How to Harvest Lettuce of All Types

how to harvest lettuce

Lettuce (also known as salad greens) is a leafy green vegetable consumed in sandwich fillings and salads. It is a microgreen vegetable with a good source of vitamin A and C. Growing lettuce is not a back-breaking process. Therefore, one can effortlessly fill their yard with this economical crispy leafy vegetable without hassle.

Moreover, for beginners, this vegetable is a great way to get started with gardening. Harvesting leaf lettuce is easy peasy, even for first-timers. The main thing that should be kept in mind is how and when to harvest the lettuce plant.

The lettuce plant is a cool weather crop that should be harvested when the temperatures are more relaxed. If it’s too hot during its harvesting, the lettuce seeds will wilt and not taste good. Additionally, the harvest timing is critical to ensure that the lettuce is at its best.

Harvesting lettuce is an integral part of the growing process as it allows you to determine when the lettuce is ready to be eaten. This simple process can be done by hand or machinery. Remember, at the time of harvest, try not to damage the plant.

There are leaf lettuce varieties, each with their own harvesting time and methods that must be applied to harvest them properly. So, you need to learn these basic techniques to help you harvest different lettuces at their best time.

Please go through this article, in which we have compiled some stress-free tips that will surely level up your skills in harvesting healthy lettuces in the preferred duration.

So, now without much ado, let’s get into the details.

When Should I Harvest Lettuce?

harvesting lettuce leaves

It is best to harvest leaf lettuce when its leaves are crisp and full-sized, 4 inches tall. But, If you wait too long to harvest, the leaves will become bitter, and the plant will bolt (go to seed).

You can notice that the lettuce plant is bolting when it starts to produce a flower stalk. Moreover, to extend the harvesting season, sow seeds every two weeks from early spring till mid-summer.

Lettuce is a cool weather crop, so it will not significantly do well in hot summer weather if the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you have to sow seeds in late summer for a fall crop in the warm climate.

How To Harvest Lettuce?

when do you harvest lettuce

To harvest lettuce, all you need is essential tools and little patience. Also, be sure to sanitize the tools properly before harvesting.

Initially, cut the lettuce leaves off the base of the plant with a sharp knife or pair of scissors, making sure to leave a bit of steam attached. Then carefully peel the outer leaves until you reach the tender inner leaves. Once done with this, slice and tear the leaves into pieces and add them to your fresh salad to enjoy its benefits.

If you want to store your lettuce for later use, wash it thoroughly before placing it in a plastic bag or container. Lettuce will keep well in the fridge for up to a week after harvest.

So feel free to reap as much as you need at once for salad. Just remember to enjoy it while it’s fresh for the best flavor.

Harvesting Lettuce By Type

There are two main types of lettuce: leaf lettuce and head lettuce.Lettuce microgreen, cos or romaine lettuce, and loose leaf lettuce are branches of the leaf lettuce. On the other hand, crisphead lettuce, butterhead lettuce, and stem lettucehave come under the banner of head lettuce. 

Leaf lettuce is more prevalent in home garden spaces, while head lettuce is more common in commercial production. Each type has its method of harvesting. Before planting lettuce, make sure to be well aware of its type and nature so you can free yourself from any uncertainty at the time of harvesting.

1. Lettuce Microgreens

when is lettuce ready to harvest

The process of harvesting lettuce microgreens is relatively easy. Lettuce microgreens are usually ready to harvest about 2-3 weeks after planting. You will know they are ready when the leaves are fully grown and the stems are about 4 inches tall.

To harvest, cut the stem ½ inches above the soil line using a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Be sure to leave some of the plants and leaves behind so the plant can continue to grow lettuce.

Once you have harvested your microgreens, you can store them in the fridge for later use. They will stay fresh for about a week.

2. Cos Lettuce

when is lettuce ready to harvest

The best time to harvest cos lettuce or romaine lettuce is between 7 to 9 weeks after they are planted, and make sure to harvest them in the morning. Its lettuce with crispy leaves must be harvested above the soil surface. Cos lettuce is ready to harvest when it reaches 6 to 8 inches with the heavy hard head and juicy leaves.

Furthermore, ensure to cut the leaves 1 inch above the soil, and if your plant is on the end of the road, you can cut deep down the entire lettuce plant during harvesting. After that, rinse the lettuce in cold water.

However, your cos lettuce leaves will stay fresh for seven days following harvest. So, make sure to enjoy this vegetable at its peak of freshness for the best taste and texture.

3. Loose Leaf Lettuce

how do you harvest lettuce

It’s easy to forget about your loose leaf lettuce once it’s planted because it has an extensive harvest window. Loose leaf varieties include; baby lettuce that requires 25 days to harvest completely and mature leaves lettuce that is deep green in color and harvested in 50-60 days.So, if you want to enjoy crisp loose leaf lettuce all season long, mark up the calendar before harvesting.

Loose leaf lettuce can be harvested several times in a season. You can start picking up the lettuce when they reach about 4 to 6 inches in length. Further, to reap lettuce, use sharp scissors to cut cleanly from the plants. Also, harvest 1 to 2 inches above the soil line.

Remember, loose-leaf lettuce can be harvested again in 2-3 weeks. For best results, it is recommended to re-sow its seeds in the soil to grow crisp, fresh-tasting young leaves promptly.

Further, don’t wait too long to harvest your lettuce again. Once it reaches 4 inches tall, harvest it appropriately; otherwise, there’s a chance that the leaves may start to yellow or wilt. Moreover, they won’t remain as crispy or tasty.

4. Crisphead Lettuce

how to know when lettuce is ready to harvest

Crisphead lettuce or iceberg lettuce is a type of lettuce that is typically harvested a single time when it is fully mature. This lettuce is not ideal for multiple harvests. This means that the leaves should be crisp, and the head will be reasonably large when harvesting. Depending on the variety, crisphead or iceberg lettuce can take anywhere from 45 to 80 days to mature.

To harvest iceberg lettuce, start by cutting the stalk about 2 inches above the soil line. Then cut or tear the outer leaves off of the stalk. Crisphead lettuce is difficult to harvest due to its thick stems, so be careful not to damage the plant during harvesting.

Once all the leaves are removed, you can either discard the whole plant or replant it in another location. Also, harvest icebergs immediately when your surrounding weather turns hot. By doing so, you can protect lettuce from bolting.

5. Butterhead Lettuce

how to harvest red leaf lettuce

Butterhead lettuce is famous for its buttery taste and luscious texture. When harvesting butterhead lettuce, focus on the weather and the size of the head. Hot weather will cause the lettuce to bolt or seed, so it is best to harvest in the cooler months.

Its heads should be about 6-8 inches in diameter. If they are much larger, they may be harsh and bitter. Smaller heads may not have had a chance to develop taste.

Butterhead lettuce is ready to harvest within the time limit of 45 to 75 days after its plantation with 7-14 inches in height, pretty outer leaves, and cup shape. Further, if the weather’s too hot, you may need to harvest sooner to prevent bolting.

For harvesting head lettuce, use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut the head of lettuce at the base, and it’s helpful to have a bucket or bag to carry the lettuce in. Be sure to leave some of the stems so the vegetable can regrow. Butterhead leaves can be preserved for a few days but are best eaten fresh.

6. Stem Lettuce

how to pick lettuce from the garden

Stem lettuce, celtuce lettuce, or asparagus lettuce, whatever you want to name it, is more valued than other lettuce because of its stem. Stem lettuce is relatively easy to grow and care for and can be harvested in less time.

Choose a location with direct sunlight and well-draining soil to grow this lettuce. Once you have found the perfect spot, you can sow the seeds directly in the ground for about six weeks. After that, when the plant is ready to harvest, cut the seed stalk about ¼ inches above the soil at the base and be careful not to harm the plant.

However, this vegetable can reap only when it reaches 8-14 inches. Further, celtuce lettuce can be harvested multiple times in its growing season. So you can enjoy your homegrown stem lettuce anytime!

Will Lettuce Regrow After Cutting?

Yes, lettuce will regrow after cutting. This is because when you cut lettuce, only the leaves are removed. Therefore, the roots and stem remain intact, allowing the plant to regrow new leaves. However, it is essential to note that not all lettuce varieties will regrow equally well. Some varieties may produce fewer leaves or take longer to regrow.

So, if you want a never-ending supply of fresh lettuce, it is worth researching to find a variety that will regrow well for you. Thus, to several landscapers, cos lettuce, celtuce or stem lettuce, and butterhead lettuce are suitable lettuces that will regrow in less time with a plentiful supply. Yet, other lettuces on the list may disappoint you with the results.

How Many Times Can You Harvest Lettuce?

harvesting leaf lettuce

You can harvest lettuce around 4 to 5 times before the plant starts to wither. After that, you will need to replant in order to keep a continuous harvest.

When Lettuce Bolts

Lettuce is a cool season crop, and one of the first signs that summer heat is on its way is when the lettuce starts to bolt. Bolting occurs when a plant produces a flower stalk in an effort to produce seeds. The result is tough, bitter lettuce leaves that are not good for consumption.

Further, if your lettuce has already started to bolt, there is not much you can do. You can cut off the flower stalk, which may cause the entire plant to put its energy into producing new leaves. However, it’s probably best to harvest only when you can start fresh with a new crop of lettuce.

How Do I Stop My Lettuce From Bolting?

If you are trying to keep your lettuce safe from bolting, it is recommended to follow these steps that will help you prevent it from bolting.

  • Make sure to plant the correct type of lettuce for your climate. Some lettuce is more resistant to bolting than others.
  • Water regularly and fertilize accordingly. Lettuces that are stressed are more likely to bolt.
  • Use mulch to conserve the moisture of lettuce soil.
  • Prefer to grow leaf lettuce in a shady spot to avert excess sunlight. Also, try to use a row cover or shade cloth over the lettuce plants to protect them from the hot sun. 
  • Plant a heat-resistant variety of lettuce in areas with hot weather. Don’t forget butterhead lettuce is the most heat-resistant and bolt-proof among other lettuces. 

With a bit of vigilance, you can relish homegrown leafy greens and fresh salads all year round.

Final Thoughts

Harvesting lettuce is something anyone can do, and it’s also found suitable to get started in gardening. But remember, if there are hot weather conditions outside and you want to plant lettuce, try planting it indoors instead.

Finally, you should know the right time for harvesting lettuce. Then, do follow the detailed steps outlined in this article to receive desired outcomes. 

Now that you have learned how to harvest lettuce make sure to try it soon! 

And, if you have any questions about the process or want some advice about the type of lettuce that is best for your climate, feel free to leave a comment below. We love hearing from our readers and helping them to grow their own delicious produce.

May you enjoy your scrumptious salad bowl soon from your own harvested lettuce!

Thanks for reading!

Johan Perez
Having worked in the industry for many years, Johan is a licensed agriculturalist. Additionally, he has written for a number of agricultural periodicals, offering readers professional guidance on all matters pertaining to farming. Johan likes going on adventures and being outside in his free time.

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