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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Direct Sow Lettuce Not Germinating

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Post  ttx599 Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 13:15

Hello... new to the forum. This is my 3rd year with SFG and I love it!
Lettuce right from the garden is one of my favorites! Unfortunatelly, I always seem to plant too late (say Mid May) and don't get to enjoy it as long as I would like.
This year maybe I started too early? I put some seeds in 2 weeks ago (March 23rd) and haven't seen any seedlings sprout yet Sad. Should I replant over them? Can I plant more or should I wait? How much should I water as I am affraid it will freeze overnight?
So many questions, I know. Just trying to get it right!
Thanks!
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 13:43

I can't find my SFG hardcover book to look up the germination chart for various temperatures and my Kindle is dead right now.

What are your average day time and night time temps right now?

My guess would be it's not warm enough for them to germinate just yet.
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Post  plantoid Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 13:44

98 % of lettuce will germinate at 32 o F and above according to the chart in Mels book, but it would take 49 days for them to germinate. Sad

Get a temp reading of the soil in the morning before it gets heated by the sun ( if you have such a beastie this year Wink and , like as not it will be just above freezing if your getting night frosts .

At 41 o F for 24 hrs a day you'll need 15 days, @ 50 oF 7 days & @ 59 o F an amazing time 4 days .

Perhaps sow on moist 1/2 " squares of kitchen towel in a lidded glas dish on the window cill in the warmth of the home but out of direct sunlight and once germinated indoors slip them in the top of a three inch plant pot a fraction of an inch under the compost then treat them like babies ....watering and tending to them till they are big enough to plant out in the squares .
Cover the plants at night or if needs be in the day to keep hard frosts off them and you'll soon have some salad stuff for lunch etc.
They can take a light frost of 30 o F for a few hours without too much strees but a 29 o F for ten hours or more will make them rather sick .


Last edited by plantoid on Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 14:05; edited 1 time in total
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Post  camprn Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 14:04

Did you happen to cover the seeds with Mel's mix? If you did, that could be part of the problem. Lettuce seed is sprinkled on the surface and just pressed into the mix, not covered.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 14:15

camprn wrote:Did you happen to cover the seeds with Mel's mix? If you did, that could be part of the problem. Lettuce seed is sprinkled on the surface and just pressed into the mix, not covered.
I just learned something - thanks camprn! My lettuce has grown well, but there have been "bald" spots. Next planting I'll know better!
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Post  CapeCoddess Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 14:24

My nights are around 32 still. I have my lettuce & carrot seeds covered with old windows and will leave it like that until they germinate. They are vented right now when the sun is out so nothing fries, but I will make sure they are flush by nightfall. Direct Sow Lettuce Not Germinating 100_5814
I could also lay them flat on the soil until germination, but I prefer not to jig out about having to watch them that closely. You could probably put plastic, wood or even cardboard flat over them til germination but make sure to check under it often.

Quiltbea makes a neat little tunnel using wire clothes hangers, plastic and clothes pins. Maybe if she sees this she'll show you.

Mel makes critter cage covers from chicken wire that can covered with plastic or whatever held by clothespins to keep the warmth in a bit. I don't see them in the book but I have a photo here somewhere...ah, here it is:Direct Sow Lettuce Not Germinating 100_7410

You can make any size you need just by bending the wire.
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Post  Lindacol Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 15:57

I have problems with direct sewing lettuce seeds too. I have some lettuce in the garden that is almost done (close to getting ready to bolt) plus a few seedlings that I have set out that germinated just fine indoors. Then I direct seeded a square the same day I planted corn, maybe 3 weeks ago (didn't write it down). The corn is germinating but no signs of the lettuce. The lettuce was sprinkled on the top and lightly patted down(not covered), then watered gently with a watering can twice a day(in addition to the drip watering). Temps have been around 50 at night and 70-80 during the day.
Squash and cucumber seeds planted about the same time outside are also up.

I guess it is time to start some more inside. I was hoping to shut my seed starting inside down as everything else is about ready for the garden.


Last edited by Lindacol on Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 15:58; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)
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Post  quiltbea Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 16:12

I just sowed some lettuce outside yesterday but its in my A-frame so its closed at night. Lettuce needs light to germinate and if its too cold, they won't. Like most things, the colder the temps, the longer it takes to germinate. Best in daytime temps of 40-60F and soil temps of 55-65F. My soil is only 45 so I guess I'll be waiting more than the 7-14 days it takes with optimum temps.
I put clothes hanger hoops over the Sprinach and Arugula transplants from yesterday and tossed a bath towel over them for tonite even inside my covered A-frame. Temps will be below freezing one more time.
You can always lay an old towel over a new bed at nite so the seeds don't get too cold. Also, be sure the soil stays moist until they germinate. That goes for all seeds planted.

I have glass windows over my coldframe right now warming up the soil there so I'm going to sow lettuce in there tomorrow when temps get a bit warmer. Sometimes Mother Nature makes us be extra patient.

Lindacol.....remember, lettuce doesn't like it too warm, being a cool-weather crop.
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Post  Lindacol Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 16:35

quiltbea wrote:
Lindacol.....remember, lettuce doesn't like it too warm, being a cool-weather crop.

I do kn ow that - this was probably to be my last planting this year. Can't figure why it doesn't germinate as the temps should bbe right for that
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Post  ttx599 Sat 6 Apr 2013 - 18:22

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions and so quickly. I did put some cardboard over them this evening - I will see if that helps the soil temperature. I just assumed "cold weather" veggie so they would be ok. I learned so much from you all - Thank you! Especially the part about not covering the seeds.
Just curious... do most of you start lettuce inside and then transplant? If I were to do that, is a very sunny window enough light or do I need plant lights?
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Post  CapeCoddess Sun 7 Apr 2013 - 6:24

ttx599 wrote:Just curious... do most of you start lettuce inside and then transplant? If I were to do that, is a very sunny window enough light or do I need plant lights?

I do both inside and out. Inside I use a window. Some grow better for me than others, like romaine and buttercrunch are stellar, but Ruby just won't budge out of the ground. Rolling Eyes

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