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Lettuce – Seed Saving – Strategy

If you’ve seen the handwriting on the wall with chemical companies buying up as many seed companies as will sell out to them and the other undesirable things going on in big agribusiness  — you’re already saving seed from your crops whenever you can.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about you may want to review these two posts: One, Two

A unique benefit of saving seed is that over a period of 3 or 4 years you will have created a seed (a lettuce) that is tailored for your garden and your unique conditions. And of course, it saves you money and insures that you’ll have these varieties to plant in the future.

If you love lettuce like I do you like lots of varieties and start succession planting from late February through May to provide a nice supply of lettuce through most of the summer.

Since lettuce will be in the garden a long time from seedling to setting seed, it’s helpful to have a strategy that will save as much valuable garden space as possible.

different varieties of lettuce stalking

Four varieties of lettuce have started to stalk immediately behind the lily.  Other varieties that are further along are in the distance.

When lettuce stalks it gets big and tall.  Then a storm with wind comes along and the stalk falls over. The tips continue to grow upright.  It can take up a lot more space than is convenient — especially when you’re trying to plant other things.

Closer view of the lettuces

Closer view of the lettuces

Here’s a strategy for saving lettuce seed you may find helpful:

  • Make sure the plants are identified with a marker.  As lettuce grows to maturity it’s sometimes difficult to identify.
  • Keep an eye on the lettuce plants of each variety until it’s obvious which ones are the biggest and best.  Select 2 to 4 plants of each variety from which to save seed. (You’ll mix the seed from these plants to get the benefit of diversity from several plants.  This will result in a better crop next time you plant.)
  • Cut the stalks of the smaller plants near ground level.  These roots – left in the ground – will feed and protect various species of soil life such as earthworms and microbes.  This will help improve the soil.  Microscopic soil life uses live and/or decaying roots to create better soil. (Whenever it’s possible — leave the roots of any finished plants in the beds to decay.)
  • Lay the cut tops on top of the soil. (I sometimes cover this with straw.)
  • When the seed is made and ready to harvest — shake the seed stalk head into a large bag. ( I do this every few days over a period of one to two weeks.) You can transfer the seed to smaller bags, label, date and store in a cool dry place.

 Final Thoughts

One of the best lettuces I had in the garden this year was a Batavia that I grew from the seed I saved last year.

If you haven’t already, give some thought to saving seed from your lettuces.  It takes a little attention and some lettuce gives more seed than others. But you’ll have loads of seed for the future (back-up 🙂 ) and even to share.

Stored properly your lettuce seed should be viable for about 5 years or more.

Related Posts:

Seed Companies – Selecting Them
Seed Saving – Why You’d Want To

All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

 

12 comments to Lettuce – Seed Saving – Strategy

  • Wayne Nicholson

    Love your site & pray you never give it up. As a fellow Virginian, I am proud of the work you are doing to keep the natural ways of growing & living. Again, thank you & God bless.

  • Sandra

    It always seems to take forever to get to the seed-ready stage after sending up the stalk. I have been saving lettuce seeds for a few years now, and they are so easy, and it works so well. They are a good seed to begin saving. Arugula and Kale are also very reliable for me.
    I learned something from this post, Theresa. Leave the roots to decay in the soil. Usually I pull mine out completely because something else is slated to go into that spot almost right away, but leaving the roots in makes so much sense where possible. Another thing I think this helps with is slugs. The worms get going on the decaying roots when they are underground, but I’ve noticed that the slugs arrive in droves to decaying roots on top of the ground.

  • Theresa

    Thanks Wayne. Sometimes I do think of stopping, but probably will continue as long as I know folks are benefiting from TMG. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know how you feel.
    Theresa

  • Theresa

    Great input Sandra.
    By the way — just FYI: I’ve never paid much attention to my Arugula because I have lots of it and never have to save seed. This year — because I am saving seed for a friend — I’m paying attention. I see the little pods — the smallest I’ve ever seen — but can’t seem to catch them at just the right time. I’m still trying. There are so many varieties of arugula and from what I hear people say — the one I have outshines the others. So I sure hope I can get this seed. It’s illusive.
    Theresa

  • Susan Klein

    Theresa, thanks for another very informative post! I’m going to start saving seeds this year.

  • Cynthia

    Oh please Theresa….don’t go away!! We need you! I read everything you post and share information with others even if I don’t always post something back. Mostly because I have to spend so much time right now squishing army worms off my tomato plants. It has been a bad year for those things but I am getting some nice tomatoes. My fortex beans were a totally different story (mosaic virus). And my Grey Zucchini and Bush Marrow squash are beautiful, big lovely plants but very little production. I have not been seeing nearly as many bees and that is scary.

    I was wondering if you might have any ideas on good lettuce varieties. We are doing a small aquaponics project with some kids in a housing project and I am looking for some good lettuce that might lend itself to that kind of growing system. Do you think that lettuce in Florida in the summer is not a good fit outside even if it had a shade cloth cover and was positioned for morning sun and more protected from afternoon sun. What about being inside in a sunny window area? Any advice or ideas for this project from my favorite organic gardening muse would be greatly appreciated:-)

  • Theresa

    I’m really glad to hear that Susan. I think in future years it will be a life saver.
    Theresa

  • Theresa

    Hi Cynthia,
    Thanks for the encouragement! Keeps me more inclined to write I must say
    Keep working on your soil and those insect problems will get less and less.
    I’m very concerned about bees as well. Last year I didn’t get good pollination at all. This year I see less bees although my cukes ARE being pollinated by “something”.

    My first thought would be that Florida in summer would not be good for lettuce BUT I don’t live in Florida AND if I did I know me well enough to know that I would come up with a strategy to try it — at least.

    Unless you have a Southern exposure inside the house — inside is not the best bet

    I like the idea of a shade cloth and positioning for morning sun.

    Try lettuces like Anuenue which was developed for Hawaian hot weather.
    Also you might want to try Sierra Bavarian, Slobolt, and Kagramer Summer Bibb

    Let me know how you do.
    And thanks for taking time to let me know how you feel about TMG.
    Theresa

  • Grace

    Good Morning, Theresa,

    I wanted to tell you I’m extremely glad you do take the time and effort to write about your gardening efforts and the philosophies behind them.

    I’ve spent years growing ornamental plants, but I’ve only been trying to grow my own food a short while and I assure you I consider myself blessed to have stumbled upon your site during one of my many forays onto the Net in search of gardening information & advice. Reading about your gardening activities, successes, and failures helps make me a better gardener, because I carry that information back out into my own garden to put into practice as best I can.

    I had some lettuce reseed last year (Black Seeded Simpson, I think)and two of those plants actually survived transplanting to the onion bed (along with several sunflower plants grown from seed dropped by birds), where I plan to let them go to seed again…and I can keep an eye on them. I have other lettuces (Pablo, Lolla Rosa, Iceburg) growing well and was wondering where to put them while they go to seed.

    Owing to the very wet weather we’ve had, almost all the lettuce I’ve grown this year is in pots. I’m still harvesting regularly, but do plan to let them go to seed and will make the attempt at saving it. I have a few lettuces I hope will reseed themselves in one of the raised beds, as well as pink chard, which is just two small plants from seed that didn’t look all that good when I received them.

    At any rate, I missed this part of the growing cycle last year and I really do hope to actually SEE a mature plant this year…:D!

    Also, Theresa, I have a question for you related to the weather this year. Have you had to adapt your gardening methods/timing due to so much rain? I have and I’d say many others have as well.

    At any rate, I need to go, but your timing is excellent as usual.

    Grace

  • Theresa

    Hi Grace —
    Beneficial hearing your experience with your lettuces. Thanks for taking time to write it out.

    By the way — do you have good luck with Iceburg? I never grow that — but I grow one “iceburg-type” that is out of this world delicious: Rein de Glaces lettuce. It’s one of my favorites! Crisp like Iceburg but much much greener and more delicious.

    I’m growing Pablo for the first time this year. I grew Lolla Rosa last year. And of course Black Seeded Simpson is a staple.

    As I mentioned in the post — lettuce takes what can seem to be an eternity to make seed — so it’s in the garden a long time.

    In answer to your question — I guess everyone has to fine tune what they do according to the weather — too much rain — too little rain — etc. But I guess it seems second nature after a while and I don’t pay a lot of conscious attention to it. We’ve had quite a bit of rain — but thus far — not too much to me. (Although some farmers I know have told me it was too much for them.)

    My soil drains really well. (Even when I gardened in improved clay soil — I had excellent drainage.)
    That makes all the difference and allows me to keep on schedule and perform tasks that would be impossible if the soil were waterlogged.

    Grace, I was glad to hear that hearing my experiences, failures and successes, and the philosophies behind them are helpful to you. That encourages me to write more. So — many thanks.

    Theresa

  • Betty Dotson

    Theresa,
    I’m sure your ears must burn constantly because I’m always telling my husband, family & friends, “Theresa says to do it this way. Theresa said this. Theresa said that.”
    Not only does my garden improve,but EVERYONE else has the information also!
    PLEASE keep sharing & thank you for all you do.
    Betty

  • Theresa

    Made me smile Betty!
    Thanks for sharing and I’m thrilled your garden is benefiting.
    Theresa 🙂

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