How to Grow Head Lettuce In Paperpots (Paper Chain Pots)

Growing Head Lettuce in Paperpots

Better germination!

No hand transplanting!

Less transplant shock!

Growing head lettuce in paper chain pots will increase your chances of having a successful crop!

Head lettuce is a popular crop for most market gardeners. 

Direct seeding is very difficult and often produces subpar results.  Because of this most market gardeners transplant their head lettuce.

But transplanting head lettuce (the traditional way) brings its own set of problems.   Transplanting is both time and labor-intensive.

The Paperpot Transplanter solves this problem.

It allows you to germinate head lettuce in a controlled environment then quickly and easily transplant it into the field 28 days later. All without bending over and less transplant shock!

8″ in-row spacing for head lettuce can be accomplished by seeding every other cell in a 4″ paper chain pot. Paperpot Co. makes custom Skip Plates for the Kwik Klik™ (KK) Drop Seeder to make seeding every other cell as quick and efficient as possible!

The Specifications for Paperpot Head Lettuce

PAPER CHAIN POT4” (seed every other cell for 8” in-row spacing)
ROWS PER 100’ X 30” BED3
TRAYS PER 100’ X 30” BED 4
KWIK KLIK™ TOP PLATE Plate: Paperpot Skip Plate (132 holes) / Thickness: 3mm / Hole: 5mm
SEED PER 100’ X 30’ BED528 seeds (+/-) *Always round up when placing seed orders to ensure having enough
RECOMMENDED CULTIVARSGreen Forest (romaine), Adriana (butter)
GERMINATION 48 hours at 68°F
DAYS TO TRANSPLANT 28 days (+/-) *time from seeding to transplanting in the field
DAYS TO MATURITY 56 days (+/-) *time from seeding to being ready for harvest
HARVEST WINDOW8 days (+/-) *time crop is at ideal stage for harvest after reaching maturity
TOTAL DAYS IN FIELD 34 days (+/-) *DTM + harvest window - days to transplant
TARGET CROP YIELD 426 heads (+/-)
PRICE PER UNIT $3 *depending on local market pricing
REVENUE PER BED $1278 *depending on local market pricing
SEEDINGKwik Klik™ Drop Seeder, Paperpot Germination Trays, Paper Chain Pots
TRANSPLANTINGPaperpot Transplanter
TILTHINGPower Harrow or Precision Depth Roller (With no tractor: Tither)
AERATIONMeadow Creature Broadfork
SHAPINGBed Preparation Rake
CULTIVATIONFlex Tine Weeder or Collinear Hoe

Suggested Tools for Paperpot Head Lettuce

Bed Preparation for Paperpot Transplanting

  • Broadfork the bed to aerate and loosen the soil.
  • Smooth and shape the bed with a bed preparation rake, removing any debris.
  • If the previous crop was fertilized, head lettuce will do fine without reapplication.
  • If not, here are two options:
    • 1) Layer on 1” of compost, enough to mostly cover the native soil.
    • 2) Sprinkle on a combination of alfalfa meal and pelleted chicken manure.
  • If layering compost, do not tilth in hopes of smothering any surface weed seed.
  • If adding amendments, tilth the top 1-2” of soil to mix in amendments.
  • Irrigate for 10-14 days*, allowing any weed seed in top layer of soil to germinate.
  • Flame weed the bed when the cotyledons of the weed seeds have emerged.

Growing Head Lettuce in Paperpots

Seeding Head Lettuce in Paperpots

Prepare trays with 4” paper chain pots, and fill with potting mix. 

Install Paperpot bottom plate and custom “skip” top plate into Kwik Klik™ (KK) Drop Seeder

The Skip Plate only allows seeds to drop in every other cell, creating 8″ in-row spacing.

Pour seed onto the top plate and rotate until one seed fills each hole. 

Position the KK Drop Seeder over the tray, ensuring the holes are lined up with the cells, and click to drop the seeds. 

Water the trays, then place in germination chamber for 48 hours at 68°. 

Transfer the trays to greenhouse tables after germination. 

Thoroughly water trays before heading to the field for transplanting.

Using the Paperpot Transplanter, plant the three rows of head lettuce.

There should be 10” between rows, and 5” from the outer rows to the edge of the bed. 

Reference for instructional videos if needed.

Transplanting Head Lettuce with the Paperpot Transplanter


Water the beds thoroughly with overhead irrigation or four rows of drip.

Frequent and consistent watering will promote succulent growth and avoid bitterness.

14-16 days after transplanting, cultivate using a collinear hoe.

After this point the heads should fill out to form a canopy and shade out any potential weeds.

The Flex Tine Weeder is also an effective cultivator for lettuce.

Cultivation (Weeding)

Harvesting Summer Crisp Lettuce

Harvest in the kneeling position next to the bed, pushing a tote in front of you.  

Use a freshly sharpened knife for harvesting head lettuce.

Remove slugs and damaged leaves if necessary.

Lettuce heads should be dunked in cold water when brought in from the field.

Do not soak for longer than one minute to avoid damage from becoming waterlogged.

Lay the lettuce heads on a drying screen to drip dry.

Stack the lettuce upside down in totes to continue draining in storage.

Store at 35° until taken to market.

Washing and Packing Head Lettuce

Overall Paper Chain Pots make head lettuce a much more farmer-friendly crop.

Time savings, ease of transplanting, and high germination rates are some of the reasons why head lettuce is one of the most popular market garden crops grown in paperpots.

Get started growing lettuce on your farm using a Paperpot Transplanter and download the Growers Notes below.


If you have any questions, please reach out or 877.850.1555.