How To Harvest Romaine Lettuce For More Growth

There's nothing quite like the crisp, fresh taste of romaine lettuce from your garden. Harvested properly, you can enjoy these crunchy greens all season long. By leaving the lettuce's roots along with an inch or so of its leaves in the ground when harvesting, the head of romaine lettuce will sprout back up again within a few weeks. This method, called cut-and-come-again harvesting, will allow you to enjoy continuous growth over the course of the growing season. Typically, you can continue to harvest the lettuce in this way two to four more times, all while enjoying top-quality greens.

With romaine lettuce, you can also remove almost the whole head of lettuce at once, rather than removing just a few leaves. Removing the full head means the romaine will take longer to regrow, but in optimal conditions, a new head of lettuce will begin to pop back up in no time.

Properly harvesting romaine lettuce

The most effective way to harvest romaine lettuce is to cut no more than a third of the plant's leaves at any given time, as that allows it enough greenery to continue to collect light and grow. Use a pair of pruning scissors to remove a few of the leaves from the outer portion of the plant, as these leaves tend to be the most robust and fastest-growing. Leave 1 to 2 inches of each leaf in place at the bottom of the plant. This method takes more time than simply chopping off the entire plant, but it also reduces stress on the lettuce, encouraging it to continue to flourish after the harvest. With this method, you can continue to harvest as the leaves are replaced, remembering not to go too low or take off more than a third of the leaves at a time.

When you need more than a couple of leaves, move up higher on the stem, leaving more of the leaf base present. Snip a large handful at a time, leaving closer to 4 inches of the leaves still on the plant. With this method, your romaine will need longer to regrow, often two or three weeks. But as long as the plant remains healthy and no pests or diseases move in, you can continue to use the cut-and-come-again harvesting method throughout the growing season.

Create the ideal environment for romaine lettuce to grow

Romaine lettuce is available in numerous varieties, but most of them need the same few conditions to grow well. These plants typically need about an inch of water each week, either in the form of rain or watering can. It's important to not let the soil around the root system completely dry out, as that creates a bitter, slower-growing plant. When temperatures are consistently high, water more often to prevent wilting. You can also place mulch around the base of the plant to help with its moisture retention. 

Consider using an organic or natural fertilizer, like one with kelp, to support its growth. Additionally, protect your greens from curious critters by surrounding your romaine with a garden fence. By creating the ideal environment for your romaine lettuce, you will give it a strong root system and the ability to continue to grow through stressful harvest periods.