Vegetables

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.

Let’s get started!

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!

What time of day should you pick lettuce?

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.

What is the best way to pick lettuce?

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

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!

Follow these simple steps to gently harvest loose leaf lettuce.

  1. 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. Hold the leaf you want to pick in one hand.
  2. Gently pinch or cut the lettuce leaf at the base of the plant. You can use your hands or sharp scissors to make the cut. Aim to leave the bottom inch of the 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. 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.  

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!

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!

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