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When to Plant Lettuce

Lettuce can be grown in any home garden and in containers. It is a cool-weather crop and usually does not grow well in the heat of summer. Planting lettuce in the wrong season is the cause of most failures.

In warm-winter regions grow lettuce in late fall, winter, and spring. In cold winter regions, grow lettuce in spring and autumn. If you want to grow lettuce in summer, plant heat and bolt-resistant varieties.  

Sow lettuce seeds directly in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring. Start transplants indoors 4 to 6 weeks before setting out. Set out transplants from 2 weeks before to 3 weeks after the last frost. Start a fall crop about 80 days before the first expected autumn frost.

Make succession plantings of lettuce every 2 to 3 weeks. Use heat and bolt-resistant varieties for summer plantings.

Lettuce grows best in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Lettuce is a heavy feeder and benefits from moderate amounts of nitrogen and potassium. It is important to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Lettuce grows best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Leaf lettuce matures in 45 to 55 days, but outer leaves can be cut at any time. Loosehead, head and romaine lettuce should be harvested when the heads are firm and full-sized. Loosehead matures in 60 to 75 days, head in 70 to 100 days, and romaine in 75 to 85 days.

Butterhead lettuce
Butterhead lettuce

Lettuce seed sowing dates

(These dates are for the Northern Hemisphere)

Average date of the last frostPlanting dates
Jan. 30Jan. 1-Feb. 1
Feb. 8Jan. 1-Feb. 1
Feb. 18Jan. 1-Mar. 15
Feb. 28Jan. 1-Mar. 15
Mar. 10Jan. 15-Apr. 1
Mar. 20Feb. 1-Apr. 1
Mar. 30Feb. 15-Apr. 15
Apr. 10Mar. 15-May 15
Apr. 20Mar. 20-May 15
Apr. 30Apr. 1-June 1
May 10Apr. 15-June 15
May 20May 1-June 30
May 30May 10-June 30
June 10May 20-June 30
Lettuce in raised bed
Lettuce with other crops in a small raised bed

Lettuce planting details

  • Sowing depth: 1/4 inch (.6cm)
  • Space between plants after thinning: 6 inches (15cm)
  • Days to sprout: 7
  • Days to harvest: 40+
  • Storage period: 2-3 weeks
  • Seeds per 100 row feet: 1/4 ounce (7 grams)
  • Yield per 100 row feet: 100 heads
  • Suggested varieties: Bibb, Buttercrunch, Butter King, Black-seeded Simpson, Great Lakes, Little Gem

Related articles of interest:

How to Grow Lettuce

Growing Lettuce in Containers

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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