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Growing Lettuce

How to grow lettuce in pots, containers, growbags, garden beds and allotments



Family/Latin Name

Asteraceae - Lactuca sativa

Type of Plant

Leaf - Crop Rotation Group = Others

Suitable for

Garden Beds, Containers, Pots, Growbags, Allotments

Pests & Diseases    Companion Plants    In the Kitchen

See also:-  Vegetable Growing Glossary  |    Container Growing  | Buying Seeds & Plants


Below are just general guidelines as there are too many types and varieties to list them all here. You are advised to refer to growing guides on seed packets for specialist lettuce.

Plant Dimensions

Height Up to 30cm/12" depending on variety
Spread 30cm/12" depending on variety

Yield per 1.5cm/5ft row Up to 10 lettuce

Time between sowing and harvesting

6-14  weeks Depending on Variety

Types include Loose Leaf, Long (e.g. cos, romaine) , iceberg,  butterhead (cabbage types)

Where to Sow


Outdoors -  in open ground, growbags or containers


Sowing time

Late March to September  - temperature   +10C/50F. 


How to Sow

12mm/½-inch deep - very thinly -  in rows 30cm/12" apart or in groups/blocks or in containers. Successive sowing is recommended to prevent a glut. Sow a few seeds every 2 weeks.


After Germination

Start thinning seedlings when the 1st true pair of leaves appear. Protect from slugs. Keep the soil moist but not very wet.


Growing on -   in Pots

Gradually thin to final spacing depending on variety grown (between 7.5cm/3 inches for loose leaf varieties - good for growing in smaller pots or troughs - up to 30cm/12" apart for whole round/cos varieties). Allow 4-5 lettuce per growbag.

Growing on -  in open ground

As above


Keep the soil moist with regular watering, preferably before mid afternoon. Continue to protect from slugs


Cut whole heads once the hearts have firmed up.  With loose leaf and baby leaf varieties, cut a few leaves from the outsides of each plant at any once time. These crop over 16-20 weeks.

Pests and Diseases

Companion Plants

Downy Mildew
Indications Yellow patches on leaves with a greyish mould underneath
Treatment Organic
Remove the infected leaves and apply an organic copper spray/dust to diseased and surrounding plants every 7-10 day
 Remove the infected leaves and spray with Dithane at first sign of attack
Prevention  Avoid damp or humid sites and overcrowding. Practice crop rotation.
Mosaic Virus  and Aphids
Indications Leaves puckered with pale or yellow mottling
Treatment None - destroy all infected plants
Prevention Organic
This virus is carried by greenfly. Spray young plants with a weak solution of soapy water as soon as you see aphids.
Use water through a hosepipe to knock the aphids off the plants
Spray with an insecticide containing Dimethoate  or Pyrethrum
Indications Young leaves are eaten - sometimes completely missing
Treatment Organic
1. Sink small pots filled with beer to ground level. Empty daily
2. Sprinkle slugs with table salt
Use slug pellets
Prevention  Avoid damp or humid sites
Indications Roots and stems gnawed - sometimes cut all the way through
Treatment Organic
Hoe the soil around the plants and destroy the caterpillars which are brought to the surface.
Spray with  Malathion at first sign of attack
Prevention Practice crop rotation.

 Companion Flower Graphic

Carrot, Radish, Strawberry, Cucumber


If you know aphids are a problem in your area, grow flowers such as nasturtiums, calendula asters,  dahlias, and zinnias nearby but not too close, as aphids find them attractive so they act as a lure.



Create a bio-diverse environment by planting flowers nearby to attract bees, ladybirds and other "friendlies".


To learn more about companion planting click here.

In the Kitchen

Storage:  Refrigerate for up to 7 days 

Preparing:  Separate the leaves and wash well in cold water. Dry in a salad spinner or with kitchen paper towels.

Cooking Lettuce is most often eaten raw and can be added to many types of salads. However, they can be cooked - particularly the firmer types such as cos, whose sturdier stem will keep the leaves in tact.


As lettuce generally has a mild somewhat bland flavour, making a well seasoned dressing - either oil based or mayonnaise based - to serve with it is a good idea.


Larger leaves are also suitable to use as wraps for other ingredients.

For more preparation and cooking information about lettuce plus lots of  recipes visit our sister site www.recipes4us.co.uk.

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