Growing lettuce in containers is fun and easy and you can harvest fresh, crispy, and organic lettuce leaves for your salads in no time.
Lettuce is one of the vegetables that is very easy to grow in pots and you can even grow it in a small container. Healthy and continuously productive, this crispy salad green has many qualities that make it a blessing for health. Rich in water, fiber, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, the lettuce is perfect for those who have intestinal transit problems, and also contributes to the smooth functioning of the nervous system.
You can start to harvest lettuce in no time– about 8 weeks for most of the varieties, it is super easy to grow and productive; similar to spinach. And the best part is you don’t need a lot of space to grow lettuce.
Also Read: How to Grow Spinach
Choosing a Pot
Almost all the lettuce varieties grow well in pots. As their shallow roots don’t need deep soil, they do best in wide and shallow containers. The pot must have adequate drainage holes in the bottom and should be at least 6 inches deep. You can use any material for pots such as plastic, clay or terracotta pots.
*However, if you’re growing lettuce in a container in a warm climate, do that in clay pots and plant heat resistant varieties.
Planting Lettuce in Pots
Lettuce is a cool season crop and growing lettuce in pots is possible from spring to fall in most of the regions. Although, if you live in USDA Zones 10-11 or in any other subtropical or tropical part of the world, you should try to grow lettuce in winter.
You can easily cultivate the lettuce from seeds or from seedlings. If you want to grow it from seeds, read this post. Alternatively, you can directly buy the seedlings from a nearby nursery.
For continuous harvest do successive planting, sow seeds in every two weeks throughout the growing season.
In summer, when the weather starts to heat up the lettuce tends to bolt, to reduce this tendency keep your potted lettuce plant in a cool spot and provide proper shade.
Requirements for Growing Lettuce in Containers
Considering you’re growing lettuce in a small space in your container garden, we assume you’ll harvest your lettuce plants regularly; trying “Cut And Come Again” method. This way you don’t need to care much about spacing.
Sow seeds densely and thin out the seedlings as they grow picking young, tender leaves regularly. Keep the plants 4-6 inches apart (depending on the size of the leaves you want and cultivar). However, head lettuces require more spacing than leaf lettuces and planting depth (8 inches) must be increased too.
The lettuce loves the sunlight (*more in cooler zones) though it can be grown easily in a partially shaded area but if you’re growing lettuce in a warm climate where the sun is intense try to place the pot in a spot that receives only a few hours of morning sun.
During the hottest hours of the day (in the afternoon) it is recommended to create a shade for the plant to prevent the drying of the soil as lettuce prefers slightly moist soil constantly. Also, move the container in a cool spot when the temperature rises as this favorite green is heat sensitive.
For growing healthy lettuce, use a good quality soil mix which has plenty of organic matter, such as compost and peat. You can also add well-rotted manure or compost additionally. The soil you use must be loamy and well-drained and doesn’t hold water too much.
In shallow pots, you may need to water frequently so that the plant will not dry out completely. Make sure that you not only keep the soil slightly moist but also avoid to overwater your container grown lettuces as overwatering can kill the plants due to root rot.
Because lettuce plants mature quickly, a single or double application of fertilizer is usually all that is needed to boost the production. Before you fertilize, wait for a few weeks to allow the seedlings to establish. To fertilize lettuce you can use a granular balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. You can also use liquid fertilizer for a quick boost. When fertilizing, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions as both over and under fertilization can be harmful.
Pests and Diseases
Growing lettuces in containers require care from leaf eating insects. However, if the plants are healthy there are fewer chances of infestation of pests or diseases. Mildew, leaf spot, rot and a variety of bacterial infections are common diseases that can attack lettuce. In pests and insects– caterpillars, cutworms, aphids, maggots and beetles can cause damage to the plant.
Once the lettuce leaves have reached the height of 4-6″ (the baby green size perfect for cut and come again method) or according to your desired size, either pick the outer leaves individually or harvest them by cutting the leaves off 1″ (2-3 cm) from above the base or crown (Must remember, don’t cut into or below the crown or else your plant will die). This way the plant will grow back and you’ll be able to harvest it again.
You can also pick the leaf lettuce before maturity, it’s simple, just remove the outer leaves when you need them in salads and keep the center leaves growing.