Family: Asteraceae   Genus and Species: Lactuca sativa


Lettuce is easy to grow. There are many varieties available in seed. Selections are much more limited if you want to grow from nursery seedling starts. Lettuce grows best in partial to full shade. Shade cloths with 60% protection or more can be purchased to provide extra shade from our intense sun.

Lettuce thrives in cool weather, growing best in temperatures ranging from 55°-65°. The optimum pH is 6.5 to 6.8. Head lettuce is most successful if grown as a fall crop, due to its sensitivity to both hot and freezing temperatures (stunting growth).

Leaf lettuce is more versatile and some varieties are more heat


tolerant than others. Lettuce that bolts (prematurely develops flowering tops) will be tough and bitter. Jericho was bred in the hot desert of Israel to withstand hot summer temperatures without bolting. Jericho has successfully produced a sweet and crisp crop in Sacramento’s heat. Lettuce seeds store for 3 years under good conditions.

Lettuce can be grown all year round in Sacramento when choosing a variety compatible with the particular season. Lettuce grows well in a moderately rich soil amended with compost. Sow seed indoors 6-8 weeks before planting out seedlings. Plant seedlings 8-10 inches apart to allow enough space for good air circulation.

For direct seeding, sow 2 seeds per inch 1/8” deep by covering with compost. Keep soil moist and cover from sun. Thin seedlings to 8-10 inches apart anytime after they have four true leaves. Use thinnings in salads. Seed germinates in soil temperatures between 50-80°F, in 2-15 days, depending on variety. During Sacramento’s hot summer temperatures or during a freeze, seeds can be started inside to provide a continuous harvest.

Lettuce grows best with moderate water. Amend soil with compost with each new planting. Mulch to maintain constant moisture and deter weeds.

Lettuce matures in 45 to 70 days depending on the variety planted. Harvest the outer leaves from young plants and cut entire head when mature. Check for slugs and snails. Stale beer in saucers will attract them and they will drown. Late night slug and snail hunts after planting and during wet seasons can keep damage to a minimum.


Lettuce can be interplanted with other vegetables with like cultural requirements. It grows well with carrots, cucumbers, radishes and strawberries. When onions are harvested, pop a lettuce start in its spot during early fall or spring harvests.

Plant Notes - Lettuce 2007 - Sue Gage Jennings, Some Rights Reserved
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