Growing and Saving the Seed Of Lettuce
The fantastic range of colors and flavors displayed by the lettuce family lend more than just a lovely splash of color to the dinner plate. These tasty greens pack a nutritional punch, and the more vibrant the color, the more nutritious.
Lettuce was first cultivated in the Mediterranean basin, where its wild ancestor is believed to have grown more than 4,000 years ago. Christopher Columbus is thought to have brought to the Americas in the 1500s. Until the development of modern transportation methods in the 1950s, it was only available as a seasonal and locally produced vegetable because of its delicate nature and tendency to wilt.
- For spring planting, sow seeds 2-4 weeks before the last frost.
- Fall sowing should be done once the heat has subsided, about 4-7 weeks before the first predicted frost of the season.
- You can seed densely for loose leaf varieties and thin to 4 inches per plant; for heading types, space plants about 8-12 inches apart.
- Sow seeds ¼ inch deep.
- Ideal germination temperature is 60-80 F.
- Seeds germinate in 7-10 days.
- Lettuce is a very easy-to-grow beginner’s crop. It is very hardy and adaptable with one big condition: lettuce hates heat!
- Make sure to plant in a location with full sun and moist soil.
- For growers in mild winter climates, it is possible to plant in late fall for a winter harvest. Those in cooler climates can choose bolt resistant varieties and harvest throughout the summer.
- Lettuce grows great in containers.
- Summer’s heat and drought are the most common enemies of a successful lettuce crop. Try to grow in a shady location or under shade cloth to keep greens cool.
- Slugs can be an issue with lettuce. Try setting out a shallow pan of beer beneath plants to draw slugs away from the plants.
Lettuce is a self-pollinating annual, making it an easy crop for seed saving.
- Do not harvest plants. Allow them to send up flower stalks.
- Once seed heads are dried and have turned a yellowish-tan color, cut the entire stalk and place in a bag.
- Crush the seeds in the bag and separate the chaff.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 years.