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Leafy, green, fresh, and perfect for salads- is there a better way to describe this healthy vegetable that continues to grace our kitchens?
It works for almost every dish, including sandwiches and soups. Even people who can hardly stand vegetables agree that lettuce is a great meal choice.
If you want to get an even better taste out of this vegetable and convince your kids that veggies are tasty, you should grow it at home.
Here’s a secret- you can grow lettuce throughout the year. The trick is perfecting its ideal growing conditions, starting with the sun. Let’s show you how you can do this:
How Much Sun Does Lettuce Need?
You have probably seen or heard of someone who spent a great deal of time gardening only to harvest nothing.
The sun can be problematic if you are not aware of how many hours of sunlight your plants should get. So, how much sun should your lettuce get?
First, you need to know the variety of lettuce you have in your garden. The options include:
Most lettuce varieties are short-day plants such that they need ten to twelve hours of sun light a day. However, this can vary if grown in full sun.
Your lettuce will be okay even with six hours of direct sunlight a day if the lettuce is in moisture retentive soil. So, if you cannot give it ten to twelve, you should still be within the acceptable range with at least six hours.
Secondly, there is no specific time that the lettuce should get direct sunlight. Some yards get full sun in the morning, while others get it in the afternoon.
You don’t need to move your yard to get the sun at a particular hour. Just make sure the plant gets six hours or more, and it should do well.
But fresh sunlight is always better. So, if you can position the plants to get sunlight in the morning, that would be the best option.
Can Lettuce Plants get Too Much Sun?
Is there such a thing as too much sun when it comes to your lettuce plants? Why, yes, there is! You will remember that we asked that you learn the lettuce variety in your garden.
Whatever variety you’re growing, you will realize that no lettuce likes hot weather. The more you keep it in the hot sun, the higher the risk of losing water.
You end up with a plant that has seeded and flowered faster than it should, resulting in bitter lettuce.
Nobody wants to eat such lettuce, so it would be a waste of all your hard work. You may have even heard of this process- bolting.
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How to Protect Lettuce from Excess Sunlight
Bolted lettuce grows tall and skinny and will not produce the big leafy lettuce you have come to know and love. Besides, it’s also bitter, making it unsuitable for most lettuce uses.
Unfortunately, you cannot reverse this process, so once it starts, that’s the endgame. You are better off preventing it from occurring in the first place by:
Planting Early in the Season
Lettuce grows better when planted early in the season. It can start germinating at temperatures as low as 4°C, so you don’t need to wait for the sun to start gardening.
When the weather starts to average 16° to 18° C, the lettuce will almost be ready for harvesting.
Choosing Hardy Varieties
Some lettuce varieties are more tolerant of heat and sunshine than others. So, if you live in a hot and dry climate, you are better off choosing the more resistant options.
Examples include Bibb Buttercrunch, Summer Bibb Blend, and Green Salad Bowl.
Using Shade Covers
When the weather starts averaging 16° to 18° C, the lettuce will be at risk of bolting. So, you will need to think of ways to protect the leaves from excess direct sunlight. How? – by using shade covers.
These act as a barrier between the lettuce and excess heat and sunlight in the summer.
Rather than have a greenhouse effect, they allow air and water entry, ensuring that the temperatures underneath are cool. Choose covers that provide about 30% to 50% shade.
Utilizing Natural Shade
If your garden has some trees or other tall plants growing in it, you can use their shade to protect the lettuce. Plant your lettuce such that it receives partial shade from the plant covers.
It’s all about setting the plant in relation to the direction of light throughout the day. For example, you could shade it from the hot afternoon sun and ensure it gets enough of the morning rays.
This barrier will not protect the lettuce but the soil. By ensuring that the soil does not lose too much moisture, you can reduce the time spent watering the plant. It also offers some form of protection against bolting.
Does Lettuce Grow Well in Shade?
Like we earlier stated, lettuce does well with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. But does that mean it cannot survive on less than this?
Not quite- lettuce can grow well in a partially shaded environment too. However, it must get sufficient light to germinate.
So, you can grow the lettuce in light then transplant it to partial shade once it is past the germination stage. Here’s a tip- sow the lettuce in spring, where the sun tends to be more forgiving.
Then, by the time summer comes along, transplant the lettuce or use the earlier discussed bolting prevention methods.
So, how much shade can lettuce tolerate? Shade comes in two forms. One is full shade, where the plant gets two to four hours of direct sunlight a day.
That would not be ideal for lettuce. The other option is partial shade, where the plant gets four to six hours of direct sunlight. You can rely on such conditions to help you grow healthy lettuce.
How Much light does Lettuce Need to Grow Indoors?
You might want to take a step further in protecting your lettuce by growing it indoors. The good news is that it’s possible.
However, you should note that indoor growing is best for leaf lettuce. Head-forming varieties are best left in the garden where they can thrive.
Lettuce will require as much light as it would when growing outdoors. So, you must locate it in a space that gets as many as six hours of daylight per day.
You can move the container around to account for the changes in sun position. That enables you to have more control over the situation.
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How Long Does it take for Lettuce to Grow?
When can you start enjoying the fruits of your labor? Will it be months of hard work before you can do so? We have good news for you!
It only takes two to three weeks! All you need to do is wait for the lettuce to germinate. After this, you can have people over for a salad in as few as two to three weeks.
With loose-leaf varieties, you can harvest the leaves quite several times before they start bolting. You should have about three to four more weeks of harvesting before these varieties reach their full heights.
So, it’s a pretty fast process that allows you to sow more lettuce in no time. As long as you understand the basic care requirements for lettuce, you should enjoy many harvests in a year.
How Much Water does Lettuce Need?
Let’s start with the fact that almost all lettuce varieties have shallow root systems. That means that if you overwater them, the roots drown, and all your hard work goes down the drain. So, how should you water your lettuce?
We recommend that you should only do so twice a week. Of course, this depends on many factors, including the climate conditions where you live and the maturity of the plant.
To add to this schedule and tweak it as needed, you should check if the plant needs watering as follows:
- Feel the top of the soil. If it feels moist, then you should not water the plant.
- Note the status of the leaves. If they appear wilted, the plant needs water.
- If the soil feels dry to the touch, dig your finger two to three inches below the soil level. If the ground feels dry, the plant needs water.
Once you can confirm that the plant needs water, sprinkle enough water to moisten the top six inches of the soil.
For younger plants, use smaller portions of water at more frequent intervals. But with mature plants, deep watering twice a week should be enough.
Before you go, here are some more related articles I encourage you to read below to help solve more of your gardening issues:
Growing healthy lettuce will have you enjoying veggies rich in dietary fiber and water. Plus, it is also rich in vitamins.
All you need to do is ensure it gets enough sunlight while protecting it from too much heat and sun.
It takes a while to master this balance, but the effort will be worth it once you do. So, are you ready to plant your next batch of lettuce? Happy Gardening!