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Growing Lettuce.
Growing Lettuce.

Growing Lettuce – A Beginners Guide

Growing Lettuce For Beginners:

Introduction to Growing Lettuce

Lettuce is a biennial plant grown commercially for its leaves all over the world used as a salad green. The plant is believed to be native to regions from Asia Minor to Siberia. This leafy herbaceous plant grows very quickly and can be consumed raw as it is famous for its nutrition values. Lettuce is a cool season crop grown mostly in spring and fall. The lettuce plant comes in various size, shape and leaf sort, however, for the most part, the leaves of the plant frame a thick head or free rosette. The stem of the plant is short, with bigger leaves orchestrated at the base and winding up continuously littler further up the stem. Leaves can be smooth or wavy and are generally green or red in shading. In the plant root system, it has a main taproot with smaller secondary roots. The lettuce plant can develop to a tallness of 20 cm to100 cm in stature and is commonly developed as a yearly, gathered after just a single developing season. Depending on the plant variety, the plant can be ready for harvest by 65 to 120 days. Mature plants are not edible as they turn bitter hence harvesting must be done while they are immature. The plant is tolerant to frost but sometimes the outer leaves get damaged with a lowered growth rate and hot temperature will lead to early flowering. Lettuce is one of the best crops can be grown in backyards, indoors (balconies, terraces), containers, pots, greenhouses, and polyhouse. Lettuce can be cultivated hydroponically as well. Commercially growing lettuce has excellent market demand and vegetable farmers can obtain decent profits in growing lettuce.

Lettuce Growing in Greenhouse.
Lettuce Growing in Greenhouse.

Scientific / Botanical name of Lettuce

Lactuca sativa

Family Name of Lettuce

Lettuce comes from the family Asteraceae or Compositae.

Lettuce in Indian Languages

Hindi –सलाद (salaad).

Gujarati –લેટીસ (Lēṭīsa).

Malayalam –ലെറ്റസ് (lerras).

Tamil – கீரை(kirai).

Kannada – ಲೆಟಿಸ್(Leṭis).

Telugu –లెటుస్ (letus).

Bengali –লেটুস (Lēṭusa).

Marathi -लेट्यूस (Lēṭyūsa).

Punjabi – ਸਲਾਦ (Salāda).

Urdu – لیٹو.

Lettuce Varieties / Lettuce Cultivars

Since India has a tropical climate, it’s wise to choose varieties that are heat tolerant. It’s recommended to go for leaf and romaine lettuces as these are in market demand while heading lettuces like iceberg are a very long shot.

Types of Lettuce:

Head Type: Butterhead and Crispheadmaturein about 60 to 70 days, rarely bitter, less likely to bolt, and harvest as soon as the leaves are ready. These are delicate varieties, the heads are creamy to light green in color on the inside, loose, and ruffled green on the outside.
Crisp Head: This type lettuce is large, outer leaves are thick, crisp, and can be harvested in 70-100 days. The outer leaves can be harvested as loose leaf until heads are formed.

Loose Leaves: These lettuces are easy to grow and form no head. By 45 to 55 days the plants will be ready for harvest. They can be harvested either whole plant or leaves.

Romaine: These varieties are green on the outside and light green on the inside. The inside leafs are tender, sweet, and crunchy. They grow 20 cm to 25 cm tall and the plants are ready to harvest by 75 to 85 days.

Varieties: Iceberg, Great lakes, LS-1, LS-2, andBogampo.

Climate for Growing Lettuce

Lettuce does well in a moderately cool developing season with a month to month normal temperature of 12° to 15° C and the plants can tolerate temperatures 25° to 30° C. The plant grows well in optimum temperature of 15° to 18° C while seeds cannot germinate in soil temperature above 30° C.  High temperatures trigger more flower stems, cause a bitter taste in the leaves, and quicken the improvement of tip decay. The lettuce heads will get damaged in hot, rainy, and humid climatic conditions leading to poor yield.

Soil requirement for Growing Lettuce

Lettuce grows in wide range of soils that are well-drained while holding moisture in the soil. For healthy and high yield, soils must be fertile, friable, and rich in organic matter. The plant is sensitive to high acidic soils and the soil pH must be in 6.0 to 6.6 ranges.

Land Preparation in Growing Lettuce

Prepare the land with two to three deep plowing as the root system of plants is shallow. Bring the soil to fine tilth and friable to allow the better establishment of the crop. Prepare raised beds about 20 cm to 30 cm high and 100 cm to 120 cm wide of any required length. For high yield, plant seeds in raised beds as these beds will warm up quicker than the ground planting. Prepare drip irrigation system for raised beds.

Propagation in Growing Lettuce

Propagation for lettuce growing is done by seeds or transplant.

Seed rate Growing Lettuce

Lettuce Seeds.
Lettuce Seeds.

500 to 650 grams of seed is required for a hectare.

Seed Treatment for Growing Lettuce

Seeds must be treated with a fungicide to prevent from damping-off.

Season in Growing Lettuce

Since lettuce is a cool season crop, in India seeds are sown between October to January.

Sowing and Spacing in Growing Lettuce

Lettuce seeds can be sown directly in the field.  Seeds are sown at a depth 0.5cm and cover the seeds delicately with soil. Seedlings ought to rise in 2– 3 days. Seedlings that are raised at the nursery when they start having4 – 5true leaves then they ought to be transplanted to the main field with a spacing of 20– 40 cm depending on variety.

For head lettuce spacing of about 25 cm to 30 cm must be maintained and for leaf and butterhead type plants, place seedlings 20 cm to 25 cm apart. Plant seedling on a raised bed about 100 to 120 cm wide in two to four rows depending on variety. Sow new seed batches each 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous harvest.

Irrigation in Growing Lettuce

For a good harvest and yield, lettuce needs constant water during hot climate. Soils must contain moisture uniformly. Depending on weather and climatic conditions irrigation must be provided. Drip irrigation is recommended for growing lettuce crop.

Manures and Fertilizers in Growing Lettuce

Incorporate the soil with 20 to 25 tonnes of well rotten farmyard manure at the last plow when preparing the field. Poultry manure is recommended as it contains more nitrogen quantity which is essential for lettuce healthy growth. Apply 90 kilograms of Nitrogen and 60 kilograms of Potassium and Phosphorous each per hectare. Apply fertilizers in two to three doses at different growth stages.

Intercultural operations in Growing Lettuce

On an average, by 45 to 60 days most lettuce varieties mature. Effective weed management is a critical step for successful lettuce production. Lettuce grows slowly in the beginning and easily overgrown by weeds which compete for light, nutrients, water thereby interfere in yield.Weeds can be controlled by cultural control methods including hand weeding or hoeing and transplant seedlings free of weeds.

Hydroponic Lettuce Growing

Growing Lettuce Hydroponically.
Growing Lettuce Hydroponically.

This design works well for small and local production of head lettuce in hydroponic greenhouse production. A floating system based hydroponics is the most robust and economical system for lettuce production. Prepare a rectangular or any shape pond either above or below the greenhouse floor. Fill the pond with water and place air pumps for oxygenating the water. Install a number of air pumps depending on the pond size. Add water-soluble fertilizer along with micronutrients at a rate of 1 to 2 teaspoons per gallon water. Mix the fertilizer uniformly in the water. Get a Styrofoam (float beds) with two and a half inch holes, place net pots filled with growing medium in each hole. Place the Styrofoam on water as the material floats easily on water. Transplant seedlings that are 12 to 14 days old and that are grown in the nursery beds. Each net pot must hold one plant seedling. Your floating hydroponics is almost ready. Power on the air pump to keep the water oxygenated and roots of the plants are directly in touch with water from the potholes. The roots absorb nutrients and oxygen from the water making the plant grow quickly and healthily. Growth and production of plants are high compared to conventional farming and less prone to diseases. To produce 1245 lettuce heads through floating system hydroponics will lead a 2200 sq. ft size pond. Lettuce can be grown in all types of hydroponic systems and its proven with high production yield.

Growing Lettuce in a Container

Growing lettuce in containers is fun and simple and you can gather new, fresh, and natural lettuce leaves for your servings of mixed greens in a matter of seconds. While growing lettuce in a container is a typical practice for plant lovers in little spaces at homes, for example, apartment residents or in rooftop at urban areas.Growing lettuce in containers likewise enables you to control weeds and bugs more effectively than in a substantial cultivating space and afford fast access when you need a few fresh leaves for a salad.Lettuce plants in containers require the right type of pot and soil medium. Lettuce needs abundant space for roots and a 15 to 30 cm pot can be the ideal size and the bigger the pot size the more lettuce variety can be grown.A mud pot gives a penetrable surface that can evaporate any extra water and prevent waterlogging. Ensure there are satisfactory seepage openings in whatever container you picked. Utilize a rich soil blend for planting lettuce in container circumstances, as the blend is detailed to hold water and give supplements. A dirt blend is generally peat or manure, soil, and either vermiculite or perlite for water maintenance. Place the containers in a partially shaded place and the plants can be harvested as and when required by plucking the leaves for your salad.

Pests and Diseases in Growing Lettuce

  • Sclerotinia Drop: This is commonly called as leaf drop caused by fungi. Infected plant outside leaves starts to wilt and gradually spreads inwards till the whole plant is affected. To control apply registered fungicides available at local nursery stores as prescribed.
  • Bottom Rot: This disease (Rhizoctoniasolani) is a fungal infection usually occurs when the weather is humid and warm. When the crop is infected, small red to brown spot appear underside of lower leaves near the midrib and spreads rapidly leading the leaves to rot. Heavily infected plants show signs of amber colored liquid starts coming out at infected parts and the heads become thin and turn brown and fall off.To control apply registered fungicides available at local nursery stores as prescribed.
  • Downy Mildew: This is a fungal disease and when infected, the plants topside of leaves turn yellow with a fluffy white growth is visible underneath the leaves. Cool and moist conditions of the weather favor the growth of fungal infection. To control, plant disease-resistant varieties and apply appropriate fungicides.
  • Septoria Leaf Spot: Is a fungal disease when infected, the plant develops small chlorotic spots which grow and turns brown and dry out. Severely infected plant leaves start wilting as the lesions form large necrotic patches and may lead to plant death. To control, treat seeds with hot water before sowing.

Harvesting in Growing Lettuce

Usually, lettuce plants are ready for harvest by 60 to 70 days after transplanting. When harvesting leaf varieties, leaves must be tender and immature.  While harvesting head varieties, heads must be firm, well-formed, and of good size. Cut head along with wrapper leaves to protect heads from post-harvest handling.

To retain the freshness of lettuce, packing must be done immediately after harvesting right in the field. Pack the heads in a flat carton and packing in bags or more number of heads together to avoid crushing of heads.

Yield in Growing Lettuce

Under proper cultivation methods, a farmer can expect a yield of 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare of head lettuce and leaf type lettuce give comparatively higher yield.

Marketing of Lettuce

Lettuce can be marketed after reaching suitable market size and color. They are much in demand for their nutritional values along with health benefits and marketed in local markets directly or exported by marketing agencies. Lettuce must be cooled before shipping and often carried out by vacuum cooling for more shelf life.Market demand depends on its freshness, being a leafy vegetable with short life durability, store the produce under 0° C with 90 to 95% relative humidity keep it fresh and to last for two to three weeks.

Tips for Growing Lettuce

  • Soil must have more nitrogen content along with other nutrients for good growth.
  • Having shallow root system, plants to dry out easily when not irrigated properly.
  • Sow seeds directly and is the best way to grow lettuce.
  • In hot weather, place the plants under partial shade. Plants grow pale with few leaves under deep shade.
  • Most of the plant problems are related to hot weather conditions.
  • Looseleaf or open leaf variety is heat tolerant compared with all other lettuce types.
  • Regions having hot weather must prefer to grow light green varieties as dark-colored lettuce absorbs sunlight gets stressed and wilt.

Agriculture Vastu is considered by some people while growing any crops.

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