Lettuce Seed Seed Saving

Lettuce Seed Saving

Lettuce seed saving is easy but we have to work around stalks that get 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall. Lettuce in the spring garden is seldom “in the way”, but by the time it stalks and starts flowering it can be a bother and in the way of later crops.

Nonetheless – if you want to save seed you have to deal with it. And it’s definitely worth it to get good quality seed.

Watching the lettuce as it stalked, I took out plants that seemed stunted and not as robust as others of the same variety.  You want to save seed from the very best looking plants.

Lettuce finishing its cycle very close to my cucumbers.

It’s also important to either mark or position the varieties in such a manner that you’ll know what seed you’re saving when it finally produces seed. For example –  I’ve found green romaines hard to tell apart once they’re in flower.  Also one of my favorites, Forellenschluss Romaine, which is speckled when young can look very different by the time it stalks to 3 1/2 feet.

Diversity is Important

There was a time that I would have only saved seed from one plant of one variety. Now I save seed from several plants of the same variety.

I read something a while back that made perfect sense to me:  The writer said that saving seed from at least 4 to 6 plants of one variety (with any plant) captures or allows for the diversity that exists even within a variety.

White Puffs – Time to harvest

Lettuce plants grow tall and then start to flower.  Flowers are yellow and once the seed pod under them matures little white puffs appear on top. (White puffs looks like miniature dandelion puffs.)  This takes place over a long period of time and you can have flowers and ripe seed on the same plant.

Lettuce starting to flower.

The seed pods of this Outredgeous Red Romain lettuce are starting to mature.

Lettuce Seed Saving – Ways to Harvest

To harvest you can pick each head.

I prefer to put the top of the plant into a large paper bag.  I tip the plant to the side without breaking it off and gently shake the bag and plant back and forth.  The ripe seeds fall out of the pods into the bag. You can do this many times or once during seed ripening —  depending on how much seed you want to save.

Bending the lettuce heads into the bag without breaking them.

In past years I’ve cut the top of the plant off when most of the seed heads are ripe and put them in a large bag to dry.  Then – when I had more time – I’d shake them out.

Always Plan for Backup

Save more seed than you think you’ll need.

Must be fully Dry before Storing

I seldom take the time to separate the chaff from the seed.  But I do make sure it’s all dry. Otherwise, it can mold.

The chaff and the seed.

How I Store Lettuce Seed

My lettuce seed is stored in paper bags (marked with the variety and year) in a cool and dry place.

Final Thought

Lettuce is one of the easiest seeds to save.  Once you have a variety of lettuce and save your seed you’ll never have to buy it again.


Post on Diversity

Principle of Diversity – Assuring Your Success

Other Posts on Lettuce:

Lettuce – in 100 degree Heat

Lettuce – Secrets to Getting Eatable Lettuce Well into Summer

 Lettuce – How to Have More in the Off Season

Lettuce – There’s No Right or Wrong Way

Greens – Now is the Time to Plan for the Heat of Summer

Lettuce – Eating Fresh Even After it Stalks

Lettuce – Delicious as a Cooked Green

Lettuce Bitter? Secrets to Keeping it Tasty

Lettuce – Spinning Like a Great Chef

Spinach Talk

Lettuce – Favorites, Tips, and Several Sources

Lettuce – Plant in the Fall – Harvest for 3 Seasons

Lettuce – A Teaser and Reminder

Lettuce – Time to Plant


Organic Gardening it easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot easier.


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  • How early can you cut off the whole top and let it dry? Does it have to be turning brown or can it still be green and the seeds will mature as they dry?
    I’m trying to open space in the garden for other plants.

  • Karen, saving lettuce seed can be puzzling at times even after you’ve done it for 40+ years as I have.
    Some years it seems easier to deal with than others.

    If the white fluff is visible – the seed is held under that.
    You can break one off and see if the seed comes out as you gently roll it between your fingers.

    I’ve cut the whole tops off when it was pretty much covered with the white fluff and put them upside down in a bag, waited for them to dry, shake and see how much seed falls into the bag.

    I wouldn’t let the tops get totally brown because at that point the seed may have already fallen.


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