Harvesting Lettuce

Lettuce can be one of the more rewarding crops to grow in your garden, particularly because it can be easily grown and harvested. With care, you can continue to come back to your lettuce plants and repeatedly harvest fresh leaves throughout the season.


Maximize Your Lettuce Harvest by Following These Simple Steps:

Which Kind of Lettuce?

If you plan to harvest whole heads of lettuce, the first step toward success will be to sow the seeds with adequate space for the plants to grow properly. While care should be taken to follow the instructions for your specific lettuce seeds, as a general guide, appropriate spacing for lettuce plants entails:
  • 4-inch separations for leaf varieties
  • 8-inch separations for Cos and loose-head varietals
  • 16-inch separations for tight-head types
Obviously, the type of lettuce you grow should suit your family's taste, as well as the growing conditions and soil in your area.

Harvesting Tips

The most important tip when it comes to harvesting heads of lettuce is that you need to wait until the plants are at their full size, but not too mature. Lettuce that has hit or surpassed maturity can be bitter and won't keep long once harvested. As for harvesting various types of lettuce, follow this guide to help ensure fresh, edible leaves:
  • Leaf lettuce: Harvest by removing outer leaves every few days
  • Loose-head lettuce: If you wish to attempt a second harvest, cut the head 1 inch from the base, otherwise dig the entire plant out of the ground. You can also opt to harvest the outer leaves initially and see if more will grow.
  • Tight-head lettuce: These should be picked or dug up when the center of the head is firm to the touch.
Generally, lettuce is a happier crop in the spring or fall than in the summer - heat has an adverse effect on the leaves. Picking lettuce in the morning will yield leaves that keep crisp with good flavor longer. Most lettuce will keep well for around 10 days if stored in a cool place.