I received an email from a reader this morning who planted lettuce via the wintersown method and wanted to know if they planted the right number of seeds per jug or bottle. 9 seeds were planted in each of 4 jugs. Also used were four 2 liter coke bottles in which they planted 4 seeds each.
No set Rules
There are no set rules on the number of seeds per jug and you can pretty much do whatever suits you. For those new to starting seed in a container I’ll give you some examples of what I do — and make some comments regarding each — so you can better determine what might be best for you.
I’m a lettuce lover and probably start a lot more lettuce than most. I’ve already planted 17 jugs and I still have many more varieties to plant.
You don’t have to stick to planting a small amount like 9 seeds, but it’s good not to overdo the number of seed either. I’ve done that in the past and the lettuce was just too thick and didn’t do as well. This amount (shown below) seems to be the perfect amount for me to plant per jug.
Pulling lettuce seedlings apart carefully is not too difficult and doesn’t — in my experience— harm its growth at all. Like all seedlings they need a few days to reestablish themselves, but they do great once they get adjusted.
If you’re new to lettuce or if you don’t use your lettuce until it’s fully grown—- I know you must be thinking — “how in the world does she eat all that lettuce?” Answer: I’m a grazer. I start picking lettuce leaves when they’re two inches and I keep right on picking every day until all is said and done many months later.
Other Cole Crops
When I plant radishes, beets, bok choi, or spinach — I usually space the seed about 3/4″ to an inch apart — although they don’t always come up spaced as planted. I think they need a little more room than lettuce. Also, I find they’re easier to transplant when there’s a little space between each.
Warm Weather Crops
With warm weather crops (which I’ll start sometime in March) like pepper, tomatoes and eggplants — I start 3 per jug. That way they can grow nicely for a while without being too crowded.
If you’ve watched Batman — you’ll know it’s always good to have backup!
Another thing to consider when determining how much to plant is how much you might lose. Whether you direct seed to the garden or start your seed in containers inside or via wintersown —- there’s always the chance of loss.
Sometimes I feel that I’ve lost as much lettuce as I’ve grown. Especially for the past 3 or 4 years I’ve lost a lot when planting for fall. Year before last I must have planted 5 times before the lettuce finally made it. I’d plant one day and it was gone the next. Slugs probably.
You always have to think of that in advance if you want a constant supply of lettuce. Plant a bit more than what you think you’ll need. Always have backup!
When to transplant seedlings to the garden.
Another reader writes:
“I was wondering how long you wait to transplant your seedlings from wintersown jugs. I know it can really vary depending on your schedule, but what’s the fastest you’ve gotten them outta there and into the ground? I was transplanting spinach today that didn’t yet have its true leaves, and bok choi that was just a teeny baby. I hope I didn’t rush them along too much – needed the jugs, and figured I could risk it. I hope I didn’t send them out into the cruel world too early—–”
One of the nice things about wintersown is that in almost all cases plants will hold until you get to them. But by the time we have lettuce germinating — we’re anxious to get it the garden and get growing. I think the quickest I’ve ever gotten the lettuce babies “outta there and into the ground” was within a week after planting! And yes — the seedlings were very tiny. It did fine — but that probably was pushing it a bit.
I don’t pay much attention to what I read about waiting for the first two true leaves before transplanting seedlings.
So far this year, I’ve not transplanted anything that had its true leaves. This will change because as time passes — some jugs will sit and wait for me until I have time — so the seedlings will be larger.
The lettuce I transplanted a couple of weeks ago did not have true leaves but it still looks good. I could just about see the real leaves starting to develop when I looked at it today.
Bok Choi, Radishes, Turnips
For some reason I think bok choi, radishes and turnips do better being transplanted when they’re pretty new and small. It’s not a hard and fast rule for me, but I like to get them in the garden when they’re up about 3/4″ to 1 inch.
In spite of what you might read, seeding and transplanting rules are not that fixed. With this information under your belt, use your best judgement. As you go along, you’ll get a feel for what works best for you.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and its a lot healthier.
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