There are multiple answers to how to grow romaine lettuce. You can grow romaine lettuce in a farm, garden, raised beds, pots and other containers, vertical gardens indoor or outdoor, and hydroponic systems that do not require soil. The type or variety of lettuce also demands some conducive factors. Romaine lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate and it also has a relatively short growth cycle. There are quite a few varieties of romaine lettuce that grow in just sixty days. Thus, it is not a surprise why the vegetable is the most widely grown crop in the United States.
Phase One – Planting Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce grows best during springtime and fall. The crop thrives in cooler temperatures. The ideal range is sixty to seventy degrees. There are two essential factors to bear in mind before you plant lettuce. These are where and when you intend to plant it. If it is springtime or fall, then you can plant outside, in a garden or a farm. If it is summer, then you must opt for a site that has some shade. Lettuce does need sunlight but not scorching temperatures. If you are aiming for spring, then work out a schedule so the lettuce can be harvested just before the temperatures spike at the onset of summer. If you are going for a fall produce, then plant during the late summer weeks.
Choose a site that receives adequate sunlight. You can make arrangements for partial and temporary shades whenever necessary. The seeds germinate well when the soil temperature is over forty degrees but nowhere close to eighty degrees. If you are planting in soil, then it must be well drained and loose. Avoid clay soil. Use compost, manure and fertilizer to add nutrients to the soil. Nurturing and nourishing the soil helps, as the crop matures faster. Most varieties of romaine lettuce are crisper if the growth cycle is reduced by nourishing the soil at the outset. Make sure the pH of the soil is above 6.0. If the pH falls below that, then you will have a substandard yield.
The actual planting exercise is quite simple. Romaine lettuce seeds can be planted in soil, at around half an inch down to an inch deep. You can have multiple rows in your garden or farm. The space between rows depends on the variety you choose. The generic practice is to plant around ten seeds per foot. The rows should be at least a foot apart. You can opt for an eighteen inches gap between rows if you have sufficient space.
Romaine lettuce needs at least six inches space between two plants. You would be planting several seeds and some of the germinated sprouts will be discarded. They don’t need to go waste as the micro-greens and delicate and delicious. Some people grow the seeds indoors and then transplant them outdoors in a week or so. There is no need to complicate the planting and growing of romaine lettuce.
Phase Two – Growing Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is a green leafy vegetable. The priority is foliage, and not roots. The plant itself does not develop very deep roots, nor is it necessary. Hence, there is no need to water the crop extensively. Light watering is necessary. The frequency is more important than the quantity. Foliage thrives when leaves and shoots are not allowed to get too dry during the daytime. Be consistent with your watering routine. As long as the soil is a tad moist, and not dry, you should have a good produce. Don’t use excessive water ever, as the roots will rot, the risk of disease would increase vastly and the growth of the lettuce will be stunted.
One of the most important aspects of growing romaine lettuce is preventing disease and keeping pests at bay. Aphids can destroy your produce. The insects also cause mold. Lack of water and nutrition will lead to curled and wilted leaves. You must also watch out for caterpillars, slugs and snails. They like to feed on growing lettuce. Instead of using a generic insecticide, as one specifically for aphid is not available, you can opt for organic solutions, such as neem oil, horticultural soap and lady beetles. The latter is a predator for these tiny insects and pests. You can also use clever traps and baits.
Phase Three – Harvesting Romaine Lettuce
The shortest growth cycle of lettuce is thirty days. The longest is around eighty days from planting. However, romaine lettuce takes longer than other varieties. There is no romaine lettuce variety that grows and is fully mature for harvest within thirty days. The minimum time needed for romaine lettuce to be ready for harvest is around sixty days. Some varieties take eighty days. It is very easy to figure out when the crop is ready to be harvested, unlike roots or tubers that mature and ripen underground. The physical act of harvesting, or picking, romaine lettuce is also very simple. You can harvest or pick the leaves. You can also cut and pick up the whole bundle from the ground.
Most people agree that harvesting romaine lettuce in the morning is the best option. You do not need to harvest the entire produce at once. Pick those that have seemingly matured. Leave the rest for a day or longer. Many people opt for sequential planting so they can have a harvest cycle almost every week, or a more frequent schedule.
Mature or ripe romaine lettuce is tall. The leaves are thick and in tight bundles. The height can be as much as twenty inches. All the planting, growing and harvesting techniques remain the same for both green and red romaine lettuce. If you are wondering about varieties, then consider Green Towers, Red Eyes Cos or Valley Heart. You can also consider Coastal Star, Jericho or Sparx. There are several other varieties. You can also choose to grow organic romaine lettuce. Most varieties of romaine lettuce are more tolerant of slightly warmer temperatures and sustained exposure to the summer sun. However, it is still vulnerable to bolting. Like all other lettuces, romaine varieties grow best in cooler settings.