How to Harvest Lettuce – Harvesting Lettuce So It Keeps Growing

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Wouldn’t it be great to know just how to harvest lettuce so it keeps growing? You could have garden fresh salad for weeks, or maybe months! Well, good news. I am here to teach you about harvesting lettuce so it keeps growing.

Lettuce is not a one-and-done crop. When you learn how to pick lettuce the right way, you can enjoy cut and come again lettuce until the summer heat causes it to bolt!

Harvesting lettuce is something easy enough where your kids can even help you! Teach them now how to cut lettuce so the plant keeps producing for weeks on end.

How to Harvest Lettuce So It Keeps Growing - Leaf Lettuce in Yellow Colander
How to Harvest Lettuce So It Keeps Growing – Leaf Lettuce in Yellow Colander from our 2021 garden

It’s really not difficult – I will teach you all my favorite tips on harvesting lettuce leaves in this post.

When to Harvest Leaf Lettuce

Deciding when to pick lettuce is a somewhat personal decision. Technically, you can harvest once it starts growing until it bolts (grows a stalk and goes to seed).

For best results, most leaf lettuce takes a few weeks to get big enough for a harvest. Consider how well your plants are growing and producing, as the best time to harvest lettuce is generally when lettuce grows big enough to have numerous leaves to pick. With some varieties, you may be able to harvest lettuce as soon as three weeks after planting.

Of course, you can still take a tiny taste test sample of your lettuce before then. Just make sure you let the leaf lettuce grow as needed in between harvesting. The leaves you don’t pick will help draw energy for the plant to make more lettuce leaves!

How to Harvest Lettuce

Learn how to harvest lettuce so it keeps growing. Plant enough and you’ll be able to enjoy fresh lettuce in your salads and on your burgers all summer long!

Start picking or cutting lettuce from garden beds or containers with the biggest, most mature lettuce plants first.

Harvest from the outermost loose leaves, which may be close to 3-4 inches in length.

Picking Leaf Lettuce

Follow these simple steps to gently harvest loose leaf lettuce so it doesn’t kill the plant.

  1. Choose the lettuce leaf you wish to harvest and hold it in one hand. Start with the outer leaves, as those tend to be the biggest.
  2. Gently pinch or cut the lettuce leaf at the base of the plant. Then tear the leaf away from the plant. You can use your hands or sharp scissors to make the cut.
    • Important: Leave the bottom inch of the lettuce leaves undisturbed where they meet the base (or crown) to avoid harming or killing the plant. Do NOT pull the whole plant from the ground.
  3. Drop the lettuce in your harvest colander or basket and repeat! Harvest lettuce until you have enough or until you’ve collected all you can. I usually only harvest about 1/3 to 1/2 of each lettuce plant at a time.

TIP: Pick lettuce during the cooler part of the day. Rinse and spin or shake before use to remove any aphids or other tiny insects.

Cutting Leaf Lettuce

If you feel more comfortable cutting leaf lettuce instead of picking it, that’s just fine, too.

  1. Grab your favorite garden shears or scissors and choose a leaf to cut.
  2. Hold the scissors in one hand, the leaf in the other, and begin cutting the leaf lettuce starting down by the base of the plant. Cut first from the outer leaves. Leave about an inch to the base of the plant to avoid damage.
  3. Drop your cut lettuce into your harvest basket and keep going until you have a salad!

Harvesting Red Leaf Lettuce, Green Leaf, and Gourmet Loose Leaf Lettuce

We grew a mix of gourmet loose leaf lettuces. The mix included fancy red leaf lettuce, green leaf, and other fancy mixed lettuce leaves.

The super-fast harvest potential of this gourmet mix proved very enticing to my young daughters. The eldest in particular was very excited to harvest her own lunch salad directly from pots on our deck!

Tips on Harvesting Leaf Lettuce

Keep these important tips on picking lettuce in mind.

  • Outer Leaves – Harvest mature, outer lettuce leaves first.
  • Tools – Use clean scissors or just your hands to pinch and pull the loose leaf lettuce.
  • Cutting in Close – Avoid cutting too close to the crown of the plant.
  • Don’t Pull – Do not pull out the entire lettuce plant unless you are harvesting head lettuce.
  • Leave Some Behind – Leave about 1/2 of the lettuce leaves on the plant to help bring energy for growing more lettuce.
  • Bolting = Bitter – If the lettuce bolts (goes to seed), the leaves will be bitter and you may need to wait for your next crop of new lettuce.
  • Plant in Batches – Consider succession planting to help make sure you have a constant supply of fresh, homegrown lettuce.

These are just a few tips to help you get started with harvesting leaf lettuce. I hope you find them helpful!

By the way, if you enjoyed this post, you may also like to learn how to harvest lettuce seeds!

Harvesting Leaf Lettuce from the garden in a yellow colander
Harvesting Red Leaf Lettuce and green lettuce leaves is easy. Use this method so it keeps growing for much of the growing season!


Lettuce wilts easily, so plan to harvest lettuce when temperatures are cool, such as in the early morning or later evening. For best results, refrigerate lettuce immediately after picking unless you are eating it right away.

The best way to harvest lettuce, in my opinion, is gently tearing or cutting the leaves individually from the plant. This allows your lettuce plant to keep growing and producing for much longer. It’s not a one-and-done harvest! Leaf lettuce is cut-and-come-again lettuce.

When harvesting head lettuce like iceberg, you will generally dig up the whole plant from the ground.

How to Harvest Lettuce So It Keeps Growing

Now that you know how to harvest lettuce so it keeps growing, I hope you’ll have a full salad bowl all summer long!

Do you love growing lettuce for your own fresh salads? Do you have any questions about how to harvest lettuce or perhaps some tips to share?

Hit us up with your tips, ideas, or any questions about harvesting lettuce.

We always love hearing from you in the comments!

04.25.23 – Updated to sync lettuce posts across the site. Added content from other post and improved spacing throughout. Created FAQ section and moved content.

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  1. There are several tips and a helpful guide on how to harvest lettuce so it keeps growing. Step 1: Sanitize and prepare your pair of scissors. Step 2: Choose the perfect time for harvest. Step 3: Cut your lettuce. Step 4: Water your lettuce.

    1. Hi Iris! Great tips – thank you so much for these simple and clear steps. 🙂 Wishing you a bountiful harvest!

  2. My lettuce is growing in a long flower pot, the kind you attach to a railing for growing flowers. I drilled holes on the bottom of the pot and planted 6 lettuce plants in a row and have been nourishing them with Miracle Grow periodically. Suddenly, they are out of control and growing like crazy… 2 feet tall… I cut a stem and gathered the leaves and washed them and patted them with paper towels, then put them in a “Zippy” bag, but did not seal it, so the lettuce could breath… but that hard “core” was very “tasty” also… It tasted like the hard core found in the center of “head lettuce” . I did not realize that now I have only 5 plants left, but it was so sweet…and those leaves keep on coming…

    1. Hi Dora, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the lettuce growing tall so suddenly and still tasting great! That is wonderful news – I am not sure which variety mine was, but it became very bitter after bolting. So good to hear delicious lettuce is still possible. What zone are you in? I hope you enjoy a continued lettuce harvest for a long time!

  3. Hello. I’m growing Adriana lettuce and it looks ready to pick.
    I live in Massachusetts and My question is. Does it make sense to put something a few feet over the lettuce to keep it cooler from the sun?
    If the answer is yes, what should I use to cover? I could by burlap but I have extra weed barrier. Would that work? Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Rick, so sorry I am getting back to you late – we had a rough June. I hope your lettuce is doing okay, and if not, try starting another round soon. I have grown mine in pots and moved it into shady areas and the summer heat still wins most times. I would be interested if a canopy like you are suggesting could prolong your growing season! Also, I am a big fan of companion planting for things like this! I set up a panel style tomato cage and connected it to the same one to create a box-type trellis. Now I am growing cucumbers over top of the trellis with lettuce underneath and it worked out very well until the crazy heat wave still caused most of my lettuce to bolt. I am planning on planting a second crop in early to mid August. Will see how it goes. Best of luck to you!

  4. Ensure your lettuce plants receive consistent moisture, as dry conditions can cause the leaves to become bitter and tough. Mulching can help retain soil moisture

    1. Hey Jack, thanks for stopping by with this great tip! Making sure lettuce plants are properly watered definitely makes a difference! Mulching is a really good option, especially for dry, arid climates and during drought season. Happy Gardening!

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