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How Many Times Can You Harvest Lettuce? There is nothing better than going out to the garden to pick fresh lettuce but, many gardeners sometimes find it difficult to maintain a constant supply. This is because there is either too much lettuce in the garden or not enough, however, it is possible to pick year lettuce year-round if you know how to plan, pick and select the right type of lettuce.
Lettuce can be harvested up to 6 to 8 times provided that the picking of the leaves is done in an ideal manner and the plant does not bolt. The pickings can be done approximately a week apart in these circumstances which means that a crop of lettuce can last up to 6 to 8 weeks in the right conditions.
To ensure that you have an ongoing supply lettuce needs to be sown 4 to 6 weeks apart throughout the year. The easiest way to keep on top of this schedule is to simply plant a new lot of seed each time the previous seed tray is ready to plant out in the garden.
By following this method you will find that the frequency between sowings in summer will be higher due to the increased growth rate. This is not necessarily a problem as hotter weather reduces the usable life of the lettuce as it has a greater tendency to bolt.
To extend the life of the lettuce in summer it is advisable to plant at least some of the lettuce in shade or part shade to reduce the chances of bolting. However, if the lettuce does bolt be ruthless and remove it from the garden straight away.
Selecting Varieties Of Lettuce
The second key to creating an ongoing supply of lettuce is selecting suitable varieties that don’t form a head but rather are loose-leaf varieties also known as cut and come again. Loose-leaf varieties allow individual leaves to be harvested rather than harvesting the whole head. This allows the harvest to be spread over an extended period which is ideal for the home gardener.
While it is possible to select individual varieties I find that it is better to select seed blends of lettuce that contain a variety of different species. This allows you to create that mixed salad similar to what can be purchased in a small space. However, you may have to do a little trial and error as some seed mixes are better than others.
How To Pick Lettuce
The other significant factor that affects the frequency that you pick lettuce is the way that you pick the lettuce. There is a temptation when picking lettuce leaves to use scissors as it is quick and easy to grab the harvest and go. However, cutting the top off salad leaves increases the length of time that the leaves take to grow back reducing the frequency of the harvest.
The alternative method is hand pick the leaves from the outside of the plant. Removing the outer leaves enables the remaining inner leaves to continue to develop undisturbed. Due to the uninterrupted growth of these leaves the plant is able to produce another harvest in around a week. This allow regular and consistent harvest to be taken that can be stretched across 6 to 8 weeks as new leaves are being constantly produced from the center of the plant.
To see an excellent example of how a professional market gardener manages of lettuce crop from seed to picking watch the video below from Charles Dowding. He is a world renowned gardener that has 35 years experience in market gardens and has published several books. If you wish to only see how he picks his lettuce go to the last 5 minutes of the video.