Harvesting lettuce seeds is easy, fun, and frugal. In this post, I will tell you when and how to collect and save lettuce seeds from your garden, including step by step instructions.
One of the most rewarding tasks in my garden is harvesting seeds to plant next year, and lettuce is one of my favorites.
If you get into the habit of gathering lettuce seeds every year, you’ll never need to buy them again. You’ll also be able to share with friends, or trade them for other seeds.
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed step by step guide…
Harvesting Lettuce Seeds From Your Garden
If you want to try your hand at harvesting lettuce seeds, you’ll be thrilled to know that it’s very easy. Once you learn what to look for, the actual steps don’t take much time at all.
It doesn’t matter which variety you have either. You can get seeds from any type of lettuce plant, and the steps for saving them are the same.
Does Lettuce Have Seeds?
Yes, lettuce gets seeds. Most people never see them because they pull out the plant long before it has a chance to set seed.
One lettuce plant produces a ton of seeds. So you really only need to allow one or two from each of your favorite varieties to go to seed.
How Does Lettuce Produce Seeds
Before you will be able to harvest lettuce seeds, the plant must bolt (i.e.: flower). Many people are surprised to hear that lettuce plants bloom after bolting.
But don’t get too excited. The flowers don’t last very long, and they are very small (and really not that pretty, if you ask me).
When Does Lettuce Go To Seed
As many gardeners already know, heat is what triggers bolting. Once that starts to happen, it takes several weeks before lettuce seeds are mature enough to harvest.
I usually collect lettuce seeds sometime in late summer or early fall here in my Minnesota garden. But, it might happen earlier for you, depending on where you live.
Where Do Lettuce Seeds Come From?
They form inside of the flower heads. Once the blossoms start to fade, the heads will eventually turn yellow or brown.
Shortly after that, white puffs will form on top (similar to a dandelion). The seeds are located at the bottom of each of these white puffs.
When To Harvest Lettuce Seeds
You’ll know it’s time to harvest lettuce seeds when the flower head turns yellow, or dries out, and the white cotton puffs come out around the top.
If you’re still unsure, gently tug at one of the white puffs. If they are ready, the seeds will come out with very little effort.
What Do The Seed Pods Look Like
Well, technically speaking, lettuce plants don’t really form seed pods. Instead, the seeds are located inside of the flower head.
Though, once they are filled with seeds, the dried flowers do look very much like oval-shaped pods.
What Do Lettuce Seeds Look Like
Lettuce seeds are small, flat, and oval shaped, with slightly pointy tips. They can vary in color anywhere from black, to dark grayish-brown, to almost white – depending on the variety.
How To Harvest Lettuce Seeds
Harvesting lettuce seeds is really simple, and doesn’t take much time. However, I recommend doing it on a windless day. Otherwise they could blow away, since they are so lightweight.
The best part is that you don’t need any special skills or equipment to get it done! Here’s what you’ll need…
Step 1: Choose your collection container – I find it easier to use a small plastic bucket or bowl for harvesting lettuce seeds.
Step 2: Pinch out the cotton puffs – Gently pinch the entire cotton puff between your fingers, and then pull it out.
The seeds are attached to the ends of the white stuff, and should come out easily if they are mature.
Step 3: Drop the seeds into your container – Carefully drop the seeds into your collection container. You can alo try gently rolling the cotton stuff between your finger and thumb to release the seeds.
Take care not to breathe on them, or move the container too fast, or they could blow away.
Repeat with as many of the flowers as you want, until you’ve collected the desired amount of lettuce seeds.
Optional method: Rather than pinching each flower one by one, sometimes it’s easier to clip them off.
Use a sharp pair of pruners to cut the entire flower head, and drop it into your bucket or bag.
Step 4: Bring them inside – Take your container or paper bag inside the house to prepare the seeds for storage.
What To Do With Lettuce Seeds After Collecting
Once you’re done collecting lettuce seeds from the garden, you need to separate them from the chaff and dry them before storage.
How To Separate Lettuce Seeds From Chaff
Once you get them inside, break apart the flower heads to remove the seeds inside. They will usually fall out easily, but you may need to use your fingernail to remove a few.
Regardless of how you harvested them, lettuce seeds tend to have a lot of chaff (i.e.: flower head pieces and other debris) mixed in. It can be difficult to get rid of all of it.
But don’t worry, a little bit of chaff won’t affect the ability to save or grow them. Pick out the largest pieces of debris, and do the best you can to separate the seeds from the smaller bits.
How To Dry Lettuce Seeds
It’s important to allow lettuce seeds to dry completely before saving them. That way, you will avoid any potential molding.
To do that, simply lay them out on a dry surface, where they will be protected from any type of wind. Let them air dry for at least a week, and you’re good.
How To Save Lettuce Seeds For Next Year
You can plant your freshly harvested lettuce seeds right away, or save them for next year. There are lots of options for storing them.
How Long Do Lettuce Seeds Last?
If you keep them in a dark, cool location where they are protected from moisture, lettuce seeds can last 3-4 years. So you can save them for the long term.
However, I always recommend collecting lettuce seeds every 1-2 years in order to keep your stash fresh. That will give you the best results.
Where To Buy The Seeds
It’s easy to find a variety of lettuce seeds for sale at your local garden center, or big box store in the later winter or early spring.
Of course, you can also buy them online any time of the year. Here are some great, quality seeds to get you started…
Harvesting lettuce seeds is incredibly simple once you know what to look for. Plus, it is so much fun to gather your own lettuce seeds each year. You’ll never have to rely on the garden center to buy them again.
If you want to learn all you need to know about how to easily grow any type of seed you want, then enroll in the Online Seed Starting Course today! It’s comprehensive, self-paced online course that will walk you through everything you need to be successful. Enroll and get started right away!
Otherwise, if you just want a quick-start intro, or need a quick refresher about how to start seeds indoors, then my Seed Starting Indoors eBook would be perfect for you!
Up Next: Learn how to grow lettuce from seed here.
More Posts About Saving Seeds
- How To Harvest & Save Radish Seeds
- How To Save Pea Seeds From Your Garden
- How To Harvest & Save Bean Seeds
Share your tips for harvesting lettuce seeds in the comments section below!