Growing lettuce from seed is simple, and so rewarding. In this post, I will show you exactly when and how to plant lettuce seeds for the best results.
Planting lettuce seeds is fairly straightforward. But, there are different methods you can use, and some important things to keep in mind in order to end up with healthy seedlings.
If you want to be really successful, this guide will show you the best system to use, and walk you through everything you need to know about how to grow lettuce from seed, step by step.
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide…
Growing Lettuce From Seed
In this section, you’ll learn all about different types of lettuce seeds to grow, which sowing methods will work best for your garden, and how long it will take.
Types Of Lettuce Seeds For Planting
There are tons of varieties of lettuce seeds you can grow. I like to plant several different types so I have a good mix for my salads.
Related Post: How To Collect Lettuce Seeds From Your Garden
Recommended Lettuce Seed Starting Methods
You can plant lettuce seeds directly in the garden, start them indoors, or even try winter sowing them.
I personally find it easiest to direct sow them, since they grow so fast, and the small seedlings can be difficult to transplant.
The method you choose depends on what is most convenient for you, and where you live. If it’s too hot or cold to direct sow them, then your best option is to start them indoors.
How Long From Seed To Harvest?
Lettuce seeds grow very quickly. On average, it only takes about 40-50 days for them to reach full maturity.
You can start harvesting leafy varieties much sooner than that, since they don’t need to reach full maturity first.
However, larger types, or those that produce a head, need longer to mature. It can take anywhere from 55-80 days from seed to harvest for iceberg, romaine, or bibb lettuce, for example.
Planting Lettuce Seeds
Sowing lettuce seeds takes a little bit of planning. Don’t just throw them into the garden and hope for the best. Set yourself up for success by planting them the right way, and at the proper time.
When To Plant Lettuce Seeds
Lettuce seeds germinate best in the cooler temperatures of spring or fall. If it’s too hot, they won’t germinate.
So, the best time to plant lettuce seeds is as soon as the ground is workable in very early spring, or once the temps start to cool down in late summer or early fall.
How To Plant Lettuce Seeds Step-By-Step
Below I will walk you through the steps for how to plant lettuce seeds. Before you begin, gather all of your supplies so you have everything you need to hand. This will make the sowing process much easier and faster.
- Hand trowel
- Seedling trays (optional)
- Seed starting soil or regular peat pellets (optional)
Otherwise, before direct sowing them, loosen up the top inch of soil in your garden using your trowel, and remove any weeds or large rocks and sticks.
Step 2: Determine how many seeds to plant – Since they are so small, it’s much easier to plant lettuce seeds in rows that are 12-18″ apart, rather than trying to get the spacing for each one exactly right.
Indoors, plant one lettuce seed per hole if you’re using fresh ones. Otherwise, use 2-3 per hole if they are old, and then thin the seedlings later as necessary.
Step 3: Plant the seeds – The best way to plant lettuce seeds is to sprinkle them over the top of the loose garden soil or indoor trays.
They need light to germinate, so take care that you do not plant them more than 1/4″ deep. I prefer to just leave them sitting on top , and let them to work their way in when I water.
Step 4: Water them – Once all your lettuce seeds are sown, water them well until the soil is evenly moist, but not soggy.
To avoid displacing the lightweight seeds, use the lowest setting on your garden hose over your beds, or water the trays from the bottom.
Step 5: Cover the seed flats (optional) – If you started your lettuce seeds indoors, cover the trays with a plastic dome lid, and place them in a bright location where the temperature stays between 65-75F degrees.
Lettuce Seeds Germination Time
In general, it takes somewhere between 4-10 days for lettuce seeds to germinate. In perfect conditions, it can be as little as 2 days.
If the soil is too warm, dry, or wet, or if there’s no light, it will inhibit germination. So, if your lettuce seeds aren’t growing, then check the temperature, light, and moisture levels.
What Do Lettuce Seedlings Look Like?
When they first sprout, lettuce seedlings are very small, and have two rounded and slightly oblong shaped leaves. Those are called the “seed leaves”.
All of the ones that grow after that are called the “true leaves”, and they look exactly like the mature ones – only much tinier.
How To Care For Lettuce Seedlings
Once your lettuce seedlings have germinated, they still need extra care. Here is what to do to ensure success after they sprout.
- Light – In order to germinate and grow their best, lettuce seeds and seedlings need lots of bright light. So make sure to use a grow light indoors to ensure they stay compact.
- Water – They will also do best in consistently moist soil. Never allow it to dry out or become too soggy. A moisture gauge is the perfect tool to help you get it just right.
- Fertilizer – Once your baby lettuce seedlings grow their first true leaves, you can start feeding them with a half strength dose of organic seedling fertilizer, liquid fish emulsion, or compost tea.
- Thinning – If you end up with overcrowded lettuce seedlings, then you should thin them to give each one plenty of room to grow
Transplanting Lettuce Seedlings Into The Garden
If you started your lettuce seeds indoors, then there are a few steps you must take in order for them to survive being transplanted into the garden.
First, make sure that you harden them off to prepare them for life outdoors, and never skip this step. Otherwise, the transplant shock could be fatal.
Also, it’s very important to transplant them at the right time. Lettuce seedlings hate the heat, and hot weather will trigger bolting.
So plant them into the garden as soon as the soil is workable in very early spring, or after your last heatwave in early fall.
You are probably feeling pretty confident about growing lettuce from seed by now. But you might still have some questions. Here are answers to the ones I see the most.
Why won’t my lettuce seeds germinate?
If your lettuce seeds don’t germinate, they are most likely old. Otherwise, you may have planted them too deep, or the soil is too warm, too wet, or too dry.
How many lettuce seeds do you plant per hole?
If your lettuce seeds are new, then plant one per hole. Otherwise, if they’re more than two years old, plant 2-3 per hole, then thin them out later.
How deep do you plant lettuce seeds?
Since they are so small, and require light to germinate, take care to plant lettuce seeds only about 1/4 inch deep.
Should I soak lettuce seeds before planting?
While it’s certainly not required, soaking lettuce seeds for 12-24 hours before planting can help to speed up germination.
How can you germinate lettuce seeds faster?
The best way to try to speed up lettuce germination is to soak the seeds for 12-24 hours before planting them. Also, give them plenty of light right from the start.
Do lettuce seeds need light to germinate?
Yes, lettuce seeds need light to germinate, so make sure that you don’t sow them too deep. Then put them in a bright location during germination, or hang a plant light right above the trays.
Growing lettuce from seed is fun, and very easy. Simply follow the detailed instructions above for the best success, and the biggest bounty!
Would you like to learn how to finally be successful with growing your own seeds? Then you should take my online Seed Starting Course! It’s a fantastic and fully comprehensive online course that you go through at your own pace. Enroll and begin today!
Otherwise, if you just need a little refresher, then you should download my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook for the perfect quick start guide.
More Posts About Growing Seeds
- How To Grow Carrots From Seed
- How To Plant & Grow Radishes From Seed
- How To Grow An Avocado Tree From Seed
- How To Grow Spinach From Seed: Step-By-Step
Share your tips for planting lettuce seeds in the comments below.