Tips for Growing Lettuces and Salad Mix

Growing lettuce and salad mix is fairly simple and can be done in small spaces, including pots. Right now I am growing a mix in a fairly small pot. If only the robins would leave it alone, I suspect I’ll be able to harvest in the next few weeks! I also spent time growing salad mix for a market garden operation.

 

Growing lettuce on porch

Lettuces and greens growing on my porch

 

Keep the following in mind when planning and planting your lettuce bed:

  • Lettuces and greens are cool weather crops. They tend to bolt (go to seed) much more quickly in high heat and direct sun. Both do well in semi-shade or even mostly shade and certainly prefer spring and fall weather.
  • The easiest way to manage a variety of lettuces and greens for a salad mix are in swaths of separate varieties in six inch rows separated by enough room for a stirrup hoe (available in three and six inch widths). Weeds are much easier to both see and remove with this layout and harvesting is simpler due to a more consistent size in the lettuces. Another benefit of keeping the two separate is during harvest when a desired balance between the two tastes can be measured.
  • Maintenance includes weeding, watering, successive sowing, and weekly harvesting. Weeding is a particular concern, as weeds in the final product are undesirable (if for sale) and can sneak their way into a mix. It is also a meticulous process since the lettuces are very fragile and shallow rooted. On the other hand, many weeds are wild edibles and add nutrition, flavor and interest to the mix. Just make sure you know what you are harvesting!
  • Some wild edibles that are great in a salad mix include chickweed, amaranth, wild chives, and violet leaves.
  • Lettuce and green seeds can be sown on a rotational schedule to extend the season. This is called successive planting. They generally do best in spring and fall. If you create a cool microclimate (for instance in a food forest), then the summer is fair game too.

Read Next: 5 Steps for Growing Lettuce and Salad Mix

5 Steps to Growing Lettuces & Salad Mix

Growing lettuce and salad mix is very easy and can be done in the smallest of spaces. It is also a great crop to grow fresh since the shelf life is quite short. It is also a fairly high demand vegetable for restaurants, making it a possible cash crop for small growers and permaculturists. Check out these 5 steps to growing lettuce below:

1)      The first thing to do is find seeds! Some factors you may want to consider when purchasing lettuce and green seeds include: cost; organic or heirloom status; color and flavor of greens; local adaptability; and best growing season for different varieties. If your climate tends to be hot or the spot where you will grow the lettuce is direct sun, look for “slow to bolt” varieties for best results.

There are also pre-made mixes available, though these have a few drawbacks. First is that brassicas and lettuces are easiest to manage when they are separated. Brassicas have specific pest problems that lettuces do not have and the germination and growing times of each are different. When cutting for a salad mix, it is best to cut the whole swath and so if you have some short lettuces and some taller, it will be difficult to do.

2)      Prepare the soil as for any other seed, with the exception of adding additional organic matter (this is not necessary since the lettuces are harvested when young). It is good practice to make sure there are not rocks or coarse debris on the soil surface.

3)      Sow the seeds evenly, pat down and cover with a very thin layer of soil. This should then be “watered in” with a light misting hose or watering can.

To grow lettuces that will be allowed to grow to full size, prepare the soil as above but rather than spreading the seed, sow just a few seeds per hole.

4)      Watering twice a day is generally needed, though good practice is to check the soil. When watering, it is best to do it early in the morning or in the evening. Also be cautious about watering the leaves, they are more prone to burning when wet so water low.

5)      Harvesting happens when the leaves seem big enough to eat. To have repeat harvests, be sure to harvest above the growth point. Cut and grow lettuces generally can be harvested 3 times before the nutrients and quality begins to go down.

growing lettuce for market

Green Deer Tongue, Strela green, and Black-seeded Simpson varieties of lettuce grown by me for market. Note the space left between varieties for a small stirrup hoe to make for easier weed management.

 

Be sure to read Tips for Growing Lettuces and Salad Mix!

Permaculture Resource List

Compiled by Elizabeth Lynch, Troy Hottle, and Juliette Jones

Pc Communities, on-line or other

Pittsburgh-local Resources

Pittsburgh Permaculture’s Resources
  • What is Permaculture? – A brief description of permaculture
  • Pittsburgh Hardiness Zones – this article takes a detailed look at the USDA hardiness zones and the updated Arbor Day Foundation map
  • Patterns and Design – a discussion about the pervasive patterns of nature and how they might be integrated in our designs
  • Fruit Tree Guild - this page describes a permaculture design we installed at the Edgerton Avenue site in Point Breeze
  • Permaculture Pond – a description of a pond install that is designed to function without pumps or filters while providing a beautiful, productive habitat
  • Grape Vine Awning – a page explaining the placement of a grapevine on the south side of the home to help reduce energy costs
  • Vegetable Seed Starting – color coded charts to help you time your vegetable starts
  • Actively Aerated Compost Tea – a guide to making your own compost tea and constructing a cheap yet effective brewer
  • Grafting at Home – an article explaining the theory of grafting fruit trees and how to do it with what you already have at home
  • Stackable Worm Bin How-to – a picture guide to making your own stackable worm composting bin using 5 gallon buckets
  • Addressing Concerns about Worms – a discussion about the recent concerns surrounding invasive worms and the relative risk they pose

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