Home-grown lettuce doesn't get the credit it deserves. It's simple to grow, but it is significantly better than the stuff you buy in bags at the grocery (although most groceries have better stuff, you just pay more for it). Lettuce is probably the most cost-effective thing I've found to grow.
Lettuce provides our home with salads and on sandwiches mostly. That doesn't sound fun, but our home really does go through a lot of salad in the early spring. Some people use lettuce for other purposes like soup, but I don't like the sound of it
Lettuce is not very picky - I broadcast seed it then thin it out a few weeks later. The rest I just eat and thin at the same time.
Lettuce is one of the first things that will be ready in the garden. It's a shame that carrots and cucumbers take so much longer to produce. Green onions and radishes tend to be the earliest accompaniments, with the carrots and cucumbers joining in June.
Lettuce does tend to bolt - especially head lettuce. For this reason, I only plant leaf lettuce.
Washing lettuce is pretty important, and very tedious. In the early spring, there usually aren't too many critters (bugs especially) snacking on your greens, but they're very apparent by late June. So the summer lettuce needs a thorough cleaning.
You can grow lettuce pretty much year-round if you (a) have a shady spot in mid-summer, and (b) grow in cold frames during the winter.
Lettuce is generally not very needy, but if you're having problems, perhaps some nitrogen would help.
Don't preserve lettuce - you can grow it nearly year-round.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
2011: Lettuce didn't grow well, perhaps 1-2 salads worth. However, the soil was very poor.
2012: Lettuce was bountiful, but full of bugs. Noted that head lettuces bolt before they're useful. Grew enough salad in 2 rows that we had enough to give away large amounts.
2013: Grew in 4x8 bed, 4x8 is way more lettuce than we need. We ate enough salad to be sick of it, plus gave some away. Considering growing in cold frames during winter. For fall, started 4 feet of row on July 21, 4 more feet on July 28.
Recipes using Lettuce: