Fruit and Vegetables

Lettuce - Lactuca

Lettuce - Lactuca

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The lettuce

Lettuce is an indispensable vegetable in the kitchen: if we want fresh and crunchy salads it is a choice that will surely not leave us disappointed.
Its cultivation is very simple and with few and essential precautions we can have collected for most of the year
It is an annual plant with more or less broad leaves, ovoid or elongated and depending on the variety has different shades of color from green to yellowish or red. The lettuces can be divided into:
· Lettuce lettuce also known as a ball on the market throughout the year.
· Roman lettuces with wider, non-overlapping leaves.
· Cutting lettuces also known as "Lattughino" with leaves always spread. The plant is rich in tender leaves, which can be cut two or three times during the vegetative cycle because they reform quickly.

Characteristics of lettuce

Lettuce is an annual (sometimes cultivated as a biennial) belonging to the Compositae family. It has a rather short taproot root surrounded by small rootlets. The leaves can be smooth or curly, round or oval. Colors range from green to reddish. In some varieties (for example those with a hood) the central part forms a globose head with a heart of lighter, very tender and crunchy leaves.
In particular, the botanical cycle includes two phases.
In the first, vegetative, the leaves grow and, depending on the variety, there may be a greater or less embryonic level. This is the marketing (and consumption) stage.
The second phase is instead the reproductive one. From the center emerges a stem bearing the flowers at the top, which will then produce the seeds.


It prefers temperate climates and does not tolerate intense cold and dry heat.
The lettuces they can be grown with good results in temperate climates and seasons. They are in fact very sensitive to excessive cold and heat. Another factor to keep in mind is related to daylight hours and daylight hours.
Extreme temperatures and too much light (for example in the months of July and August) induce a precocious seed mount of the plants, with negative results of the crop.
The ideal is therefore to cultivate these plants from the end of winter until June (or late May for the southern regions) devoting themselves to other leafy vegetables in the height of summer. You can go back to lettuce lettuce from the beginning of September.


The soil in general must be loose and well worked, since the lettuce has a modest root system that expands mainly in the surface layer of the soil.
However, to go into more detail, in this respect the various types of lettuce have significantly different needs.
The cap lettuce (closed or open) grows well in any soil and is also well suited to poor and dry ones. It is therefore a good choice for everyone.
The Roman variety, on the other hand, is more demanding. It grows well only if the soil has a good mixture and is rich in organic substance. So the silty or slightly clayey soils, capable of retaining water, are ideal without creating excessive stagnation.
We can add that the ideal pH is neutral, but they tolerate subacid substrates rather well.

Seeding and purchasing seedlings

As with almost all vegetables, before starting a crop one wonders whether to buy the seedlings or produce them independently starting from seed.
It is a personal choice. It must however be emphasized that generally the trays for sale at nurseries do not contain less than nine items that will almost certainly be ready for consumption at the same time.
In this way there is the risk, for a family of normal dimensions, of having a huge gap, as well as a waste of land and work.
To always have salads available at the right stage of development the ideal is to make do with a scaled seeding. You can proceed weekly sowing to obtain 4-5 seedlings (depending on our needs). Once the process has started, we will always have elements available to replace the ones just taken.

Plant sowing

From March to November
Sow on lettorino All the year
Planting in a greenhouse From October to early March
Planting in the open field From late March to mid-October
Harvest in a greenhouse From November to April
Harvest in the open field From April to early November

How to sow?

The sowing, depending on the climatic conditions and the cultivation technique, can be carried out in the seedbed or directly in the open field.
In the first case we will equip ourselves with alveolar trays by inserting in each alveolus two seeds. We cover with agricultural vermiculite or with a layer of no more than 1 cm of soil. Vaporize abundantly and place in a small shutter (or cover with plastic film). The ideal is a luminous location, but not with direct sun. Let us remember to air abundantly at least once a day to avoid the onset of rot.
For this type of sowing it takes about 1 g of seed per square meter.
The transplant is carried out after about 1 month: the plants must reach 6 cm in height. The distance on the row and between the rows will be 30 cm. If we are near winter it is good to bury the collar. In other seasons it is better to leave it slightly uncovered to avoid the onset of diseases.
If instead we want to sow in the ground plane we can do it by creating postarelles of 3-5 seeds (also in this case about 30 cm in the row and between the rows).
Otherwise you can create grooves by distributing about 12 seeds every thirty centimeters.
In all cases, once germination has taken place, the thinning should proceed, leaving only the most vigorous individuals. We will need about 6 g of seed every 10 square meters.


Lettuce cultivation is quite simple and can all be done in a family vegetable garden, but even large containers on a balcony may be sufficient.

Approaches and partnerships

Cultivation on the same land can be repeated only after three years. Being a renewal crop, it is suitable for opening an agricultural rotation. It should not happen to pea, broad bean, bean, cabbage and endive.
Excellent companions are spinach, radishes, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, beans and onions.


It takes place by seed, from January to September. From the seedbed the seedlings are transplanted after thirty - forty days at the distance of twenty-five centimeters on the row and forty between the rows. The sowing depth is around half a centimeter. One or two grams of seed are needed for a square meter of seedbed.

Cultivation techniques

The fertilization foresees two - three kg per square meter of manure buried for time at a depth of thirty - thirty centimeters. After transplanting and during growth the plants must be watered. Weeding and hoeing will help to aerate the soil and remove weeds. For Roman lettuces, bleaching is provided by upper binding of the leaves.
Crop care must be meticulous. First of all, especially in the greenhouse, during the winter, and at the beginning of the spring, proceed with frequent earthing up. This will prevent the collar from being discovered and easy victim of the cold.
Throughout the year, at least on a weekly basis, you will need to take out the surrounding area. This will prevent weeds from developing.
An excellent alternative is to resort, already from the moment of planting, to a mulch of plastic or biodegradable material. This will prevent the onset of weeds, help to keep the substrate cool, reduce water interventions. Furthermore, the accumulated heat favors a rapid development, especially in spring and autumn.

Collection and storage

The collection is to scale as the plants reach the desired size. The plants are harvested by cutting the taproot near the collar.
The harvest is carried out at the time of need thus avoiding a long conservation that would damage its consistency.
Roman lettuce and lettuce are collected when they are well formed. For the first it is important that the center is well closed. In both cases the whole head is taken by cutting the base with a knife.
Those for cutting, on the other hand, can be taken continuously, when they have reached a suitable size.


Among the most frequent parasites we find aphids: their advent is favored by an excessive nitrogen fertilization. It is however possible to intervene with pyrethrin-based or pyrethroid-based insecticides, respecting scrupulously the shortage times.
Aphids attack the leaves making them sticky. The defense consists of a moderate use of nitrogen fertilizers because it facilitates their propagation. For direct fighting, the infested plants must be destroyed or treated with wood ash, lithotannium or rock dust; it is also possible to use pyrethrum or rotenone.
Other animal pests are the garden fly, the beetle larvae, the mole cricket, snails, etc. A common virosis is the mosaic of lettuce which manifests itself with yellow pustules on the leaves and it is necessary to burn the affected plants.
Among the cryptogams we recall the downy mildew, the white mal, the gray mold of the lettuce, the rust of the leaves etc ... Downy mildew manifests itself with spots on the leaves followed by a whitish patina.
Dangerous (because transmitted by insects to the whole crop) is a virosis: the mosaic. The affected plants have leaves with obvious pustules and spots.


Lettuce can be distinguished first of all by the head variety, the soft head variety, and the cut variety.
The former can be further divided into: classic, Roman, Iceberg and Batavia type. They are all very common, but the first is the most requested. We report the most common cultivars: Trocadero, Regina di Maggio, Sant'Anna, Meraviglia d'Estate.
Lately, due to their resistance and ease of cultivation, even those with a soft head have been widespread. Very popular are the Lollo bionda and the Lollo rossa, the Gentilina and the Rossa di Trento.
We always inform ourselves about their resistance to cold and heat before sowing them and inserting them into our plot. It is the best way to obtain abundant crops.
Among the lettuce hoods we remember: the Appia, the Battavia blonde with red border, the Meraviglia delle quattro stagioni, the Queen of the ice and the Trocadero. Among the Roman lettuces we mention: the Bionda degli ortolani, the Verde in winter, the green Mortarella in winter.


A crucial aspect to obtain good results is irrigation.
Plants are very sensitive to water temperature. If it is very different from that of the ground it could induce a halt in growth. We fill the watering cans in advance or use a drip irrigation at the root level.
Absolutely avoid evening irrigations (especially those with rain). In fact, they are the most frequent cause of cryptogams and rot as well as attracting snails and snails.
In addition, administrations should be as regular as possible. Alternate phases of drought and abundance are a further possible cause of precocious seed mounting.

Lettuce: Fertilization

To obtain good results it is important to increase the amount of organic matter present in our plot. Usually 20-30 kg of mature manure are sufficient for 10 square meters of cultivation. The ideal is to incorporate it into the soil during processing so that the texture is also improved.
A very important macro element for this vegetable is potassium. Its deficiency leads to stunted growth and necrotic spots on the leaves.
To prevent these problems we can distribute fertilizers that are rich in them. If we have it, an excellent natural alternative is ash: a handful per individual is sufficient.
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Type of plant

Annual or biennial, herbaceous
Scientific name Lactuca sativa, fam. compositae
Height at maturity / width at maturity From 15 to 40 cm / from 20 to 50 cm
Commitment to cultivation Medium-high
Growth rapid
Need water Medium-high
Propagation sowing
Resistance to cold moderate
Insects and adversity Snails, aphids, downy mildew, mosaic
Exposure seed
Ground Rich in organic material, clayey or silty, neutral or subacid
Distance on the row 30-40 cm
Distance between rows 30-40 cm
Germination days / temperature 6-7 / minimum 5 ° C