Planting Spring Lettuce
After filling your trays with soil, sprinkle seeds in the planter cells. Water lightly, cover with soil, then water again. Watering before covering with soil gets the seeds nice and wet and encourages them to settle. Cover seeds with about 1/8 inch of soil. If the seeds are too deep, germination will take forever. 55-65 degrees is best for germination, which should happen within 10 days.
Seed germination is an important time to focus on an even watering schedule. The seeds need to be warm and moist for days. In our green house we gently water 3-5 times a day depending on how hot it is etc- the flip is if you water too much your seeds won't do well either. I often try to water just when things are starting to dry out. When you see all the little sprouts, it’s time to thin. Leave the healthiest plant in each tray cell. If you plant directly in the garden, thin leaf and loose head lettuce to 4-8 inches apart and leave more room for firm head lettuce, or if you plant directly in the garden allow lettuce to come up, don't thin but use as cut and come again. Lettuce will be ready to eat in about 1.5 months and you can continue to plant more as you harvest until the weather is too hot.
When the summer heat reaches your lettuce plants they will bolt. As seed savers we look at bolting plants as another awesome stage of abundance in the life of lettuce. We allow the plants to bolt and flower fully, once they pollinate the seed will set. Lettuce is self pollinated meaning each flower is perfect and does not require insect or wind pollination. each flower is only open for a couple of hours in the morning so accidental cross pollination by insects is unlikely. separation of 10 ft is usually enough to ensure no crossing. This process will take place about a month after prime edible stage. You will notice little seeds forming at the base of what used to be the flower heads. Lettuce seed has little white puffy tops meant to carry the seed in the wind. Once the seed has fully formed and they appear to be falling off of the plant easily, massage the tops of the lettuce into a paper bag. Because lettuce will continue to seed for up to 6 weeks, this process is repeated once a week to get mature seed as it forms and before it falls to the ground.
All the best,
Sasha at Redwood Organic Farm