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Planting Lettuce Seeds Toplef10Planting Lettuce Seeds 1zd3ho10

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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Planting Lettuce Seeds

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Post  erbarnett 3/20/2011, 9:34 am

I just learned something important from our Agricultural Extension Agent during his lecture on the spring garden. He said that lettuce seeds should never be covered, just laid on top of the soil with the seeds visible. I asked him about this later in private and told him that the seed instructions said the seeds should be buried 1/4th of an inch. He said the information was incorrect. He said to never bury the seeds.

He said spinach seeds should be buried according to the instructions on the seed package.

I now know why my lettuce seeds did not sprout last year.
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Post  camprn 3/20/2011, 10:56 am

this is very good information. Thanks for sharing!! Very Happy
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Post  Lavender Debs 3/20/2011, 11:04 am

Good to know!
I've always heard that the rule of thumb (no idea why it is called that) is that seeds should be planted 3 times as deep as they are thick. Lettuce is wide but not thick at all. As long as the birds cannot snag the seed, surface planting works for me too.
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Post  boffer 3/20/2011, 11:05 am

In the old forum, we had a commercial lettuce grower posting for a while. He verified that lettuce seeds need exposure to light in order to germinate.

I couldn't plant a seed a ¼ inch deep if my life depended on it because the MM particles are too big. If I completely cover the seeds they end up deeper, and receive no light. When I plant lettuce, the seeds are exposed, but nestled among the MM ingredients.
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Post  lovinlifew/3 3/20/2011, 5:07 pm

I too was worried about placing my lettuce seeds on the surface for fear of birds taking them. Instead I watched ants carry them off one by one. I tried transplanting my lettuce last year and it didn't work well.
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Post  yosoypanadero 3/28/2011, 1:28 pm

I worry about the birds making off with them too, because I live on a lake and there are birds EVERYWHERE! This makes for some great bird watching, but I usually end up having to overplant so the birds can take their share too. Anyway, the lettuce... I have had sprouts without covering them, but because of the birds, I just put a fine layer over them to help them out. I have hundreds of little sprouts already in the garden using this techinique. So, it doesn't seem like a little soil hurts at all... good luck!
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 3/28/2011, 2:49 pm

I have had great results/percentages with planting them with a light covering of soil. But, this makes total sense given that they need light to germinate.

I am having trouble getting a couple of varieties going, and I plan to start another batch. I will just sprinkle on top of the dirt/vermiculite.

However, do we need to pay better attention to moisture now that the seeds will be exposed to more airflow?
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Post  boffer 3/28/2011, 2:56 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:However, do we need to pay better attention to moisture now that the seeds will be exposed to more airflow?

I put in a new lawn; was told to water 2 or 3 times a day, don't let it dry out. It was easy enough to do cause I had a sprinkler system installed too. I have never seen grass sprout and begin to grow so fast in my life. It was due to keeping it damp all the time.

I take that concept to the veggie gardens. The layer of soil they are in dries out fast. I do what I have to do to keep the little seeds on top damp. Water more often, cover with shade cloth, protect from evaporating breezes, however, keep them damp to improve germination rate and time.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 3/28/2011, 3:04 pm

You are absolutely correct when it comes to grass seed sprinkled on the surface. And, I'm a darned landscaper. I make that recommendation umpteen times per season. I can't believe I didn't connect the dots. And, I do it in the garden, too. I keep the top inch damp at all times when seeds are in the ground. Then, I slack off a little to drive that taproot deeeeep.

SFG is changing some of how I think about this, but old habits die hard, huh?
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Post  pattipan 3/30/2011, 9:27 pm

I've kind of developed my own method for planting lettuce. If it hasn't rained recently, I first water the squares and let it soak in good. Then I make two or three little quarter inch trenches, add the seed about a 1/4" apart or more, depending on the variety. Then I cover the seed with a mixture of peat and vermiculite (filling the little ditches) and spritz well with water. I keep the trenches moist until the seeds get going. As they grow, we eat the thinnings (love baby greens!) and I scatter a bit more Mel's Mix around the plants that remain. Other than my mini Romaines, most of the lettuces are leaf types, so this works well for me.

And speaking of lettuce, I planted some Spinach, mini red Romaine and Royal Oak Leaf type last Fall and they are still growing! Even under and through the snow we've had this week!

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Post  MasonGarden 3/31/2011, 10:12 am

I bought raised beds made by Lifetime (and sold at Costco) to set up my SFG, and they came with a cover seen in rear of the image below from the company's website. The cover zips open and closed and has a vented flap and a plastic flap. I am hoping that this will help address the issue with the shallow planting of lettuce seeds while allowing them to get sunlight, keep more moisture in, and protect them from the birds at the same time while they germinate. I will be a first time gardener, but if you didn't have something like this, would any plastic covering help for the first week or so while the seeds take hold?

Planting Lettuce Seeds Lifeti10
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Post  Furbalsmom 3/31/2011, 3:55 pm

Plastic is good, as long as you remember to go out and keep it vented so the sun doesn't bake your babies.

Cheese cloth would also protect from birds and wind, though not as much moisture retention.
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Post  Khrishna 4/11/2011, 9:25 pm

Yep, I'm struggling a little with getting my lettuce going. I planted 16 quarter squares and had to replant 12. Don't know yet if they will come up. I live in central OK, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. I'm thinking that some of my seeds were blown away. I did "barely" cover them, but I don't know if it was enough to protect them. If I have to replant again, maybe I will try pattipan's technique...but by then it might be too hot Sad
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Post  quiltbea 4/11/2011, 11:58 pm

I make a slight furrow in a line and plant my lettuce seed on top of the soil and then sprinkle a light layer of vermiculite over them and water gently. No problems with germinating. The furrow helps keep the water around the seeds.
Planting Lettuce Seeds 11-11-10
These are 4 leaf lettuce varieties in my A-frame Nov 10th. By this time the vermiculite has sifted into the soil.
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Post  buttaflie143 4/26/2011, 1:56 pm

I know I am planting my lettuce (Butterhead, Simpson Elite, Romain, and Oak Leaf), but I had to try and it's still relatively cool here. Anyways, I put some in the ground (per the instructions on the pack) and I sprinkled some on the soil (per the advice from this thread). Then I kept reading and went back out and sprinkled some MM over the seed, just barely. I'm going to go crazy!!!! And then I watered. Smile
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Post  CindiLou 4/26/2011, 2:30 pm

I make a small dent, sprinkle on some vermiculite, place seed, sprinkle vermiculite, then mist. I just mist water each day till seedlings appear.
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Post  sheslostit 4/26/2011, 2:39 pm

hmmmmm :scratch: well i read this post a little to late. However for me, i had no problems. I didn't know you shouldn't bury your lettuce. I buried mine by just a small poke (not too deep) with my finger and lightly covered with remaining MM...and i have had no issues.
Planting Lettuce Seeds Img_4422
my lettuce seems quite happy and content and growing out of control!
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Post  quiltbea 4/26/2011, 11:36 pm

I wish you luck with your lettuce. If its still relatively cool, you've got a good chance to get some. Leaf lettuce you can harvest very young.
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Post  GlassHen 4/27/2011, 9:34 am

I had a heck of a time last year keeping the birds away from my lettuce seeds. I just took an old window screen and put it over the seeds until they germinated. Worked out great.
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Post  Nonna.PapaVino 4/27/2011, 10:12 am

An unelegent, but effective way to protect seeds from birds is to upend one of those lattice seedling trays (also called web flats) over your square after planting. A damaged one, no longer useful for seedling pots, would work and probably could be obtained from a nursery/garden center for free. I've been using a couple in the new beds to keep feral cats from using the fluffy Mel's mix. I fasten them down with damaged aluminum arrow shafts--nice to have an archer in the family.
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Post  quiltbea 4/27/2011, 1:12 pm

shelostit......Your bed is looking really lovely and the lettuce looks happy.
Good for you.
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Post  CindiLou 4/27/2011, 1:18 pm

@Nonna.PapaVino wrote:An unelegent, but effective way to protect seeds from birds is to upend one of those lattice seedling trays (also called web flats) over your square after planting. A damaged one, no longer useful for seedling pots, would work and probably could be obtained from a nursery/garden center for free. I've been using a couple in the new beds to keep feral cats from using the fluffy Mel's mix. I fasten them down with damaged aluminum arrow shafts--nice to have an archer in the family.


Thank you, I like that idea better than my bricks. I don't like the bricks sitting on the MM. I know they won't pack it down and I can fluff it up with the trowel. I can use some old wire tent stakes to pin the trays down. And it would look better.
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Post  sheslostit 4/27/2011, 2:30 pm

thanks quiltbea...i tried lettuce last year (when i didn't know about SFG) and failed miserably. Waiting a few more weeks and hopefully i can harvest them. Yum. Fresh lettuce, i can't wait!
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