weeks to dry. 
  3. Once dry, draw your hand up the stem, dislodging the seeds.
  4. Gently blow air onto the seed to “winnow” or separate the plant material from the seed.
  5. You will be left with seed only, which can then be placed in an envelope and clearly labelled with variety and date. 
  6. Store in a cool, dry place, ready for sowing.

If you like this then try

Beetroot: baby leaves are a great addition to salads.  

Rocket: a spicy loose-leaf type lettuce with great flavour. 

Spinach: a versatile green popular in salads, smoothies and as a side dish when lightly steamed. 

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.