How To Grow Head Lettuce

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lactuca sativa
LIGHT: Full Sun in spring/fall, partial shade in summer
SOIL TYPE: Rich, well-drained, loose loam.
pH RANGE: 6.0 – 7.0
MOISTURE/WATERING: Keep moist, not waterlogged, frequent short watering is best
KNOWN PESTS: slugs, aphids, plant bugs and leaf hoppers


Growing head lettuce requires rich soil, lots of sunlight and lots of water. Head lettuce do best in cooler weather. The plants need temperatures around 55°F to 60°F during the growing season, this means starting plants early indoors.

Start seedlings indoors in late winter, six to eight weeks before the last expected spring frost. Before transplanting, harden the head lettuce plants off to get them ready for outdoor living. Place lettuce in a sheltered place outside for a few hours a day, increasing the time until they’re out there all day. Gardeners in mild climates can sow seeds directly in the garden.


Direct seed head lettuce in early spring, as seed will germinate between 40-80°F. Sowing thinly ¼” and 1” apart.


Leaf lettuce types – 6” apart with 12” rows; Iceberg lettuce – 12” apart with 18” row spacing; Romaine lettuce – 8-10” apart with 12-16” rows Butterhead/Batavia lettuce – 10-12” apart with 12” row spacing. Start lettuce transplants indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date for transplants. Make succession plantings every 1-2 weeks to ensure a constant harvest.


Head Lettuce does well with most vegetables, carrot, garlic, onion and radish make the best companions.


Choose an area with full sun to partial shade and a soil pH of 6.2-6.8. Lettuce is a heavy feeder and prefers a rich, well cultivated soil with good drainage. Some success can be expected even in poor soils using the loose-leaf lettuce types. Add plenty of compost or well rotted manure prior to planting lettuce. lettuce benefits from regular feedings with a nitrogen rich fertilizer. Mulching is useful to keep soil cool and reduce weeds.


Harvest lettuce early in the morning after dew is evaporated. Looseleaf types can be picked as soon as leaves are large enough to eat. Harvest head lettuce types when they are firm and well wrapped.


Tiber Lettuce

Excellent, very common head lettuce. Develops large, round, very firm heads. Crisp, fresh and solidly wrapped. Deep green color almost to the core. Very resistant to tipburn. Maturity 65 – 75 days.

Summertime Lettuce

Summertime lettuce has proven to be one of the most popular varities of head lettuce. Bolt resistant and grows very well in warm weather conditions. Crisp and solid, nice rich color, medium size heads. One of the better leaf texture and quality head lettuce than other varieties. Maturity about 68 days.

Optima Lettuce

One of the darkest green Boston types yet. A large lettuce with heavy, dark leaves. A mild dressing is all that is needed with this buttery flavored lettuce. Maturity 58 days.

Sangria Lettuce

A beautiful red butterhead. Medium dark green leaves tinged with the perfect amount of red. Smooth leaves are sweet and tender. An attractive addition to any salad. Resists bolting, tip-burning and mildew races 1,2,3,4. Maturity 55 days.

Indigo Radicchio Lettuce

Dark red leaves add flair to a salad. Indigo is a consistent performing radicchio. It will produce more reliably under a greater range of conditions than other varieties. Matures in 65-70 days.

Yucaipa Lettuce

A large, firm Iceberg variety of lettuce. Even, tight heads that are non-bitter and bolt resistant. Excellent green leaves with a crisp texture. Yucaipa is heat and tipburn tolerant. A very popular head lettuce among commercial growers. Maturity about 70 days.

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