How to Grow Crispy Lettuce

Everyone wants to eat fresh, crispy leaves of lettuce. How can you grow lettuce that is crispy?

Doesn’t it always seem like store-bought lettuce is crisper than the lettuce you grow at home? Why is this the case, and how can you make your plants more crunchy?

I’ll tell you exactly how to harvest less limp, crispier lettuce in this article.

Grow the Right Variety

Romaine and iceberg lettuce will always be crisper than spring mixes and leaf lettuce. If crispness is important to you, choose naturally crisp lettuce varieties. If you want to harvest crispy lettuce straight from your garden, consider planting loose leaf varieties like ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ and ‘Batavian’ or ‘Summertime’ head lettuce. 

fresh green lettuce ready to harvest

Plant in the Correct Spot

Lettuce thrives in warm but not too warm, sunny conditions. In most regions, lettuce is planted as a spring or fall crop. It needs warm soil but not hot air temperatures. In the spring, look for that sunny spot where the snow melts first. 

Lettuce seed needs a soil temperature of at least 70ºF to germinate. Garden areas with plenty of sun in the early spring will heat up the fastest and may be an excellent place to grow lettuce.

Spacing between plants depends on the type of lettuce you are planting. Leaf lettuce can be planted 4 inches apart, but head lettuce like iceberg or Summertime needs a square foot. 

They are an excellent crop for filling open spots between other spring-planted crops that are slower growing. Because the entire plant is harvested at once, you may be able to plant something else in the spot after you harvest the lettuce.

lettuce plant growing in farm

Harvest in the Morning

Morning is ideal for picking lettuce. Try harvesting early in the day to avoid the sun beating down on the crops for an extended time. The leaves will be vibrant and crisp in the cooler morning temperatures. If you collect your lettuce later in the day, it may be limp and wilted from sun exposure.

Soak in Cold Water

After washing and sorting the leaves, soak them in a sink of cold water for about 20 minutes. After that, gently shake the leaves in a salad spinner to remove any excess water. 

The water in the lettuce will eventually evaporate, which is why this trick works. When the pressure within the cells drops, the leaves shrink and wilt. Submerging the leaves in cold water allows the water to diffuse back into the cells, giving the leaves a crisper texture.

washing lettuce in a big bowl

Proper Storage of Harvested Leaves

Extra moisture must be removed to keep the lettuce fresh. As previously stated, you can air dry or use a salad spinner. Lettuce can be stored in both reusable and plastic baggies. Avoid stuffing the bag too much, and use a paper towel to absorb moisture.

Consider how much lettuce you can eat and when you want to harvest the plants before planting. You can avoid having too many lettuce plants mature simultaneously by sowing a few seeds every one to two weeks.

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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