Lettuce is one of the easier crops to grow, and can easily be started from seeds. Lettuce seeds are very small therefore you have to be careful when you break open the seed package. Sometimes the outer seed packer will then have a small inner seed package, as the seeds would get lost in the larger display package that you might find in stores. Lettuce seeds can either be sown indoors or you can plants the seeds outdoors directly in the garden soil. By planting the seeds indoors you will have a head start as you can plant the seeds when it is still too cold to sow them directly in the garden outside.
If you do plant the seeds indoors then you should plant them in trays that have individual compartments, and use a soilless grow mix. You should sow a few seeds into each compartment, just in case all the seeds don’t germinate. Lettuce seeds don’t have to be placed deep under the surface, so just press the seeds slightly below the soil. Make sure you keep the soil moist, but not overly saturated. The seeds will germinate in a few days, and don’t need light until they germinate. Once they do germinate you will need to provide at least 12 hours a day of light. This can be accomplished with a grow light. If you choose to use the sunlight of a window sill be warned that you must keep rotating the tray as the seedlings will angle towards the light. If you don’t rotate the plants they will grow to one side and look deformed.
After the seedlings are almost two inches tall you should thin them out and select only the strongest one per compartment. It may be wise to cut the seedlings with scissors, as pulling them out of the soil may disturb the other healthy plant. Once the weather has warmed enough and the danger of frost has passed you must harden your seedlings off before planting them in the garden. Make sure you don’t leave them out overnight right away, or they may all suffer. Start by leaving them outside for a few hours the first day, then gradually increase the time each successive day. Finally after about a week you can then leave them out overnight, only if you are not expecting dramatically cold temperatures. After the seedlings have acclimated you can then plant them in the garden.
If you choose to plant your lettuce outdoors make sure the danger of frost has past. While it is true that lettuce likes cooler weather, it will still die if a frost occurs at night. You can try to prevent this by putting a garden cloth over your crop if you feel the temperatures will be especially cool one night. However this can only help by a few degrees, and can’t safeguard against a hard frost. Lettuce seeds should be planted in rows, in light soft soil. Make sure the seeds are spaced according to the seed manufacturers instructions, as overcrowding is a bad idea. Many people like to buy lettuce in seed tapes, as this will automatically space the small seeds according to the seed vendor’s specifications. Generally you should leave about a foot of space between subsequent lettuce rows. As with planting the seeds indoors, if you choose to plant the seeds directly in the soil they seedlings should be thinned when they are about two inches high. Depending upon the variety of lettuce you choose to grow it will be ready anywhere from six to fifteen weeks after you sow your seeds in the ground.