HOW TO COLLECT AND PREPARE LETTUCE SEEDS FOR PROPAGATION

A mixture of different lettuce species on display on a table
How to collect and prepare lettuce seeds for propagation


Lettuce plants are some of the easiest to cultivate and most widely grown of all salad crops. While there are plenty of lettuce seedlings available to buy from your local plant retailers in the spring they grow so readily from seed that it really isn't necessary to purchase pre-germinated lettuce plants. So easy are they to grow from seed that they will even germinate on a sheet of damp kitchen roll within a few days of sowing! Sometimes even later on in the same day. The thing is with lettuce being such an easy crop to cultivate do you even need to purchase seed if you have an existing crop already growing in your allotment or garden? Well no.

To begin with select two or three of your best lettuces, and mark them out for seed. It’s very important that you don't collect seed from plants that bolt early as you want lettuces that will stand well. If your parent plants need a little help in getting their flowering stalks to emerge, try cutting the heads partially open with a knife as this often works well.

Close up photograph of lettuce seed emerging from their pods
How to collect and prepare lettuce seeds for propagation
Once the lettuces have flowered, their seeds will ripen gradually and after about a fortnight you can begin to harvest the seed daily in order to get the maximum yield. This can be done by either shaking the heads into a bag or by waiting until a reasonable number of seeds are ready and then cut the plant away from its root. Put it head first into a bucket, then shake and rub it to remove the seeds. If you can leave the whole cut plant upside down in the bucket somewhere dry then any immature seeds that are left will continue to ripen over the next few days. Most of what you will collect in the bucket will be chaff, but you can sort the seed from it by shaking it gently into a kitchen sieve. Some seeds may fall through the holes but most will collecting the bottom leaving the chaff to rise to the top where it can be picked off. If the seed feels a little damp, leave it to dry on a ceramic plate before labelling and storing. Lettuce seed should keep for around 3 years providing it is kept cool and dry.

Main image - Mahlum public domain
In text image - By Rasbak - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=974775

For related articles click onto the following links:
GROWING LETTUCE FROM SEED
HOW TO COLLECT, PREPARE AND SAVE OKRA SEED FOR GERMINATION
HOW TO CONTROL FLEA BEETLES ON LETTUCE
HOW TO GROW LETTUCE
HOW TO GROW LETTUCE INDOORS
HOW TO GROW LETTUCE FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW ROCKET FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW WINTER LETTUCE FROM SEED
Organic growing: Lettuce
ORGANIC CONTROL OF APHIDS ON LETTUCE
WILD ROCKET SEEDS

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