One-cut lettuce varieties, like this head of Salanova, produce many uniform leaves in a single cut. Juburg/Shutterstock

From the time I started growing vegetables in the 1970s until last year, I have grown only leaf lettuce, some varieties of which are referred to as cut-and-come again. They are easier to grow, more attractive and tastier than the supermarket-style iceberg lettuce I remember from my childhood.

I have had good luck with leaf lettuce, extending the season with an in-garden cold frame – basically a miniature greenhouse – where our lettuce kept growing this year even after February’s weekend of sub-zero temperatures.

Still, in addition to our leaf lettuce, I’m going to experiment with a different style this year.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds offered a webinar last month about one-cut lettuces. I had no idea what they were and had nothing else going on that day, so I logged in.

My first misconception was revealed when Brenna Chase, product manager for leafy greens at Johnny’s, said that one-cut does not mean that each head gets only one cut each year. Instead, it means that with one cut, a grower can harvest a great number of uniformly sized lettuce leaves.

This is important because bagged small-leaf lettuce is growing in popularity. These one-cut heads can produce many attractive leaves with one cut, which are suitable for bagged lettuce, although she added that the one-cut varieties can also be sold as heads. 


And that cutting does not kill the plant. It will produce a second head after the first cut, although the second head will be more upright than the first one, Daniel Yoder, who runs trial gardens at Johnny’s explained. In addition, with red varieties, the second-cut leaves will be redder than first-cut. Appearance is important.

“Johnny’s founder Rob Johnston said Johnny’s traits should be plants that are attractive, easy-to-grow and flavorful,” Yoder said. “Lettuce is half an ornamental in the vegetable garden.”

As for the taste of one-cut lettuces, “There are some peppery notes, and some sweetness in the stems,” Yoder said. Most important, he added, is that it not be bitter. And these one-cut lettuces are not.

Yoder started the seeds in trays, then planted the seedlings outside. While that makes sense for commercial gardeners who want to sell lettuce in early spring, home gardeners may not want to go through the hassle for a plant that can be planted outside in April. Direct seeding in the garden works fine, Yoder said, just watch out for weeds. I’m retired, so I have the time to spend getting rid of them.

Yoder experimented with different spacing on the lettuce plants, varying it from 3 to 9 inches between plants, in rows that were 9 inches apart. Not surprisingly, the plants with 9-inch spacing produced more weight per plant, though not more weight of lettuce for square foot of garden space. The production per square foot of garden space is more important to commercial growers than to a home gardener like me.

Interestingly, red varieties of the lettuce have thinner leaves than the green varieties, so the green varieties weigh more – a fact that might mean something to commercial farmers who are selling by weight.

The audience for this webinar was mostly commercial growers, who asked a lot about growing these lettuce varieties hydroponically. The Salanova varieties, which are trademarked, were highly recommended. In case you wondered, your backyard gardener is not likely to be growing hydroponic lettuce.

One-cut lettuces come in many leaf shapes, including oak leaf; Johnny’s sells 32 varieties. I’m going to have to limit that to one or two of them.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at:

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