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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Growing Romaine Lettuce


Growing Romaine Lettuce

If you're tired of the same old Iceberg lettuce you buy at the grocery store, try growing your own romaine, butterhead, or leaf lettuces. There are many colors, shapes, sizes, and textures of lettuce that you can easily grow so you will never have a boring salad again!

Why grow lettuce at all?

Growing lettuce is easy to do, it takes up little space and it's the perfect vegetable to grow on a deck or patio pot where it's handy at dinner time!

Not only that, but some lettuce varieties can be planted several times every season for a continual supply and some will give you more than one harvest.  So I guess my question would be, why wouldn't you want to grow your own lettuce?

Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is also known as Cos lettuce. It has long, broad, upright leaves that hold themselves bunched together as they mature. 

Romaine lettuce varieties are known for the hearts at the center of the heads. The leaves tend to be darker toward the outer portions of the head and have a more bitter taste.  The leaves on the inner portion of the head are paler and have a more sweet, delicate flavor.

In comparison to other types of lettuce, romaine is considered more heat tolerant and bolt resistant. It grows well in pots and is a popular choice for container and vertical gardening


Romaine lettuce is a very good source of dietary fiber, four minerals (manganese, potassium, copper, and iron), and three vitamins (biotin, vitamin B1, and vitamin C).

Romaine Lettuce Varieties

There are several varieties of Romaine lettuce you can choose from to grow. There are green and red varieties.

Here are some great recommendations.

Green Heirloom Varieties

Green romaine lettuce leaves offer a sweet, mild flavor and crunchy texture to your dishes, from a stunning salad to other great entrées. Their leaves are small to medium in size with an elongated shape and stiff, upright leaves.

Here are some great recommendations:

Little Gem Romaine Lettuce
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Jericho Romaine Lettuce
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Gaea Blessing Romaine Lettuce
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Red Heirloom Varieties

Red romaine is primarily red and green with tinges of red or speckled. Growing them in cooler weather really brings out the red color. Here are some recommended varieties.

Red Romaine Lettuce
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Rouge d'Hiver Romaine Lettuce
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Cimmaron Romaine Lettuce
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Growing Romaine Lettuce 

Days to Harvest:   70 to 75 days.

Seed Depth: 1/4" to 1/2". Needs light to germinate.

Days to Germination: 7-14 days.

Plant Spacing: Space romaine plants at least 12 inches apart. Giving romaine lettuce plenty of room to grow results in larger heads. This also improves air circulation which may reduce rotting.

Container Size: 6" deep

Optimum Growing Temperature: 45 - 80 degrees. Romaine lettuce grows better in sun than other lettuce varieties.

Sun: Select an outdoor lettuce planting area that gets partial shade and 4 to 6 hours of full sun per day. Romaine lettuce grows best between 45 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil: Plenty of compost will encourage fast growth.

Seeds will last up to three years if stored properly.


Consistent water for the best flavor.
Lack of moisture causes bitterness.


Since greens like lettuce are such a fast-growing crop, as long as they are grown in rich soil, there may be little need for further fertilization. 

If you're growing a lettuce variety that you can cut and harvest again, or a crop, like Crisphead, that takes a bit longer to mature, a half dose of a balanced water-soluble or granular fertilizer every two weeks will give them a boost that will carry them through the season.

Note:  Too much nitrogen in the fertilizer will make the leaves taste bitter.

Sowing Romaine Lettuce Seeds

Indoor Sowing for Spring

You can start Romaine lettuce seeds indoors two to three weeks before your average last frost date so you get a harvest before the plant bolts. 

 If you're not sure when that is for your area, check it here.

Transplant the seedlings out as soon as the ground can be worked.

Direct Sowing for a Fall Crop

Fall crops can be directly seeded into the garden during late summer so the plant reaches maturity when the fall air is cool.

Romaine lettuce can be planted every couple of weeks for a continuous supply throughout the growing season.

Winter Sowing

Another way to sow lettuce seeds is by the winter sowing method.  If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat. 

Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of a milk jug during the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter, and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in early Spring.

Read all about it here:  Winter Sowing 101.

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Harvesting Romaine Lettuce

A mature head of lettuce will be firm to the touch and 6 to 8 inches in diameter with leaves that begin to tighten.

An immature romaine head is loose and compresses easily, while an overly ripe head feels hard to the touch.

Romaine can also be harvested leaf by leaf to extend the harvest.

Storing Lettuce For Later Use

Store Romaine lettuce in a plastic bag in the fridge. Avoid storing it near the back of the fridge, where it is the coldest, in order to prevent frost damage.

To prolong freshness and crispness, you can also slice off the very bottom portion of a head, immerse the base in a bowl of water, and store in the fridge. Romaine lettuce will keep for five to seven days.

Saving Heirloom Varieties of Lettuce Seeds

Lettuce plants will eventually bolt and go to seed. Each lettuce plant makes many hundreds of seeds.

You just have to roll the little dried heads between your fingers and let the seeds fall into your other hand.  You can separate the seed from the chaff if you wish.  It’s best to save lettuce seeds on a dry day so the seeds are also dry.  Set out the seeds to dry thoroughly, then place the dried seed in a baggie or jar and store them in a cool, dry place.



No homesteading garden is complete without growing the foundation of your salad garden, lettuce!   So get some lettuce seeds and get growing.  You'll never have a boring salad again!


Where to go next:

More articles in this series:

Growing Leaf Lettuce

Growing Butterhead Lettuce

Growing Crisphead Lettuce like Iceberg

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