Lettuces are an excellent crop for beginners who want to learn more about growing vegetables. They are a minimal investment, requiring just seeds or transplants, soil, and a planting location. You can plant in raised beds or utilize containers for your lettuce garden. They do well in cool temperatures when it is more pleasant to be outside and pests are not quite as active.
Lettuces are a cool-season crop that can be grown in the spring or fall. Lettuces are one of the quickest vegetables to grow, with some ready for harvest within 30 days. In the Piedmont of North Carolina, we can grow both head and leaf lettuces.
Head lettuces grown from seed take 70 to 85 days until harvest, from transplant they require 45 to 60 days to harvest. Leaf lettuces from seed take 40-50 days and transplants are 15-25 days to harvest. Leaf lettuces can still be started from seed or transplants through April, and again in August and September. Head lettuces can be planted as transplants through April, and again from the middle of September to the middle of October. For more details on planting dates, see our Planting Calendars for Annual Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs available for each region of the state.
There are many seed selections available for loose leaf and head lettuces. Some loose-leaf varieties to consider are ‘Salad Bowl,’ ‘Buttercrunch,’ ‘Black seeded Simpson,’ ‘Simpson Elite’ and ‘Red Sails.’ Loose leaf lettuce seed mixes are a great way to get a variety. Head lettuce varieties that are recommended for our area include ‘Great Lakes,’ ‘Little Gem’ and ‘White Boston.’ If purchasing transplants, source from local garden centers to find varieties best suited for our area. Loose-leaf lettuces can be planted in two different ways, first as individual plants spaced 8 inches apart. Alternatively, they can be sown thickly 2″-3″ inches apart to utilize space better and for clipping with scissors. Head lettuces should be planted 6″- 12″ apart based on the specific variety. Seed packets will include planting instruction, including specific spacing information. For more on growing lettuce and other vegetables, refer to the Vegetable Gardening chapter of the NC Extension Gardener Handbook.