Harvesting Lettuce: How to Make Yours Produce for Months 29

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If harvesting lettuce is in your near future — especially if you’re growing lettuce for the first time — it’s time for us to talk. You know how when you go to the store you can choose a head of romaine or butter lettuce? Put that notion right out of your head. Now that you’re growing your own lettuce, you want that work to pay off. What happens when you pull a head of lettuce from the ground roots and all? You eat a salad, sure. But more importantly, that particular lettuce plant has come to the end of the road. It will no longer provide lovely greens for your family.

My trick for harvesting lettuce will extend your crop by months.There’s a better way, people!

Instead of pulling the entire plant, thus ending the fresh salads, use scissors to cut off the outer leaves near the base of the plant. Leave the inner leaves intact and the entire plant will continue to grow. I’ve been harvesting my lettuce this way for a month and will continue to do so until the plant goes to seed. Unless you’re aiming for beautiful heads of lettuce, your lettuce can be a “cut and come again” crop.

The photo on the left (above) is what my lettuce looked like before a harvest. The photo on the right is after harvesting. Within a week, it will look like that first picture again. (Note: These photos were taken before I became aware of the controversy about planting in cement blocks like this.) I snipped off those lovely outer leaves, made a beautiful salad, and those same plants will feed us again soon.

This is a great method for harvesting lettuce for anyone who puts work into a garden (might as well get the most bang for your buck, right?) but it’s an especially good tip for urban gardeners who don’t have a lot of space. Make those container gardens work for you!

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29 thoughts on “Harvesting Lettuce: How to Make Yours Produce for Months

  • Denise DerGarabedian

    i am cutting the bottom pieces off several of my lettuces each day and it’s enough for two of us to feast on 🙂

  • Healthy Stepping Stones

    can’t wait for mine to start producing…

  • Tina Crawford-Shellkopf

    I bought 4 different lettuces, when i used them I cut the bottoms off and put them in a bowl with water and they sprouted new leaves. My daughter loves them and calls it “paper lettuce” because it is so thin.

  • vollmerdp

    Most-excellent tip.  I had the best time harvesting lettuce like this when we lived in Nebraska.  It’s tougher to grow lettuce here in Florida — although I’d guess your climate is similar enough to ours.  What kind of seeds are you sowing?  Maybe it isn’t too late for me…

    • Attainable Sustainable

       @vollmerdp Our climates my not be too similar. I’m in a cooler region of Hawaii – temps have been in the 70s all month (low to mid, mostly). I’m growing red oak leaf, baby romaine, and butter crunch, all from Seeds of Change. Have you tried a shady spot, in containers?

  • April Stephens

    I harvest my loose leaf lettuces all summer as well as swiss chard and kale. Unfortunately i live in ohio so i wont get the first lettuce until june : ( I envy folks with 2 or more growing seasons

  • SoniaR

    That is how I harvest ours also…for some reason, I haven’t been able to grow head lettuce and this way works great for us.  the plants continue giving until they are exhausted 😉

  • Claudine Anne McCormack Jalajas

    I never have luck with lettuce. Well, I do..but the bugs get there before me. 🙁

  • Mommafrogg

    Found it interesting that you planted in cement block.

    • Attainable Sustainable

       @Mommafrogg The cement block is a temporary raised bed and I figured it would be silly to waste the space inside the blocks! It’s actually worked really well for the lettuce. 

  • graceonline

    @eartheats Good advice to every gardener!

  • Attainable Sustainable

    Claudine Anne McCormack Jalajas: Have you tried growing your lettuce in containers or hanging baskets? It does deter some pests.

  • Janet Collester

    I just love the salad plants grown in pots and used as you need them. They are so happy on a sunny windowsill.

  • Sheryl

    I’m one of those people who oh and aah at the beautiful greens at farmer’s markets (rarely are they that admirable on store shelves). Your photos are worth ooh-ing over. I’ll bet the lettuce is fresh and delicious!

  • DCBloom

    I used to do that as well, but there is a catch. After a few pickings, the lettuce will get bitter. Here’s how I do it. I buy little 4 packs of seedlings from the nursery. About 2 weeks later I buy another, then another… When the first round gets big enough, I do as you do and pick the outside leaves, then move on to the next round. Eventually, when I get to the third round or so, I just pick the whole head, because by the 4th picking it just doesn’t taste good anymore. Besides, by that point it’s too hot for lettuce in my zone (7) anyway,

    I do this with all my spring greens, although collards, kale and spinach don’t get bitter no matter how often you pick it down.

  • Pamela

    Last fall I started two planters with mixed lettuce. I seeded them two weeks apart. I had salad greens all winter from my kitchen window, and reseeded in late January. I have been able to have small lettuce leaves all winter, mostly for sandwiches. I use arugula in stir-fry adding them after I turn off the heat and just let them wilt slightly. I also had red Swiss chard, basil, oregano, chives, and cilantro, but not as much. I can usually harvest all of them over two months by using only a few leaves at a time. I live in eastern Utah.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Yes! With a little effort you can grow greens inside, all year long. Good for you!

  • Rena

    We cut the whole plant leaving about 2″ instead of just the outer leaves. Yup in a week it’s ready again.

    • ARC

      This is what I do also. Just snip it off and it will regrow. Easier and faster than choosing leaves.

  • Correna

    What is the controversy about cement blocks…I’m lost on that one.

  • Jezme

    Friends gave ius perennial lettuce plants that are somewhere between a loose leaf and romaine-type head lettuce. The lettuce is sweet and crunchy, but tender.We have just left them go into seed and I am missing it already! We also gave some plants to friends. Sorry, but I have no idea where you could get them or even what the variety is called. : (

  • Elaine Matthews

    I do the same thing when growing Romaine lettuce— works great!! Thanks for your article! NOTHING tastes better than fresh!

  • Nan

    Here in zone 5, I Had my first harvest of Simpson lettuce, & spinach last week from my cold frames.