Can You Grow Lettuce In The Tropics?

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Yes, you can grow lettuce in the tropics. Many varieties of lettuce or salad leaves do well in a tropical climate, which may be surprising as they prefer cooler temperatures. The trick is, to grow them in winter, and as the weather warms up, keep them shaded.

types of lettuce to grow in the tropics
Whenever I think about food plants to grow in the tropics, I always think “What do they eat and grow in Southeast Asia?”. Obviously it will be similar. There are a lot of leafy greens, lettuces and herbs used salad-style in tropical countries, particularly Vietnam. This photo is from Cambodia. I spent a lot of years travelling, checking out the markets and gardens of tropical countries. It was really helpful in starting to grow our own food on our tropical homestead in the far north of Queensland Australia.

Lettuces bolt, or go to seed much faster if it’s hot, so growing them in a shaded spot or under shade cloth, really helps your lettuce crop go further.

We prefer to pick individual leaves of lettuce, rather than harvesting a whole head, that way we can make a salad of mixed greens (mizuna, rocket, cos, butter etc.) and our plants keep on growing!

We grow salad greens and lettuces in raised beds. Because we have chickens (and goats, wallabies and kangaroos) our lettuces have to be heavily protected from anything that will eat them.

We use T posts (star pickets) and wire mesh to do this. The gaps in the wire are wide enough for my hand to fit inside to sew or to pick, but narrow enough to keep nibbling goats out.

Over this framework we can throw shade cloth and secure it against wind with a few zip ties (buy re-usable ones to save plastic.)

Lettuce grows well in spring in the tropics, but as the weather warms up it will bolt (go to seed.) Some varieties of lettuce can be grown year-round (allegedly) in a tropical climate. I have one such variety in the ground right now to test it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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