How to Grow Iceberg Head Lettuce
No doubt about it. Iceberg lettuce is the king. Iceberg is a head lettuce,
the one that's by far the most popular in the kitchen, and in stores. Iceberg
lettuce has a tightly formed head of crisp, sweetly blanched leaves. Leaves
on the outside are green, giving way to blanched pale yellow to whitish center
leaves The sweetest leaves are in the center. Growing to about a foot in
diameter, iceberg lettuce is a staple in the kitchen for salads, on sandwiches,
shredded in snacks, as a garnish, and an essential ingredient in countless
Iceberg lettuce is a cool weather crop that requires a long growing
season. In many areas, it begins to mature just as warm weather hits. The
result can be splitting bolting, or rotting of heads. We recommend an early,
indoor start in the spring.
Days to Maturity:
This cool weather crop needs 80-90 days to reach maturity.
How to Grow Iceberg Lettuce:
Iceberg lettuce seeds can be sowed directly into the garden, or started indoors.
We recommend an indoor start, to allow time for the lettuce to mature, before
hot weather sets in. Sow a few lettuce seeds in each cell of a
seed tray. Cover seeds very lightly
with a fine starter soil. Keep soil in the seed tray moist. In about 5-10
days, the seedlings will sprout. Thin seedlings to one plant per cell. You
can use a small scissors, to thin plants. Simply snip seedlings off at ground
Tip: When beginning transplants, stagger the start of your seedlings
to spread out the crop. For example, if you are going to grow 24 plants,
sow six in the seed tray today, sow six more a week later, etc.
Transplant lettuce seedlings into the garden after all danger of frost
has past. Ideally, transplant them on a cool or cloudy day. Water well after
transplanting. Space plants 12" apart in rows 18" apart.
The trick to successfully growing lettuce, is to keep it growing fast, with
lots of water and fertilizer. The soil should be rich and fertile, and well
draining. Keep the soil moist. Frequent use of nitrogen rich fertilizer is
recommended. The plants respond well to regular applications of liquid
Transplanting Tip: When transplanting any type of lettuce in hot weather,
place some form of sun shade over the plant for a couple of days. Any makeshift
shade will do.
It's important to time the crop to mature prior to the onset of hot
dry weather. In these conditions, the plant is bolt...go to seed. It can
also split or rot.
For a fall crop, an indoor start is best. Lettuce seeds do not germinate
well in the hot soil of mid-summer.
If you have a big crop, begin to harvest iceberg lettuce after the head begins
to form. The outer leaves are edible, but are not sweet like the blanched
inner leaves. Make sure to harvest when the heads are big and tightly packed.
Once they reach this stage, bolting is but a few days away.
Insects and Pests:
Bunnies like lettuce. Got bunnies!? Then, a rabbit fence is in your future.
Insects can become a real problem, too. A wide variety of insects like lettuce.
Lettuce is delicate, and can absorb insecticides. If an infestation occurs,
we recommend insecticidal soaps and organic repellents. If you choose chemical
sprays, read the label carefully to make sure it is safe for lettuce. Also,
heed the amount of time you have to wait to harvest the crop after
spraying.....it's all on the label of the spray you purchase.
Slugs are a real problem for all types of lettuces. There are a variety of
control methods. More on Slugs and
Plant Problems and Diseases of Iceberg Lettuce:
Lettuce plants will wilt and rot in hot, humid weather.
The plant will also bolt or go to seed stage in higher heat. Rotting can
also occur in wet soils.
Plant Problems - Diagnosis,
causes and cures for many common plant problems.
Iceberg lettuce thrives in cooler weather. But, it is also susceptible to
frost. It does not like mid-summer heat, or dry conditions. Set your first
crop outdoors after the last spring frost. Time your Fall crop to mature
prior to the first fall frost date for your area.
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