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Several types of lettuce can be grown in the home garden adding variety, texture and
color to the family diet.
Lettuce varieties can be loosely categorized into four groups: crisphead, butterhead,
leaf, and romaine or cos. Each group has its own growth and taste characteristics.
Crisphead lettuce is probably the most familiar of the four. It is
characterized by a tight, firm head of crisp, light-green leaves. In general, crisphead
lettuce is intolerant of hot weather, readily bolting or sending up a flower stalk under
hot summer conditions. For this reason, plus the long growing period required, it is the
most difficult of the lettuces to grow in the home garden.
Butterhead types have smaller, softer heads of loosely folded leaves.
The outer leaves may be green or brownish with cream or butter colored inner leaves. There
are several cultivars available that will do well in Ohio gardens.
Leaf lettuce has an open growth and does not form a head. Leaf form
and color varies considerably. Some cultivars are frilled and crinkled and others deeply
lobed. Color ranges from light green to red and bronze. Leaf lettuce matures quickly and
is the easiest to grow.
Romaine or cos lettuces form upright, cylindrical heads of tightly
folded leaves. The plants may reach up to 10 inches in height. The outer leaves are medium
green with greenish white inner leaves. This is the sweeter of the four types.
- Salad Bibb
- Summer Bibb
- Tom Thumb (miniature)
- Salad Bowl
- Grand Rapids
- Black Seeded Simpson
- Green Ice
- Red Sails
- Lollo Rosso
- Red Fire
- Parris Island Cos
Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable and develops best quality when grown under cool,
moist conditions. Lettuce seedlings will tolerate a light frost. Temperatures between 45 F
and 65 F are ideal. Such conditions usually prevail in Ohio in spring and fall. Seeds of
leaf lettuce are usually planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked.
Butterhead and romaine can be grown from either seeds or transplants. Due to its
long-growing season, crisphead lettuce is grown from transplants. Transplants may be
purchased or started indoors about six weeks before the preferred planting date.
Lettuce can be grown under a wide range of soils. Loose, fertile, sandy loam soils,
well-supplied with organic matter are best. The soil should be well-drained, moist, but
not soggy. Heavy soils can be modified with well-rotted manure, compost, or by growing a
cover crop. Like most other garden vegetables, lettuce prefers a slightly acidic pH of 6.0
Since lettuce seed is very small, a well-prepared seedbed is essential. Large clods
will not allow proper seed-to-soil contact, reducing germination. Lettuce does not have an
extensive root system so an adequate supply of moisture and nutrients is also necessary
for proper development.
Fertilizer and lime recommendations should be based on the results of a soil test.
Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for information on soil testing. As a
general rule, however, apply and work into the soil three to four pounds of 5-10-10
fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden area.
Seed may be sown in single rows or broadcast for wide row planting. Wide rows should be
12 to 15 inches across. Cover the seeds with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Water carefully but
thoroughly. Several successive plantings of leaf lettuce will provide a more continuous
harvest throughout the growing season. Leave 18 inches between the rows for leaf lettuce,
and 24 inches for the other types. To achieve proper spacing of plants, thinning of
lettuce seedlings is usually necessary. Thin plants of leaf lettuce four to six inches or
more between plants depending on plant size. Butterhead and romaine should be thinned six
to ten inches between plants. Finally, crisphead transplants should be spaced 10 to 12
inches apart in the row.
An organic mulch will help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep soil
temperatures cool. If weeds do become a problem, either pull by hand or cultivate very
shallowly to avoid damage to lettuce roots. Planning your garden so that lettuce will be
in the shade of taller plants, such as tomatoes or sweet corn, in the heat of the summer,
may reduce bolting.
Insect pests and diseases can occasionally cause problems on lettuce. For proper
identification and control recommendation, contact your local Cooperative Extension
All lettuce types should be harvested when full size but young and tender. Over-mature
lettuce is bitter and woody. Leaf lettuce is harvested by removing individual outer leaves
so that the center leaves can continue to grow. Butterhead or romaine types can be
harvested by removing the outer leaves, digging up the whole plant or cutting the plant
about an inch above the soil surface. A second harvest is often possible this way.
Crisphead lettuce is picked when the center is firm.
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Seed Starter : A Guide to Growing Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Seeds Indoors and
Outdoors - by Maureen Heffernan - Publication Date: January 1, 1997 - List: $19.95 A
complete, easy-to-use gardening manual covering the basics of starting plants from seed.
Discusses indoor and outdoor cultivation, how to purchase seed, seed viability, gardening
equipment, planting charts and light requirements, planting dates, and other valuable
Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants - by Cheryl Young, James A. Young
- Publication Date: October 1, 1986 - List: $24.95
Seeds : Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation - by Gary Paul Nabhan
- Publication Date: April 1, 1991 - List: $14.00
- From Seed
to Plant - by Gail Gibbons - Publication Date: March 1, 1991 - List: $15.95 Explores
the intricate relationship between seeds and the plants which they produce.
Gardening : A Kid's Guide to Messing Around in the Dirt/With Seeds - by Kevin Raftery,
Kim Gilbert Raftery, Jim M'Guinness - Publication Date: May 1, 1989 - List: $13.95
Now young readers will know from whence those carrots came. This full-color
extravaganza contains nearly a hundred pages of wipe-clean cardstock, hundreds of
illustrations, dozens of growing activities, plus 15 varieties of vegetable, flower, and
of Seed Science and Technology - by Larry O. Copeland, Miller B. McDonald, Lawrence O.
Copeland - Publication Date: March 1, 1995 - List: $74.95
Seeds : The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds - by
Marc Rogers, Polly Alexander (Illustrator) - Publication Date: March 1991 - List: $12.95
- Seed to
Seed - by Suzanne Ashworth - Publication Date: January 1, 1995 - List: $20.00
: The Definitive Guide to Growing, History, and Lore - by H. Peter Loewer, Peter Loewer -
Publication Date: April 1, 1996 - List: $25.00
Loewer examines the vast and often surprisingly complex world of seeds in an
unparalleled thoroughness. In addition to the how-to of growing all kinds of plants and
vegetables from seed, the book also considers the role of seeds in history, literature,
and business. 100 line drawings.
- Seeds and
Propagation (Smith & Hawken--The Hands-On Gardener) - by Susan McClure, Jim
Anderson (Illustrator) - Publication Date: June 1, 1997 - List: $10.95
- The New
Seed Starter's Handbook - by Nancy Bubel - Publication Date: April 1, 1988 - List:
- Gardening In Deer Country - by Vincent
Drzewucki - Publication Date: January, 1998 - List: $9.95
- 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Northeast - by
Miranda Smith - Publication Date: February 1996 - List: $7.95
- 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest -
by Maggie Stuckey - Publication Date: February 1996 - List: $7.95
- Building Your
Own Greenhouse (Greenhouse Basics) - by Mark
Freeman, Heather Bellanca (Illustrator) - Publication Date: April 1997 - List: $18.95
- Burpee : The
Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener : A Guide to Growing Your Garden
Organically - by Karan Davis Cutler, Cavagnarok David
(Photographer), Barbara W. Ellis - Publication Date: November 1997 - List: $29.95
A companion to Burpee Complete Gardener, this book focuses on all aspects of growing
organic vegetables and edible herbs in the home garden. Planting techniques and tools,
garden design, and more than 90 individual plant portraits are included. 300 full-color
Gardens : From Garden to Palate - by Susan McClure
- Publication Date: September 1997 - List: $37.95
Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management - by Maurice Grenville
Kains, Maurice G. Kain - Publication Date: March 1978 - List: $7.95
Harvest : How to Harvest Fresh Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
- by Eliot Coleman, Kathy Bary (Illustrator) - Publication Date: October
1992 - List: $19.95
Booknews, Inc. , 01/01/93:
Everyone who grows vegetables must know Coleman. He's the organic methods expert--the one
who knows how to maximize both garden yield and gardening pleasure, year round. Annotation
copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
Under Cover : A Northwest Guide to Solar Greenhouses, Cold Frames, and Cloches
- by William Head - Publication Date: November 1989 - List: $10.95
This is a complete guide to gardening with protective shelters that encourages both
beginning and experienced gardeners to add months of gardening pleasure at small expense.
With a little under-cover gardening know-how, Pacific Northwest gardeners can take
advantage of our mild climate to produce flowers, herbs, and vegetables throughout the
- Grow It :
The Beginner's Complete In-Harmony-With-Nature Small Farm Guide-From Vegetable and Grain
Growing to Livestock Care - by Richard W. Langer, Susan
McNeill (Illustrator) - Publication Date: January 1994 - List: $12.00
An indispensable guide to small-scale organic farming that features advice on everything
from building and stocking a pond to planting an orchard or making cheese. This extremely
practical and easy-to-use guide, first published in 1972, is for full-time or part-time
- Growing Great
Garlic : The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers -
by Ron L. Engeland - Publication Date: July 1995 - List: $14.95
Vegetable Gardening : A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Growing, Seed Saving, and
Cultural History - by William Woys Weaver - Publication
Date: June 1997 - List: $45.00
Weaver focuses on 280 varieties of 37 vegetables in this encyclopedic guide to the history
and cultivation of some of America's most treasured heirloom vegetables. 100+ color
photos. 240 line drawings.
- A Dyer's
Garden : From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers - by
Rita Buchanan - Publication Date: August 1995 - List: $9.95
- A Produce
Reference Guide to Fruits and Vegetables from Around the World : Nature's Harvest
- by Donald D. Heaton - Publication Date: April 1997 - List: $29.95
- Growing Plants
from Seed : A Comprehensive Beginners Handbook for Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs and More
- by George Abraham, Katy Abraham, Doc Abraham - Publication Date: January
1992 - List: $13.95
A guide for first-time seed growers addresses soil mixtures, lighting, types of seed,
seed-starting kits, and more to help any gardener experience the rewarding feeling of
growing flowers and vegetables from seed. Original.
- Peppers : The Domesticated Capsicums - by
Jean Andrews - Publication Date: October 1995 - List: $65.00
Booknews, Inc. , 04/01/96:
An updated edition (first, 1984) of an elegantly produced, scholarly reference on
peppers--their history and dispersion, biology, taxonomy, cultivation, and medicinal,
economic, and gastronomic uses. Illustrated with the author's botanically accurate,
aesthetically pleasing paintings that show the blossoms, buds, young peppers, and mature
specimens of 34 cultivars. A review of the literature, a photo glossary, and an extensive
bibliography add to the volume's reference value. 9x12" Annotation c. by Book News,
Inc., Portland, Or.
- Peppers of the
World : An Identification Guide - by Dave Dewitt,
Paul W. Bosland - Publication Date: January 1997 - List: $19.95
Propagation : Principles and Practices - by Hudson
Thomas Hartmann (Editor), Dale E. Kester, Fred T., Jr. Davies - Publication Date: January
1997 - List: $86.00
The publisher, Prentice-Hall Career & Technology :
Hallmarked as the most successful text of its kind, this remarkably thorough text covers
all aspects of the propagation of plants - both sexual and asexual - with considerable
attention given to human (vs natural) efforts to increase plant numbers.
Gardening : Cultivating an Edible Landscape - by
Robert A. De J. Hart - Publication Date: September 1996 - List: $17.95
- Handbook of Organic Food Processing and Production -
by Simon Wright (Editor) - Publication Date: October 1994 - List: $119.00
- Introduction to Permaculture - by Bill
Mollison, Reny Mia Slay - Publication Date: November 1997 - List: $16.95
- Profitable Organic Farming - by Jon Newton - Publication
Date: June 1995 - List: $36.95
- The New
Organic Grower : A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market
Gardener - by Eliot Coleman, Sheri Amsel (Illustrator), Molly Cook Field
(Illustrator) - Publication Date: October 1995 - List: $24.95
Booknews, Inc. , 05/01/96:
This expansion of a now-classic guide originally published in 1989 is intended for the
serious gardener or small-scale market farmer. It describes practical and sustainable ways
of growing superb organic vegetables, with detailed coverage of scale and capital,
marketing, livestock, the winter garden, soil fertility, weeds, and many other topics.
Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
- The Art of the Kitchen Garden - by Jan Gertley,
Michael Gertley - Publication Date: January 1999 - List
This page was last updated on November 16, 2002