Gardening

How to Grow Lettuce in the Winter

how to grow lettuce in the winter

Are you curious about how to grow lettuce in the winter? Consider this your ultimate guide to producing enough tasty salad greens to keep you going all year long.

If you’re thinking about all those salad greens to enjoy during the winter months, but don’t want to keep paying for products, I have some good news for you! Growing lettuce in winter is super easy! You can enjoy diverse salads year-round thanks to some good germination and proper covering for your lettuce growing. 

What are some steps you should take to start growing lettuce in winter? What are the supplies you need? Better yet, what are some recipes you can whip up during the winter? 

We provided a helpful guide to help you grow lettuce in winter. 

Can You Plant Lettuce In The Winter?

how to grow lettuce in the winter

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Planting lettuce in the winter is possible! However, it can benefit your crop to plant lettuce seeds before the winter months so they have a chance to get established before the lettuce growing project truly needs to get underway. Just make sure you have the following tools on hand:

Since a lettuce’s growth significantly slows during colder weather, it is better to plant your lettuce while it is still a tad warmer outside during the late summer or fall months. Here’s what to expect when planting lettuce during winter versus before the winter months. 

Check out this video of how you can grow lettuce indoors over the winter months, but know that you aren’t limited to just indoor growing – you can also grow outside provided that you accommodate for certain conditions:

Planting During Winter

A cold frame is essential to growing lettuce in the winter. A cold frame is a bottomless box that is made of some sort of lumbar or polycarbonate and has a glass top. The glass top is adjustable and will allow you to open or close it if needed. For example, you can open the top during warmer winter days (around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit) or close it when the weather is anything below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once you have your cold frame, it is important to clean up the garden bed you are going to use for your lettuce. Get rid of any debris or dead plants and turn the soil. If you’re able, try testing the soil as well to measure any acidity.  

Make sure you are frequently checking the weather and the conditions of the lettuce. Sometimes, lettuce can grow healthily into January albeit a bit slower than usual. 

Above all, the cold frame is key. You can either DIY it or purchase one.

Planting Before Winter

If you want to plant lettuce before winter and then transfer them for growing outside during the winter, there are a few things you’ll need to take note of. 

The planting season for lettuce can start in late summer and go on until mid-autumn. The prime time for planting, though, is about 3-4 weeks before the average first frost date in your area (usually October or early November). 

Since the soil for lettuce can’t be too warm, the lettuce seeds will need to be started inside. Too warm soil will prevent the seeds from germinating and ultimately stop the seeds from sprouting. 

So make sure the seeds are in a warm environment with a lot of light. 

Once you have a small head of lettuce, you can harvest the greens and transfer what is left (about an inch of the plant) to an outdoor garden.

Why You Should Grow Lettuce In The Winter

Lettuce is a lot more hardy than it looks and is fully capable of being enjoyed year-round.

Some lettuce varieties such as Salanova lettuces that can withstand the cold and develop a wonderful, crisp taste in the winter. You can make those leafy green dishes you love throughout the winter!

Growing lettuce in the winter is also great because fewer pests and insects are looking to take a nibble of your garden. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to protect your lettuce, but you don’t have to worry about pests as much.

Tools And Equipment To Help You Grow Lettuce In The Winter

Growing lettuce in the winter is easy, and acquiring the right tools and equipment is too. Here is a list of eight items you can buy for your winter lettuce.

Cold Frame

Cold frames are an absolute must when it comes to planting lettuce. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they all provide the best protection for your growing garden of greens. Here is one that absorbed plenty of light while protecting your lettuce from the cold.

Mini Hoop Tunnel

Mini hoop tunnels are exactly what they sound like: a tunnel made of hoops! You can drape protective sheets over the loops and secure them with clips to provide warmth for your lettuce. The best part is, they can be used year-round for other plants as well! Here is a DIY kit for a mini hoop tunnel.

Polytunnel

Polytunnel functions just like a mini hoop tunnel and are similar to a greenhouse. The only difference is that it is huge! Its purpose is to house many more plants and to allow you to walk through them. They are quite large, so make sure you have the space for one. Here is a link to one!

Greenhouse

A greenhouse is meant to store a vast amount of plants. If you want to grow a lot of lettuce, I would suggest purchasing a polytunnel or a greenhouse. Greenhouses vary in size and material. Here is one that requires a bit more assembly and here is considered a “pop-up.”

Lighting

Since there are fewer daylight hours during the winter months, plants could use a little extra light. You might benefit from purchasing a solar-powered light for your outdoor plants. Just remember to set a timer for the light to stay on no more than 15 hours a day, plants need to rest too! Here is a product that offers full-spectrum light for your greens.

Garden Quilt

If you live in a climate that has harsher winters, you might benefit from a garden quilt. A garden quilt is like a normal covering you would put over your plants, but it’s thicker and a little heavier. You would typically put the garden quilt over your greens at night when the temperature dips.

Then, you can remove it in the morning and replace it with a lighter cover for your lettuces. Here is one that is sure to protect your lettuces from frost.

All-Purpose Garden Fabric

The all-purpose garden fabric still protects your lettuce from frost, but it allows more sunlight to break through. Therefore, make sure to adjust the covering when the weather warms up a little so the salad greens can take advantage of that sunlight. Here is a simple all-purpose garden fabric.

Compost Tea

Since lettuce needs those extra nutrients to grow and stay alive during the winter, you might consider brewing some compost tea. Compost tea is meant to be mixed with water and poured over the soil so the salad greens can soak up those extra nutrients the cold weather sucks out of the soil. Here is a link to a highly rated compost tea brand. 

What is the Ideal Lettuce Growing Temperature?

Depending on the climate you live in, lettuce begins to grow around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lettuce then begins to flower around 70-80 degrees but will begin to lose tolerance for the heat after 85 degrees.

Make sure that you are constantly checking the weather and evaluating whether you need to cover or uncover your lettuces.

Best Lettuce Varieties To Grow During The Winter

There are so many lettuce varieties to choose from! But which are the best to grow during the winter? Here’s a list of the best salad greens to grow.

 Romaine

The varieties of Romaine lettuce are the following: Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver, and Winter Wonderland.

Butterhead

The varieties of Butterhead lettuce are the following: North Pole, Brune d’Hiver, Winter Marvel, and Arctic King. 

Loose Leaf

The varieties of loose leaf lettuce are as follows: Mascara, Drunken Woman, Grand Rapids, Black-Seeded Simpson, and Oakleaf.

Salanova

The varieties of Salanova lettuce are the following: Merlot, Red-Tinged Winter, Green Butter, Red Butter, Red Oakleaf, and Green Sweet Crisp.

How To Grow Lettuce Outdoors In Winter

how to grow lettuce in the winter

Allowing lettuces to grow outside during winter is just as fulfilling as growing them inside. There are only a few key differences between the two processes. Here are steps to take when growing lettuce outdoors during the winter. 

Purchase a Cold Frame, Organic Fertilizer, and Compost

You don’t have to use a cold frame, but you do need to provide a thorough cover for your lettuces during the winter. A cold frame is easier to obtain and more effective, but you can also use a greenhouse or mini hoop tunnel as well.

These greens thrive on organic material, so consider sowing some organic matter and/or compost into the soil before planting. 

Cover Up!

Make sure that the lettuce is properly covered according to the climate you live in. Adjust the cover as needed.

Cold Frame or Garden Bed?

If you’re planting your greens in a cold frame, plant seeds about 4-5 weeks before the projected frost fall date

If you are using a garden bed, plant seeds about5-6 weeks before the projected frost fall date.

Lighting

Make sure you are constantly checking that your lettuce is receiving enough sunlight. Adjust the covers or open up the glass from your cold frame if the weather permits. 

Growing Lettuce In Winter Indoors

how to grow lettuce in the winter

Growing your greens indoors allows you to closely monitor their growth and health. Here are the steps you need to take to grow lettuce indoors. 

Purchase Sterilized Organic Soil, Deep Pots, and Artificial Lighting

Because these vegetables need a lot of essential nutrients and nitrogen, purchasing sterilized organic soil is a must. 

Not only that, but these greens form deep roots and need room to properly grow. Make sure to purchase pots that are at least 4 inches deep. Then, you can transfer your lettuce outdoors so it can grow more freely. 

Finally, artificial lighting is beneficial especially if you do not have a window that allows a steady amount of bright sunlight to come in. If you purchase a grow light, make sure that it is set 4 inches above the plant. 

Once the plant begins to grow, adjust the light as necessary. If your sprouts begin to look spindly, lower the light’s brightness. Be sure to set a timer for 15 hours of “sunlight” time so your lettuce can get proper rest.

Watering

Make sure the soil is always moist. Take care not to oversoak the soil, but to mist it until it is nice and damp. Once the lettuce begins to mature, then watering should take place anywhere between one every week or every two weeks. Just keep an eye on that soil!

Harvesting

Once your baby lettuce heads have come to fruition (after about 3-4 weeks), you can now start to harvest. Keep reading to find out exactly how to harvest your lettuce!

Harvesting Lettuce

how to grow lettuce in the winter

Once your baby lettuce heads have come to fruition (after about 3-4 weeks), you can now start to harvest. The greens are ready to harvest whenever they are about three to four inches high.

This depends somewhat on the variety – baby lettuce and loose leaf lettuce varieties can be harvested when they are immature and still growing, while head lettuce may need to form a full head before it can be harvested.

For loose leaf, measure about ½ an inch to 1 inch from the soil surface and cut. After you’ve harvested, it’s recommended to use a liquid fertilizer to make sure your lettuce stays happy as it grows for the next harvest. 

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Winter Lettuce Recipes

how to grow lettuce in the winter

Even though we tend not to consume a ton of salads during the winter, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t! Winter salad provides the perfect cozy flavors of winter while remaining light and healthy. 

You can harvest the variety of different salad greens you have grown and mix it with a nice maple vinaigrette topped with walnuts. Taste of Home has a wonderful recipe for winter salad here.

If you’re looking for some more variety, here’s a list of 34 different winter salad recipes.

Can You Grow Salad In Winter?

how to grow lettuce in the winter

So, can you grow salad in winter? The answer is an absolute yes! 

You have the power to produce fresh, crisp, tasty greens for your cooking pleasure. The good news is, your vegetables will survive the winter! As long as you provide them with enough cover and nutrients through the cold weather, you can stay active in your garden. 

All you have to do now is pick the variety you’d like to start growing. Will it be Romain? 

Looseleaf? Salanova? All three? Whichever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the growing experience this fall and winter – but give yourself some grace.

Take your winter garden one step at a time and be patient. Although growing lettuce is much easier than other types of vegetables, it can still be an (enjoyable) challenge for the novice gardener. Have fun with it!

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What are you growing this winter? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Anna B

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