The Different Varieties Of Lettuce

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Lettuce is a must-have vegetable in the garden and in the kitchen. In the garden, lettuce is versatile and easy to grow, which makes it perfect for the new gardener. Lettuce will grow indoors or outdoors, in the ground or in shallow trays, and in cool weather and hot weather.

  • Lettuce contains vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and potassium which reduce the risk of respiratory system and intestinal tract cancers.

How To Grow Lettuce

There are five basic types of lettuce and all have similar growing requirements. Most varieties of lettuce tolerate a variety of conditions. Lettuce can be grown in a large garden or on a small porch that only has room for a few planting containers.

Here are a few hints to grow an abundance of lettuce:

  • Lettuce prefers the cooler temperatures of spring and summer. In cold weather, lettuce will grow indoors or inside a cold frame.
  • Plant lettuce seeds ¼ inch to ½ inch deep with about 10 seeds per foot of garden row. When the plants are about 2 inches tall, thin to 4 inches apart.
  • Grow a continuous supply of lettuce by planting every two weeks. Plant seeds until a month before the hot days of summer or the coldest part of the winter.
  • Give the plants a small amount of water on a frequent basis to encourage leaf growth.
  • Lettuce is susceptible to many pests. The most common pests are aphids, armyworms, cabbage worm and loopers.
  • Protect plants with a row cover or grow lettuce indoors on a kitchen windowsill or inside a greenhouse.
  • Protect lettuce plants from the summer heat by planting between rows of corn, tomatoes or other tall vegetable plants that provide shade.
  • Harvest lettuce when the plants are dry and during the early part of the day. This is when the water content of the plants is the highest.

Leaf Lettuce

Leaf lettuce may be the most popular type of lettuce. This variety of lettuce has crisp individual leaves and grows continuously throughout the season. Leaf lettuce matures between 45 and 60 days after planting.

When harvesting leaf lettuce, do not cut the entire plant. Either cut off the larger, outside leaves or cut alternating plants about 2 inches above the ground. With either method, the inner leaves will continue to grow and you will be able to harvest the leaf lettuce for a longer period of time.

Here are some recommended types of leaf lettuce varieties:

  • In the colder areas of the Midwest(such as Illinois and Ohio), grow Oak Leaf, Red Sails and Grand Rapids.
  • In warm, southern climates, plant Salad Bowl, Green Ice, and Ruby.
  • In northern climates, similar to upstate New York, select Ibis, Slobolt, and Lollo Rossa.


Butterhead Lettuce

Butterhead lettuce is a small variety of lettuce that forms a loose head. The leaves are tender and have a slightly sweet flavor. When grown during hot temperatures, butterhead lettuce develops a bitter taste. It takes between 55 and 75 days to grow butterhead lettuce to maturity.

Here are some recommended types of butterhead lettuce varieties:

  • In the Midwestern states (such as Illinois and Ohio), plant Salad Bibb and Buttercrunch.
  • In warmer climate areas (with weather similar to southern California), grow Boston Butterhead, Summer Bibb and Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb is ideal for container gardening.
  • In the colder northern regions, try Esmerelda, Four Seasons and Winter Density


Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is also called cos lettuce. Romaine lettuce is popular for salads and sandwiches. This type of lettuce grows an upright, elongated head of leaves. After planting Romaine seeds, the plant takes about 70 days to grow to maturity.

Here are some recommended types of Romaine lettuce varieties:

  • In the Midwest(Illinois, Ohio and area), grow Cimmaron, Paris Island and Valmaine.
  • In warmer climates, plant Parris Island and Valmaine.
  • In the colder northern climates, like those found in New York, look for Cosmo Savoy, Green Towers and Little Gem.


Iceberg Or Crisphead Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is commonly found in the produce isles at the supermarket. The leaves of the iceberg lettuce grow into a tight, round ball. This type of lettuce requires a long, cool growing season, is very sensitive to heat and may be difficult for the home gardener to grow. In many places, iceberg lettuce is grown in the fall when the weather is cooler.

When growing iceberg lettuce, select a variety that is slow-bolting. Also, either purchase transplants or start seeds indoors. Transplants may be planted outside in the early spring or in the fall when the temperatures are cooler. Mulch around plants to inhibit weeds, keep soil temperatures stable and retain moisture.

Here are some recommended types of iceberg lettuce varieties:

  • In the Midwest, try Ithaca, Great Lakes and Mesa.
  • In warmer, southern climates, plant Calmar and Empire.
  • In the colder, northern regions, grow Summertime and Tom Thumb.

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow vegetable and an easy way to add more vegetables to your meals, start with lettuce. Lettuce is the foundation of a healthy salad packed full of nutrients. Experiment with the different types of lettuce to provide a variety of salad treats throughout the year.

Last Updated: September 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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