Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Lettuce

Family: Composite

Seed Varieties Dates to Maturity:
Spring and Fall Varieties:
  • Black Seeded Simpson - This is HCCF’s standard green lettuce variety for the spring and fall. It produces a large head of tender, crinkly, light green leaves that are juicy and delicious.
  • Amish Deer Tongue - This variety produces small, compact heads with arrowhead shaped leaves. Leaves are thick with good texture, a thin midrib, and a pleasant sharp flavor. Not a favorite as it does not store well and the leaves are easily damaged.
  • Sanguine Ameliore - Beautiful green leaves speckled with deep red, this variety produces softball size heads of tender, flavorful leaves.
Summer (Bolt Tolerant) Varieties:
  • Green Oakleaf - This variety withstands heat very well, maintaining its mild flavor even in the middle of summer. It has lobed, oakleaf leaves and a light texture.
  • Oscarde - This is a red oakleaf variety with deep cherry-red leaves, turning bright green toward the dense, tender heart. The same flavor and texture as green varieties, and doing just as well in the heat of the summer.
  • Red Cherokee - This summer variety has thick, crisp, dark red leaves with a good flavor. Very bolt tolerant, maintaining texture and flavor throughout the summer.
  • Forellenschuss - This is an Austrian heirloom variety with green leaves speckled with maroon. It has terrific flavor and a nice texture, and brightens up any summer salad.
Indoor Start Date and Cell Size:

Begin first planting 3/28 and seed every two weeks throughout the season. Start in 78 cell trays.

Planting Tips:

Seeds are small so be careful not to double seed (it is easy to plant way more than planned). If no 78s are available, plant a 2 or 3 seeds per cell larger trays. Seedlings grown in this way are pretty easy to separate during transplanting if careful.

Greenhouse Transplant Date and Cell Size:

Lettuce does not need to be transplanted in the greenhouse.

Outdoor Transplant Date and Bed Specifications:

Move seedlings outside when plants are 1 to 3 inches tall. Space the seedlings every foot with 4 rows per bed. Use row cover for the earliest plantings. Lettuce can tolerate frost and even light snow, but row cover will speed the growth.

Plant Needs:

Be watchful from late June onwards for signs of bolting. Signs include growth up instead of out, heads becoming firmer on top, and the formation of a cone. If any of these signs are noticed, harvest all the plants that are close to bolting as they can bolt in just a day. Be sure to water sufficiently during the heat of the summer, even with heat and bolt resistant varieties.

Cultivation Techniques:

Keep lettuce well cultivated when it is young. As the plants mature, they will block out weeds, but they need help until then.

Pests and Pest Control:

There have been problems with slugs and snails chewing the lettuce in past seasons. There are more when the weeds are not under control, so weed management is crucial. Also try putting a can of beer in the lettuce. Slugs and snails are attracted to beer and will crawl into the can and drown. This has only had mild success. Another option is putting out a board in the lettuce and killing all the slugs under it in the mornings in salt-water bath. The only guaranteed way to control these pests is to pick them off by hand.

Harvest Techniques:

It is important to harvest lettuce early in the morning and get it into cool water quickly to minimize wilting. Using the large blue-handled harvest knives, gently bend the head or lettuce away form the ground and cut the stem at or just below the soil line. Harvest into a yellow lug, packing only one layer deep. Be very gentle if packing two layers in a green lug. Immediately after harvesting, wash well in cool water. In the tub, pull off any outside leaves which have even a bit of discoloration which is caused by rot and will cause the head to spoil more quickly if not removed. (These leaves may still be mostly fine, and can be saved for a farmer’s lunch). When discolored leaves are removed, and the head is dirt and slug free, hold the it underwater and cut off a thin slice from the base of the stem, then rub the stem end with your thumb. This helps seal and heal the cut, and the head will keep longer.


Harvested early in the morning, and washed and stored in a perforated bag in a yellow crate lettuce will keep well in the refrigerator for several days. The best packing method is a single layer with heads aligned all up or all down. Amish Deer tongue does not keep as well and the leaves tend to rip easily.


For retail, sell small heads for $1.50 and standard heads for $2.00. For wholesale, sell for $1.00 a head.

Companion Planting:

Lettuce can be planted with carrots and radishes.

Miscellaneous Advice:

Be sure to stay on top of planting even during busy times. Otherwise there will be a gap when no lettuce available.