Lettuce is widely grown and used vegetable worldwide. It belongs to the daisy family, Asteraceae. Plant lettuce is appreciated by a farmer for its carefree nature for the growth and its medicinal significance.
It was first domesticated in ancient Egypt and was considered a sacred plant. It is a valued crop that provides succulent edible leaves and bestows us with oil-rich seeds to produce oil. In Asia, lettuce is commonly found in green colour with long taproots, but colourful leaves of lettuce like red, yellow, gold, and blue teal are frequently consumed in other regions. The wide range of varieties allows farmers and consumers to enjoy the benefits of the plant.
Lettuce plant likes to grow in cold temperatures but not freezing weather that usually results in slow or stunted growth. The ideal time to sow the lettuce seeds in mid-summer or fall-spring to be harvested during the chilly days of autumn, winter, or early spring. The different lettuce varieties, such as bolt-resistant and heat-tolerant varieties, offer farmers to harvest lettuce in warm weather.
The right choice of soil brings you closer to the successful growth of the crops. Lettuce raises better in loose and well-drained soil with a pH value of 6.0-6.8. The adaptable nature of lettuce permits the indoor plantation or direct sowing in the garden. The seedlings generally emerge in 7-10 days and when they grow to 4 inches tall can be transplanted outdoor. The seedlings might endure mild frost, but the soil’s ideal temperature for the plant’s smooth development is 40°F. The germination begins at a temperature of 55 to 65°F.
It is suggested to prepare a planting bed a week before the transplantation or plantation. Apply compost mixture rich in organic matter and nitrogen to fertile the soil. The adequate amount of water every day boosts the development of the plant.
Sow the seeds ½ -1-inch-deep in the ground and space rows 12-14 inches apart in wide rows. Dust sieved compost mixture over the roots and thinned the seedlings to avoid bolt.
The lettuce is a highly productive crop, and the plant’s good care plays an optimum role in the growth. After transplantation, feed the plant with the fertilizer enriched with organic matter and balanced nitrogen flow. Regular weeding and watering are essential for the healthy development of the plant. Keep the soil moist but avoid a soggy state that can cause the bolt. Mulch with straws and side-dress plants to conserve the moisture. Thin the seedlings to prevent overcrowding and to improve air circulation.
To protect the plant from the seizure of the cutworms, use protective collars and spray of pesticides to avoid the attack of maggots and aphids that can destroy the crop. The area fully brightened with sunshine or lightly shaded areas during the whole process is recommended to prevent mishap to the plant. Provide shelter to the plant during harsh weather.
Harvesting time varies for different lettuce kinds. The loose leaves can be harvested before the plant reaches its maturity and when the leaves form entirely. Lettuce loses its taste and turns bitter if picked after full maturity. Lettuce mature before the weather gets too warm, but if a bolt forms the flower stalk, the leaves will taste bitter. Lettuce takes 60-80 days or 2-3 months to mature depending on the variety of vegetables.
Pinch or cut the leaves from the edge of the central plant so that it keeps reproducing. Leave the smaller one and harvest it after 2-3 weeks later. It is ideal for gathering the leaves before the sun exposure to enjoy the sweet and crisp flavour.
Lettuce is a vegetable that cannot be preserved for a long time. No preservation technique, either freezing or refrigeration, can help in the conservation of the lettuce leaves. The lettuce is high water content that slows down the process of preservation. It is suggested to consume it fresh or store it in a plastic bag for two to three days. Do not store lettuce with fruits ripen with an agent to avoid the decay of the leaves.
- Feed the plant with compost tea mixture after every two weeks.
- Heat is usually not a good factor for the growth of lettuce and evokes bolt; thus, the flower produces.
- Mulch the soil to avoid crack and dry soil.
- Keep the shallow roots intensely moist but avoid waterlogging.
- The maintenance of temperature, i.e., 45°F-60°F(7°C-15°C) or thereabouts, boost the growth of the plant.
- Plant lettuce with eggplants, broccoli that grows taller to provide shade during the hotter days.
- Rotate the crop cultivation every year.
- Harvest it before full maturity to avoid the bitter taste.
Lettuce is a quickly grown vegetable, and novice gardeners are comfortable with the vegetable because its pests and diseases free nature, but still need to be watchful. It is prone to some diseases and pests that can cause significant harm to the plant.
The common fungal diseases of lettuce that cause massive harm to the plant are downy mildew, leaf spot, and bottom. The loss can be without by preventing the plant from waterlogging.
Lettuce is pests’ free plant, but cutworms, aphids, and rabbits often turn out as a threat to the plant. Using collars and fences around the plant remains useful for the plant.
Types of Lettuce
Loose-leaf lettuce Loose-leaf lettuces are the flavorful kind and the simplest one to grow. It can be picked between 40-50 days and can be used to reproduce more leaves to harvest in the future.
Butterhead lettuce is famous for its velvety texture and buttery taste. The loose round head takes 75-80 days to mature, but like loose-leaf head can be harvested before its maturity.
Romaine lettuce is easy to grow and provides a crispy texture with a mild and sweet flavour. It is a heat-resistant variety that takes 80-85 days to mature.
Crisphead or Iceberg lettuce is often confused with cabbage due to its firm head and overlapped leaves. It is crisp in texture and takes 80-90 days to form the head.
Like other leafy vegetables, lettuces are a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and other nutrients that make it an essential part of our healthy diet. Lettuce can be used raw in salads, and due to its highly significant impact on our health, it is now used in soups, sandwiches, and wraps to add the flavour in the cuisine. It is ideally preferred vegetable for weight loss.
Lettuces are the right companion plant to smother the weeds for onions and carrots. Similarly, the daily intake of the vegetable calms and helps to reduce stress.