For beginner and experienced gardeners alike, lettuce is one of the best vegetables to grow. It’s cheap, easy, and offers some of the best crunch to your sandwiches and salads. But sometimes, when it comes to harvesting, you’re not sure what the best practices are! Here’s how to cut lettuce from a garden properly.
Lettuce is one of the most affordable vegetables to grow and one that’s practically guaranteed a spot in my garden each year.
Trust me, there’s nothing like homegrown fresh leafy greens!
Jump ahead to…
- Expert Tips: How to Cut Lettuce From a Garden
- How to Cut Head Lettuce
- Harvesting Cut-and-Come-Again Lettuce
- Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Lettuce
- More Posts About Growing Lettuce
Expert Tips: How to Cut Lettuce From a Garden
No matter the type, here are some master gardener tips when it comes to cutting garden lettuce.
- Cut the lettuce in the morning. This is when the plant retains the most moisture.
- Use clean, sharp scissors or a knife to avoid damaging the remaining plant.
- Always harvest before the lettuce starts bolting (flowering). After it bolts, the leaves will turn bitter.
- Never yank the lettuce out of the ground. Always cut.
- Rinse your lettuce with cold water after cutting. Use a vegetable wash if you’re concerned about what’s on your lettuce (such as a neighbour’s pesticides).
- Lettuce leaves will taste best fresh. But to store them, keep the lettuce in the fridge. After washing, I leave mine in the salad spinner as it stays fresh longer rather than in a plastic container.
How to Cut Head Lettuce
Head lettuce is the simplest lettuce to cut. You just need to know when it’s right to do so! The maturity date will depend on the variety. Your seed packet should say how long it takes until it’s ready to harvest to give you some indication.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to harvest when the lettuce is still firm. Take a sharp knife and carefully cut the whole head of lettuce off. You’ll want to cut the head of the lettuce at the stem.
Harvesting Cut-and-Come-Again Lettuce
Cut-and-come-again lettuce typically comprises your leafy greens. You only harvest some of the leaves rather than the whole head at once, so you have a never-ending supply of the greens. This makes it one of the most worthwhile and cheapest vegetables to grow.
Take a pair of sharp scissors and start with the outermost leaves. The outer leaves are the oldest; if you leave the rosette in the center, it will continue growing. Cut the outer leaves at the base when they’re mid-size.
This lettuce will last you a while, but eventually, you will need to harvest all of it. Sprinkle new lettuce seeds on top of the soil where you harvested them. Using an umbrella greenhouse can help the seeds grow more quickly.
Harvesting lettuce this way also prevents the plant from bolting. You’re forcing the energy to go towards growing the leaves again rather than flowering.
Just know that it takes a lot of energy for the leaf to make these new leaves, so make sure you have fertile soil (like adding compost) to keep it energized.
Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Lettuce
It’s always a good idea to cut lettuce rather than pull it. This ensures you don’t cause any damage to the plant if it’s still growing or disrupt the soil or roots of plants nearby.
For a head of lettuce, cut at the base just below the head. This should give you a pretty round shape for your lettuce.
For leafy greens, cut at the base of the leaf without cutting the stem of the whole plant.
You can only harvest a head of lettuce once. The remaining part of the plant will die back. As for cut-and-come-again lettuce, you can harvest it about 3-5 times before harvesting the whole thing. You’ll know it’s reaching the end when it tries to bolt (flower) or begins to lose flavour. Then it’s your signal to plant some more replacement seeds.