Lettuce in the spring garden is seldom “in the way”, but by the time it stalks to about 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall 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 this year, I’ve done better with that than in past years.
Watching the lettuce as it stalked, I took out plants that seemed stunted and not as robust as others of the same variety. I want to save seed from the very best looking plants.
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
The lettuce plant will grow tall and then start to flower. The flowers are yellow and once the seed pod under them matures little white puffs appear on top. (The white puff looks like miniature dandelion puff.) This takes place over a long period of time and do you can have flowers and ripe seed on the same plant.
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.
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.
How I Store Lettuce Seed
I store my lettuce seed in paper bags (marked with the variety and year) in a cool and dry place.
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
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