Lettuce Germination

by - February 08, 2012

Lettuce may be one of the easiest crops to grow so long as it isn't planted too late in hot conditions that make it bolt. Several years ago I had a great crop of Romaine in a raised bed with ideal soil conditions. There was a rich blend of manure compost, peat moss, vermiculite and the existing soil. I started seeds in the early spring, watered regularly, and added tomato plants in to the bed in April which gave the lettuce shade by early summer. The crop lasted several weeks longer than it should have.

There was another year when I switched to in-ground beds that I couldn't get my lettuce to germinate. I scattered seed upon seed, and what did come up quickly died. It turned out that the soil was crusting over and the tiny seedlings were wilting. While the soil wasn't perfect, I learned that moisture was the real issue. I'd traveled a week and wasn't wasn't watering often. I learned from my contact at Logan's that a bed of lettuce really needs to be spritzed daily, if not twice a day, as sprouts are emerging. This doesn't require deep watering, just a good gently mist. Because the seeds are started on top of the soil or just barely covered, and the roots are so shallow, they can't access water in the soil unless it is damp on the surface.

If you are just starting out gardening an font have a schedule that allows for daily watering, it is probably best to start from transplants rather than seed. Flats of lettuce are very affordable and available at garden centers and farmers markets. I bought transplants of several choys in the late summer, and they are looking beautiful now in February.

Happy planting!

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