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Grow Lettuce from Seed

When you grow your own, you can go way beyond the varieties available at the grocery store

There are countless lettuces to choose from. And here’s good news: the “exotic” varieties are a lot easier to grow and much more nutritious and colorful than that old standby, iceberg.

I like to start my lettuce indoors, even though it’s not necessary. It gives me a head start on the season, it allows me to arrange them somewhat artfully in their beds, and maybe best of all, I can share them with friends and co-workers.

Sowing the seeds is the essence of simplicity. I Fill a container with potting soil, sprinkle some seeds on top, add a little more potting soil, water, and enclose it in a plastic bag to form a mini-greenhouse. In southwestern Connecticut, where I live, I plant the seeds by mid-March, and usually, they sprout in 7 to 10 days. When sprouts appear, I remove the plastic and put the containers under fluorescent lights.

Warm, and safe from the dog
Salads to await germination. The plastic bags retain moisture, and a nearby woodstove provides some heat. After four or five days, check daily to see if the seeds have sprouted.


Sprouted seedlings
When seedlings sprout, remove the bags and bathe them in light. The first leaves, visible here, are the cotyledons and look pretty much the same from variety to variety. True leaves follow.

When the seedlings have a set or two of true leaves, I transplant them into individual cups, which I’ve filled with garden soil. A week or two after that, weather permitting, I set them outside where they are sheltered from the wind so they can acclimate to real-world conditions.

Lettuce seedlings hardening off

Below you’ll see some of my favorite varieties. You can check out these, and many more, at Fedco Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.


Cracoviensis lettuce Forellenschluss lettuce
Cracoviensis, a French heirloom, has been a reliable producer in my garden. Forellenschluss, speckled romaine, is a colorful and popular Austrian heirloom.
Merlot lettuce Strela lettuce
For the deep red color, it’s hard to beat Merlot. Bright green and yummy, Strela anchors the salade palette.
Buttercrunch lettuce Oreilles du diable lettuce
 Buttercrunch lettuce is slow to bolt. Oreilles du diable (devil’s ears) adds muted tones to the salad bowl.



So get out those seed catalogs and make your selections.

Next: Lettuce in Every Season
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Fruits and Vegetables

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