Xandrew245x
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:57 pm

Problems germination lettuce

Hello everyone, this is the third year I have started plants indoors. I started a large variety of plants and all have germinated very successful except for one, and that is my lettuce. I have read different ways to do it, one being putting the seeds directly on top of the soil, covering them with saran rap and putting them under the grow light. four days later and only 1 or 2 seeds have actually done anything at all. The other way was to cover the seeds with 1/4" of soil and put under the grow light. This method yielded me a good germination of my red romaine lettuce, but not my iceburg or butter crunch. This is the first time I have ever grown lettuce, and I'm really not sure what I'm doing wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11229
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Welcome to the forum. Please update your profile with your zone and location. It helps to know where you live and your growing conditions.
Iceberg lettuce is hard to grow, most people don't try it.
Looseleaf lettuces do a lot better. Romaine takes about 70 days to mature and does not like hot weather. None of the lettuces will be happy once the day temperatures get much above 80 degrees.
Make sure your seeds are fresh and not more than 5 years old. This year's crop is better
Soil: you can use a seedling mix but I still think that is too dense. I would add perlite to lighten it.
Pots. I have better luck with community pots rather than single cells. I use 4 inch pots and put about 10-30 seeds in a pot. Lettuce does not germinate well so sometimes you get a lot, sometimes not.
Moisten the mix before you plant.
I sprinkle the seed on top of the soil and press it down to get good contact
Put a piece of paper towel cut to fit the pot on top of the seeds and water through the paper towel. Water to keep the towel moist. Do not let water sit in the tray, empty the tray after 10 minutes.
If the weather is between 50-80 degrees outside, put the pot in the sun. Water daily, no saucer under the pot. After about 5 days start peeking under the paper towel and remove the paper towel gently when you see the seedlings start to emerge. You need to bottom water or water very gently.

Indoors bottom water and remove all water from the tray after 10 minutes. You won't need the paper towel, but keep the lights directly over head about 14 hours a day. You will have to keep the soil moist but avoid it being water logged. lettuce seeds will rot in soggy soil. Indoors the soil will dry out slower.

Lettuce is not a summer crop, it only grows well in the cooler months of the year and will bolt in hot weather.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Xandrew245x
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:57 pm

Re: Problems germination lettuce

I'm in zone 6b, I won't get average temps above 80 until July so I have time to get it planted and grown before the really hot weather sets in.

Im going to just let go what I have planted and transplant whatever germinates l.

I want to grow some hydroponically once I get my outside garden going, so I will keep it mind your germination technique.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27657
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Are the seeds fresh? Lettuce seeds seem to lose viability pretty quickly, 2-3 yrs, especially when kept in plastic bags or maybe when exposed to too much humidity.

I also found that the pelleted lettuce seeds don't store as well from year to year and lose viability quicker.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11229
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Problems germination lettuce

We grew pelleted lettuce seeds in oasis plugs for the hydro systems. It works better than soil since the plugs can be put directly into the system without the soil washing out. We ran the hydro solution into tilted trays so the plugs were kept moist. The lettuce plugs would be separated and dropped into the rail or aero tower basket. Some of the extra plugs would be planted out in the cinder in the aquaponic beds. We did have aquaponic rafts but they were changed to cinder awhile ago. The rafts were styrofoam with 2 inch holes to accept the basket.

Lettuce in hydro can be ready anywhere from 35-55 days. lettuce germinates within a week and can usually be planted out when they are 10 days old.

We did grow lettuce in plug trays with sunshine #4 for the aquaponic cinder beds. Eventually the accumulated soil, fish waste, dirt and silt clogs the beds and makes them a swamp, so the cinder only lasts about 18 months before it needs to be washed or replaced.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Problems germination lettuce

It would help if you would tell us where you are located and what your weather has been like lately.

I have started tons of plants from seeds indoors under lights, but not lettuce. It is very easy to start from seed in the ground. If the lettuce season hasn't passed you by (it is about over here in GA), just make yourself a nice seed bed, scatter your lettuce seeds. Drop a LITTLE bit of potting soil over them just to barely cover. Pat down lightly to be sure the seeds are in good contact with the soil. Water in just enough to dampen. Then keep it damp all the time until the lettuce is well started.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Xandrew245x
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:57 pm

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Thanks everyone. The seeds were fresh, they were bought this year.

I'm in south central pa, the weather has been a bit warmer than usual.

Rainbow, I still have a good two months or so before the temps will be steadily about 80 degrees so I still have time to plant my lettuce and get a harvest, but I do want to do some hydroponically to keep a harvest all summer long.

I need to finish preparing the other half of my garden, then I think i'll try some iceberg and butter crunch out there, my red romaine germinated great and had almost 100%.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27657
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Problems germination lettuce

I think you might be a little too late for iceberg lettuce at this point. Bibb will hold up better and at this point, you are better off with heat tolerant lettuces. Deer tongue is one that is highly rated for heat tolerance. Leaf lettuces in general are as well. Try planting them where they will be shaded by taller vegs. North side or between tomatoes work well since they need the bottom branches pruned anyway and that will leave room.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Xandrew245x
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:57 pm

Re: Problems germination lettuce

I have two varieties of leaf lettuce going in, not to concerned about iceberg, just wanted to see if I could grow some. I went ahead and planted some seeds directly in my garden and covered with a bit of potting mix, I'm going to see what happens. If they don't germinated at all, then i'll plant something else in its place.

Xandrew245x
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:57 pm

Re: Problems germination lettuce

It has been in the 60s and 70s daytime temps here for the past two weeks. Would it be safe to set all my seedlings out during the day? I'm worried about my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers being out. I would bring them back in every night.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27657
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Start out in shade and wind-sheltered spot and increase sun exposure or choose location with dappled shade/sun. Seedlings dry out faster exposed to sun and wind so be sure to water before setting them out and in the morning, and check in the evening, too.

Tomatoes are fine as long as temps are in 50's but others could be set back from lower than upper 50's. Watch out for the low overnight coming up mid-week. Forecast for wed-thurs is as low as 43°F here -- not entirely safe even for tomatoes. Cold front might get to you sooner in Pa.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7480
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Re: Problems germination lettuce

I have not much luck with the head lettuces. Romaine or Simpson Elite do very well for me. I plant out in the garden plot where it will grow. Just poke a few seeds in every ten inches in the row and later thin to one plant per spot. You can eat the thinnings. The one plant left will make an nice big open head.

Image

Image
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

Yearoundgardener
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 9:37 pm
Location: South Carolina, South of Charlotte NC

Re: Problems germination lettuce

In over 55 years of gardening, I have several tricks for growing from seed.
I start most seeds like broccoli, tomatoes, etc in a moist bounty towel , spaced evenly, in a zip lock bag. I usually get 99% germination.
I hold it up to the light after 5 days, checking to look for small roots, then tear around the root if it is attached to the bounty, and plant the root or root and bounty, into a starter planter, one at a time, and drip wet them in, transplanting after 2-3 leaves later into the garden.
Once I have used the seeds from any year, I put the remainder in a Zip lock bag and into the freezer!
I just did a "Germination Check" in the bounty/zip of ten year old Bush bean seeds, and 100% Germination!
That is a good way to check viability of almost all seeds!
As for lettuce, not worth that effort, so I direct plant in the garden.
Here is how I successfully do it from seed. I loosely rake the soil, thinly scatter the fine seeds on top, walk on the row or block to press the seeds onto the soil. I then take an old white sheet, place it over the seed bed, and wet it thoroughly! I keep it moist, never letting it dry more than a day, and lift it after 5 days to see if they are up. If not, I check every 2 days!
The advantage I have found is that the sheets keep birds, bugs, etc from feasting on the seeds, as well as any heavy rain from washing them away. I do the same method for carrots, beets, Asian greens, and Savoy cabbage.
A GREAT alternative to lettuce is Komatsuna, (Japanese Spinach Mustard). It grows fast, and starts supplying a steady supply in 4 weeks! I eat a lettuce salad most nights. Now I mix 60% komatsuna to 40% lettuce, and I cannot tell the difference!

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27657
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Definitely trying the sheet trick! 8)

...maybe obvious, but what do you use to keep the sheets down and not blow away? Rocks/bricks? Lumber? Is it better to use something to hold them down evenly flat?

I have komatsuna and a few other similar Asian mustard type seeds -- it sounds like I should keep/be sowing them NOW rather than trying to start them earlier with broccoli. I was wondering because most of them are described to bolt if exposed to too cold temps. I just recently planted out the started Michihili (that's actually a giant looseleaf cabbage) and Tokyo Bekana.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Boboe
Full Member
Posts: 32
Joined: Sat Mar 25, 2017 6:25 pm
Location: Destin, FL ; Zone 8b

Re: Problems germination lettuce

Lettuce transplants very well in my experience. It also has somewhat poor germination for me. I grow red romaine, green romaine, and salad bowl. I seed very shallow and relatively heavy. I expect to have to pull a fair number of baby plants. When they're a few inches tall, I thin and transplant (if necessary). I don't think I've ever had much--if any--transplant shock with lettuce.

What others said about lettuce seeds lasting only 2-3 years is also my experience. I had some 2015 romaine seeds that were total duds this spring.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11229
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Problems germination lettuce

I haven't had too much trouble germinating lettuce. I have had trouble with too many coming up. I need a better way to control the number of seeds I plant.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
Gary350
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4799
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

Re: Problems germination lettuce

You can plant a lot of cold weather crops in the snow. Sprinkle seed on top of the snow they are very easy to see. When the snow melts and the weather gets right they grow. It don't get much easier than that.

Yearoundgardener
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat May 06, 2017 9:37 pm
Location: South Carolina, South of Charlotte NC

Re: Problems germination lettuce

applestar wrote:Definitely trying the sheet trick! 8)

...maybe obvious, but what do you use to keep the sheets down and not blow away? Rocks/bricks? Lumber? Is it better to use something to hold them down evenly flat?

I have komatsuna and a few other similar Asian mustard type seeds -- it sounds like I should keep/be sowing them NOW rather than trying to start them earlier with broccoli. I was wondering because most of them are described to bolt if exposed to too cold temps. I just recently planted out the started Michihili (that's actually a giant looseleaf cabbage) and Tokyo Bekana.
Yep, I use bricks on the corners to hold them down, relatively flat but not tight. Yes to about the Komatsuna, it sprouted quickly under the sheet, in about 4 days, no concern about spacing, and in about three weeks, I was getting the equivalent of two heads of lettuce per week from a 4 foot by 1 foot block! I had also planted Tsoi Sim, Sui Chow, and Pak Choi on Apr 22, and will start picking them later this week. Also planted a block of Savoy cabbage at the same time instead of individual plants, and they are doing great as well. I will thin them as needed to provide room for heads. I also plan another block of Komatsuna in about 2 more weeks, to see how heat tolerant it is.

Return to “Vegetable Gardening Forum”