Lots of Lettuce

Last year I relied on a sunny window in our spare bedroom to germinate seedlings (this room has since been taken over by my husband as his office so my seed starting is now relegated to the basement).  The window faces exactly due south and it gets plenty of sun creating a nice warm environment for newly sown seeds.

That spot by the window got a lot of action when it came to starting all my seeds last year.  And everything was going pretty well.  Until I tried to grow lettuce.  I sowed 5 or 6 varieties and out of those, only 1 variety actually germinated.  The rest did nothing.  So off to the computer I went trying to figure out what went wrong.

As it turns out, in order to germinate, lettuce seeds need light – which I knew – and cool temperatures – which I didn’t know.  My little seedling spot by the window was way too hot for them.  So I started all over again using a different method that I saw somewhere (for the life of me I can’t remember where) and it worked like a charm.  My seeds all germinated within 3 days.

Considering my bumpy start this year when starting most of my seeds, it was so nice to sow my lettuce seeds with confidence – confidence that my seed sowing method would actually work the 1st time round.

How I Start Lettuce Seeds
  1. Fill cell-pack with moistened soil, all the way to overflowing, and then tap it down gently to firm the soil.
  2. Sprinkle 3-4 seeds onto the soil surface in each cell.
  3. Using your finger, gently press the seeds onto the soil – you are not trying to bury them, only give them good seed-to-soil contact.
  4. Place the cell-pack on a tray with water in the bottom & let it soak up the water for about 15 minutes**
  5. Using a spray bottle, mist the seeds with water.  This is very important as you want the entire seed to be moist – not just the bottom.
  6. Cover the tray with cling film (aka plastic wrap).  In addition to the cling film, I also covered the tray with a clear plastic lid.  If you don't have a lid - no problem.  Last year I only used the cling film and the seeds germinated just fine so the lid isn’t really necessary.
  7. Place the tray under lights in a cool room with no bottom heat - my basement is around 18-19C (64-66F).
  8. Using your spray bottle, mist the seeds 2x per day (morning & evening).
**This step could be skipped if your soil is very moist.  I only lightly moisten the soil that goes into the cell packs as I find it easier to work with that way.  Then, after I sow the seeds, I let it soak up more water.
Newly Sown Lettuce
Using this method, I saw little tails emerging from most of the seeds after 24 hours.  These tails (which are the roots) then go into the soil & the seedlings start to grow.  Once little leaves are evident on most of the seedlings (around Day 3), I remove the cling film & lid.
Lettuce Seedlings on Day 3
Cling film & lid is removed
So now that I've talked about the “how”, let’s move on to the “what”.  I am going to grow six types of lettuce this year.  I have 4 leaf lettuce varieties – “Simpson Elite”, “Royal Red”, “Rougette de Montpellier” and “Ruby Red”.  I purchased all of these in 2012 & this will be my third year growing them.  Added to the mix is a romaine lettuce “Pinares” and a Batavian lettuce, “Sierra MI”, which is a loose head of large crisp leaves.  I’m quite excited about these last two as it will be the first time that I will be growing a non-leaf type lettuce.
Six Varieties of Lettuce
So it's been 8 days and my seedlings are doing very well.  I've thinned them to 2 plants per cell - technically it should be one plant per cell but I'm one of those people that cringes when I have to get rid of perfectly healthy seedlings.  I'll probably bite the bullet and thin the rest in a few days - or I may leave them.  We'll have to wait and see.  Here are my little seedlings today:

Lettuce Seedlings - 8 Days After Sowing
And what did I finally (FINALLY!) see poking out of the soil this morning?  My garlic!  Only 3 have come up so far, but it's a start.

Garlic - It's Alive!

Last year at this time almost all of the garlic was up so I think we are 2 weeks behind or so.  It feels as if we are much further behind than that, so when I looked at last year's notes and realized it was only about two weeks, it actually made me feel a bit better.
Till next time...

This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursdays at Grow a Good Life.


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