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A Beginners Guide to Growing Lettuce

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Lettuce is one of the most common vegetables to eat fresh and is versatile, easy to grow and bountiful in its harvest. Growing lettuce in zone 3 is rewarding as it is a great cool weather crop and does well in this growing climate! Lettuce is a vegetable that is on most of our dinner tables on a weekly basis and that much more nutritious and satisfying when you grew it yourself!

A closeup of lettuce leaves with drops of water on them harvested from a raised bed backyard garden in growing zone 3 of Alberta, Canada.

Lettuce Varieties to Grow in Your Garden

When searching for lettuce seeds you will notice a wide variety of options. The most common include:

Romaine - One of the most common varieties of lettuce. A hardy lettuce that can withstand a light frost and does not bolt quickly in heat. Great in salads!

Head Lettuce - The most common head lettuce is iceberg. Lettuce rolls leaves into a ball like cabbage. Outer leaves can be harvested while head forms. Takes longer to mature than most other varieties.

Leaf Lettuce - Mildly sweet with a thinner leaf. It includes many coloured varieties, salad bowl mixes and arugula. These types of lettuce can be harvested very young as baby lettuce.

Butter-head Lettuce - Known for its light 'buttery' texture. Grow in small loosely formed heads.

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One of my favourite varieties the past two years is the McKenzie Seeds Summertime lettuce. It is crunchy, sweet and slow to bolt. It does eventually form a head but I have harvested mostly in the leaf stage.

The Best Location to Grow Lettuce In

Lettuce grows well in both full and part sun, although excess heat can cause lettuce to bolt (grow a seed head). Once it has bolted it generally tastes bitter and needs to be pulled. If possible chose a slightly shady or cooler location for you lettuce. I have had great success with growing lettuce on the north side of my peas so that as the peas grow they provided shade for the lettuce. This way I am able to keep my lettuce growing and producing all summer long without it going to seed or going bitter.

A girl in her backyard raised bed vegetable garden with garden lettuce growing in the background, holding freshly harvested garden lettuce, grown in gardening zone 3 of Alberta, Canada.