Lettuce is one of the most worthwhile seeds to grow. For a little amount of effort and a super low cost, you’ll get a reward of bountiful lettuce. No matter your type of garden, growing lettuce in containers is simple to do. Here’s how!
I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me a few years ago the high price of lettuce now. I’ll be honest and say I’m not a huge food grower. Since I had a small urban garden, I was picky about the veggies I would choose to grow.
But lettuce? Lettuce has always been top of the list of seeds I plant.
It’s one of the easiest plants to grow, especially in containers. If you only have a balcony or even just a kitchen garden, you can grow lettuce.
It’s also extremely cheap to grow. With succession planting, you can have lettuce every day of the spring, summer, fall, and, dare I say, winter (if you’re crafty enough.).
Today, I’m breaking down all my tips and tricks for how to grow lettuce in containers. Let’s go!
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Expert Tips for Growing Lettuce in Containers
- Choose a container with a minimum depth of 10-12 inches. Lettuce has shallow roots, which allow you more flexibility for container size.
- More fertile soil will allow for faster, sweeter lettuce growth. Add compost!
- Grow leaf salad greens so you can harvest as you need them rather than wait for a whole head of lettuce to grow.
- Plant the seeds densely. Thin them out as they get bigger, and eat all the baby greens you take away.
- Grow lettuce in full sun, though shelter them from heavy heat in the summer.
- Harvest lettuce in the mornings while hydrated and keep it stored in a salad spinner in the fridge until ready for use.
- After you harvest greens, sprinkle more lettuce seeds about every 2-3 weeks for an endless supply of lettuce.
Why You Should Grow Lettuce in a Container
As I mentioned, lettuce is one of the few vegetables I make sure to plant every year. And I almost exclusively grow it in containers!
For me, it started as a way to stop the slugs from eating up all my lettuce supply. Besides slugs, elevating your lettuce from the ground prevents pests from taking over.
Lettuce is also one of the cheapest and easiest plants to grow. It has a high yield. For every seed packet costing about $5, you can grow the equivalent of 20 containers of store-bought lettuce.
The height of a container also makes it easy to harvest from. If the container isn’t too big, you can also move it as needed. So full sun in the summer, and perhaps some shade when it’s overly hot out.
How to Grow Lettuce in a Container
Growing lettuce in containers is easy when you use all these tips and tricks, I swear!
Step 1: Choosing a Container
Not all containers are the same. When it comes to containers, deeper is better than anything wide and shallow. Deeper contains retain water better.
Luckily, lettuce does have shallow roots, so you can get away with a smaller container than the average vegetable. Ideally, you want something that is a 3-gallon or larger or a minimum depth of 10-12 inches.
And if you love your lettuce, please please ensure your container has drainage holes. If it doesn’t, then add some with a drill!
If you’re planning to upcycle a container, ensure the container is food safe. For example, old tires or pressure-treated wood are no-gos.
I have planted and seen lettuce in all kinds of different containers, including a wine barrel, an upcycled pallet, hanging basket, in grow bags, within the home, and more.
Step 2: Filling Your Container
I always opt to make my own potting mixes. This allows me to customize the soil based on the plant’s needs and ensure only quality ingredients are used. However, you can also buy potting soil. Just make sure you buy one designed for pots and containers, as garden soil will be too dense.
The more fertile the soil is, the quicker the lettuce will grow. And the quicker it grows, the sweeter the lettuce tastes. Mix in some compost to make your soil especially fertile.
If you have a large container, like a wine barrel, filling the entire thing with soil can get pricey. See some of my go-to alternatives for the bottom of a container or raised bed.
Step 3: Choosing Your Lettuce
Typically, I avoid growing head lettuce. Instead, I prefer leaf salad greens as I don’t have to wait to harvest the whole thing. I can cut them as I need them! But if head lettuce is your thing, don’t let me stop you.
Some of my favourite lettuce to grow includes:
You can easily buy pre-mixed seeds for baby greens or salad mixtures. I also recommend some of these unusual salad greens!
Step 4: Planting Lettuce
Planting your lettuce may be the easiest step. All you have to do is sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and give it a good water. Plant the seeds densely.
You can choose to start the seeds indoors on a plastic garden tray about 3-4 weeks before the last frost or plant them in your containers outside after the last frost has passed. Leafy greens are cool vegetables, so they love to grow in early spring as soon as the ground allows it.
Another tip, throw in some chives in the mix. They will help ward off any further pests that get to your container.
Step 5: Caring for Lettuce
Lettuce grows best in full sun, though it does tolerate partial shade. Since they’re a cool season crop, they don’t like hot hot temperatures, however. Feel free to move your container to get them out of the afternoon sun in peak summer.
You can also plant them in containers alongside taller vegetables where they will get some shade. The heat can also make them bolt faster (begin flowering), which is something you don’t want!
As the seedlings grow, make sure to thin them out. Luckily, you can eat all those baby greens, and they’ll have tons of sweet flavour.
Since lettuce has shallow roots, you’ll want to water them regularly. Water twice a week during the spring and fall is good, and check on them every day when it’s hot.
If you want to extend the growing season, use an umbrella greenhouse for lettuce in the fall or spring. Lettuce also grows well in cold frames for lettuce even in the winter!
Step 6: Harvesting Lettuce
You won’t have to wait long to start snipping your lettuce. Within three weeks (depending on the variety), you should have some greens that you can already begin munching on.
To harvest, use sharp, clean scissors and cut the lettuce while it’s still hydrated in the morning. Often by dinnertime, the lettuce has slightly wilted. For leafy greens, cut mid-sized outer leaves. Or, harvest the whole head.
Make sure to harvest everything before the lettuce flowers. Known as bolting, the lettuce will taste bitter after it flowers.
Lettuce tastes best eaten the same day it’s harvested. Wash the lettuce, then use a salad spinner. Keep the lettuce in the fridge right in the salad spinner. This keeps it the freshest.
Step 7: Succession Planting
By far, my favourite thing about lettuce is how easy it is to succession plant. You can have a constant supply of fresh greens if you do.
After you harvest some greens, sprinkle seeds where you harvested them. I do this about every 2-3 weeks. This way, you always have lettuce available when you need it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Lettuce in Containers
Lettuce grows very easily in pots. Look for a 3-gallon pot with drainage holes. Terracotta pots look beautiful and help to retain a little more moisture for shallow roots. Grow bags are also a great pot option.
Lettuce does best in full sun, though it tolerates partial shade. Lettuce likes a cool climate, so shelter it from high heat in the summer, especially the afternoon sun.
A container for lettuce should have a minimum depth of 10-12 inches. Lettuce has shallow roots, you can get away with shallow containers.
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