Romaine (also called cos) lettuce is a tasty, popular type of lettuce. Romaine grows in tall heads of sturdy leaves and is very heat tolerant. It gets its name from the Romans, who likely imported it from either Greece or (more likely) Arabia. It is the primary lettuce used in Caesar salads and is popular in many dishes in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Nutritionally, Romaine has all of the benefits of most green, leafy foods. It is full of antioxidants as well as trace minerals and fiber.
Growing Conditions for Romaine Lettuce
Romaine requires 65-70 days to mature from seed. Although heat tolerant, Romaine grows best in cooler climes and prefers moisture rich, well-drained soil. Giving the plants plenty of water and good soil will speed growing. The faster Romaine grows, the crisper the leaves.
How to Plant Romaine Lettuce
Romaine grows well in nearly all types of gardens if given enough sunlight and good soil. Romaine can be grown in pots, started indoors from seeds, or sown directly into the garden soil outdoors in traditional or raised beds. It’s recommended that the seeds be started indoors, however, as they transplant easily and will likely be healthier.
Plants should be spaced 12-18 inches apart – more space generally means larger heads. If you started from seeds in the ground, thin the plants to match this spacing. Transplanting should be done in cool, cloudy weather or in the early evening so the transplants can overnight in cool conditions.
Care of Romaine Lettuce
Once established, Romaine plants prefer cool weather and a lot of moisture. Well-fertilized soil will mean faster-growing (and thus crisper) plants. Water regularly and often, adjusting to your climate and conditions. The plants will need to be protected from the pests that can attack them.
Romaine Lettuce Pests and Diseases
The primary pest for Romaine is the rabbit and other plant eating rodents. Slugs and some insects are also prone to target lettuce over other foods. Lettuce absorbs pesticides readily, so avoid them if possible. Natural remedies such as soap, diatomaceous earth, and similar tactics can alleviate most problems.
Harvesting Romaine Lettuce
Romaine can be picked whenever it’s big enough to use. Many gardeners peel off the outer leaves and allow the rest of the plant to continue growing in order to extend the harvest time. Before the first frost or first really cold weather comes, harvest completely.
This can be done in one of two ways: pulling the plant all the way out of the ground or cutting it at ground level to create a head. Home gardeners should strongly consider pulling the plant up unless they want the roots to regrow into the messy, unorganized heads that will result. These can be useful cover crops, but are not ideal.