How To Grow Lettuce From Seed

First gardening blog post for 2014! I actually did start with the “germination station” back in January and it is going very well.  But with my very busy schedule, I’ve not had the opportunity to take pictures and write about it.

But, I felt that there was an important topic to cover here – how to grow lettuce from seed.

I’ve been gardening for years – but have somewhat of an issue with the low germination rate of lettuce seed.  I’ve grown Simpson Elite, Buttercrunch, New Red Fire, Parris Island, and Red Salad Bowl over the years.  Primarily, I grow Simpson Elite, New Red Fire, and Red Salad Bowl now and that is what I’ve done for a few years.  Just a nice variety and colorful between the green and reds/purples.

Anyways, whenever I plant lettuce seed, I would plant about three seeds of each.  I might be lucky if one of them came up – sometimes two.  Other times, none at all.

This year – now that the seed is a few years old (although it is kept in a ziplock bag in the freezer), I thought the seed was starting to go bad.  Germination rates on lettuce seeds were horrible.

Already this year, I probably used 20 seeds of each of the three varieties of lettuce.  With all of those (60 in total), only about four came up.  Very bad – and it has actually set my planting schedule back.

Well this past weekend, I tried something different – and it has had absolute success.  How much success?  To the tune of every single lettuce seed I planted – germinated!

So here is how you can grow lettuce from seed – and have much better germination results.

  1. Fill up your seedling container with a seeding mix (even very well screened soil will work too)
  2. The seedling container should allow water to seep in from the bottom.  Place the container in a container of water to allow the soil to completely get wet.  But don’t let the water come in from the top – only from the bottom.
  3. Now, put your lettuce seeds right on top of the soil and gently push them in so it makes good soil contact.  DO NOT COVER THE SEEDS.
  4. After gently pressing into the soil, make sure that you can still see the seeds.  It seems that the BEST germination is when the seeds have light and are not covered
  5. Ensure that the soil continues to stay moist and that the seeds are getting moisture from the soil.  This is important.
  6. After a few days, your seeds should start to germinate and burrow their way into the soil!

Yep, that is it.  Where was my mistake all these years?  Actually putting the seeds into the soil and then covering them up.  Well, the seed packets even said to do this – said to cover with about 1/4-inch of soil.  Don’t follow those directions for starting lettuce from seed.

In the picture below, it is clear to tell which seeds were planted a while ago – versus the new seeds.  Notice how many more there are.  I simply re-planted new seed in the areas where the previous lettuce seed did not germinate.

Lettuce Seedlings

Sometimes it is good to do trial and error with growing plants – and this time it definitely paid off.  I went from planting about 60 seeds and only getting four to come up – to planting about 30 seeds and all 30 of them coming up!