how to sow lettuce seed

drcindy(z8 WA)March 8, 2009

This will probably sound like a dumb question, but I've never grown lettuce before and received a free package of mixed seeds. How do you sow these seeds? Plus, I may be doing this in a container and need to know how to plant in that scenario, as I like to save my 8'x8' plot for my tomatoes, beans, and snow peas. Thanks!

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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Lettuce is hard to sew because the seeds are not large and I have the same problem in that I like to save my beds for specific things since I try and rotate. With all that said, what I do is use the edge of the beds to plant things like onions, radishes, lettuce. They don't take up much room and they can share the bed...By the time the tomatoes go in, the lettuce will have a healthy start. If you have trouble with spreading the seed, I have heard that it helps to mix the seed with some sand and then spread.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:57AM
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Sowing outside in a larger area:
I use very fine dirt that I sift and dry in a microwave, then crumble until it is as fine as I can get it. Put it it a quart jar (about 1/4 full) and then add a few seeds, maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon for a 5x8' area. Put the lid on and shake it for several minutes. Then I drill holes in the lid (a Mason jar with pressure canning lids works great) then get real close to the bed and sprinkle the dirt/seed. (Imagine a huge salt or pepper shaker.) I then rake the bed, going no deeper than 1/2, less if possible.

You could do the same thing basically with a container, just use fewer seeds.

I also cover my bed with an old sheet. This helps keep the lettuce from getting tough, protects it from frosts and even snows. I had lettuce from my outdoor garden on New Year's Day and this was months after a heavy freeze and a few weeks after a snowfall.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:00AM
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Lettuce is easy. Just loosen the soil, wet it down, sprinkle seeds on top, and you are done. Keep the soil moist and you should have germination in 3-7 days. Same instructions for pots as for ground plantings.

Lettuce requires light for germination - so do not cover them. Just sprinkle on top. You can press them onto the soil if you like.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:18PM
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dave_f1 SC, USDA Zone 8a(7b)

Just wanted to add that whether or not lettuce seed requires light to germinate depends on the type (leaf, romaine, head, etc) and variety. And probably if the seed is light- or dark-colored. The ones that aren;t light-requiring (photosensitive) can be planted shallowly (like 1/8-1/4" deep) and that will help them from drying out. No, I don;t know which ones need light and which ones don;t! But it's good to know that there are differences,a nd it's not straight-forward. I guess nothing really is upon closer look. Anyway, the leaf lettuce varieties I've grown have always germinated close to 100% when planted 1/4" deep.

Here's an interesting article if anyone's interested in the photosensitivity of lettuce and the basic physiology involved...

Here is a link that might be useful: Lettuce seed germination

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:12PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Also I wanted to add that lettuce transplants pretty easily. I had never done it until last year and I had some pretty thick spacings and just decided to thin and replant...worked beautifully.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:28PM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

I like the big salt shaker idea!

I usually buy a packet of mixed lettuces, and sow them in potting soil in a big plastic tub (I think it was a mason's tub for mixing concrete) with drainage holes in the bottom. I just toss it on the soil free hand, and then scratch it in, or toss a little extra potting soil of the top.

After a few weeks, I can start thinning out baby lettuces, leaving most of them to grow. Then a few weeks later, I lift some out with a little of their soil and plant them in amongst the tomatoes. They do beautifully in the shade of the tomatoes, and last longer into the summer that way. They also serve as a "living mulch" around the tomatoes, so it's a win-win situation. I keep thinning out the lettuces in my tray until they're gone or start to bolt, then move on to "cut and come again" harvesting on the ones around the tomatoes and it works great.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 12:27AM
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I planted 6 types of lettuce this year, using the pre-soak method. First I soaked them in little bowls of water overnight. Then I put each type on a moist paper towel and layered those on a plastic plate & covered it all with a plastic bag. Within 48 hours all of them had germinated! So I put two of each type into inside fiber pots, (I wanted to start 25 plants inside for transplanting later, to get a jump start since the weather has been so cold lately) and the leftovers into one large container close together to use as cut-and-come again baby lettuce. So simple!

Last year I did this same thing and had more delicious lettuce then I knew what to do with. OK, well that's not quite true- I had a party and we ate it all! :-)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 12:12PM
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dave_f1 SC, USDA Zone 8a(7b)

aubade, I'm wonder why you go through all that pre-soaking and pre-germinating of your lettuce seed. You could save some time and just sow the lettuce directly into your pots indoors. They should germinate in 3-4 days. I guess I'm saying it's worth pre-germinating certain veggie seed, but lettuce really isn;t one of them. I don;t see any advantages with lettuce.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:04PM
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Lettuce is one veggie that I always germinate in flats. Since I'm never sure how much germination I will get and spacing is pretty important with lettuce, I'd rather place small seedlings where I want them rather than just scatter the seeds directly in my veggie beds. Then I can give the rest of the flat away to neighbors.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:38PM
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Hi Dave fl - well, it really wasn't any trouble just to put them in a glass of water overnight. It didn't take any extra time either- just soak overnight, then 48 hrs later I had 100% germination. I don't know how long lettuce seeds last, but I'm pretty impressed with that 100% considering they were seeds for 2008. I wasn't sure if they would still germinate. Also I'm no good at thinning, and I don't like to waste seeds or pots so I like to know beforehand that they will definitely grow. This way I put exactly as many seedlings into the pots as I want with no need to thin.

Mine are nearly 1.5 inches tall in the flats now, and every single one of them is growing. :-)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:52PM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

I have lettuce that I have been growing indoors since January that are spaced way too close together. That said they are still very healthy in that I pick leaves daily for salads. As the base of the plants got larger, I simply pulled some totally out thus increasing their spacing. I also have spinach and mache growing the same way. Golden beets are giving me lots of tops grown in the same way to add to my salads also.

The point is, I am doing something of a container method only using very small containers and really cramming them together to eat from daily. You could do the same in a container outside by harvesting the leaves brutally as I do...and I do mean pretty brutal only leaving 1 or 2 small leaves per plant. If they get larger you could always pull some out completely. If you scroll down on my blog a little you will see my granddaughter holding a couple containers to see what I mean by how close they are spaced. Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 9:31PM
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I grow my lettuce mostly in whiskey barrel planters now, and I have clear plastic covers for those. All I ever do for lettuce is moisten the soil, scratch up the surface a bit, shake some seed around, and pat down with my hand. Then I pop the cover on (if it is very early in the season like right now) and wait for germination. As the days get warmer I ventilate the cover or remove it altogether. By the end of this month I will have pretty decent lettuce going in several locations without covers. That will be the time to start even more of it. Keeping the surface soil moist until the lettuce seedlings take hold is probably the biggest challenge.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 1:08AM
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