Seed Saving

It is fairly easy to save lettuce seed. The plants are mostly self-pollinated, though there may be some cross-pollination from insects. It is recommended that varieties be separated by 25 feet to keep them pure, which is simple enough. If you save the seed from your best plants, you can develop better strains than you can buy (and have higher quality seed). You can save lettuce seed with no thought for purity if you don't care if the variety is somewhat mixed up, as it will give you plenty of seed for growing cut-and-come-again lettuce. You can gather seed from plants that have bolted, but it is important not to gather it from the first plants to bolt. Early flowering is not a trait you want to perpetuate.

Head lettuce can present a problem when it comes to seed saving. The head may be so dense that the flower stalk may not be able to get out. If this is the case, you may have to cut an X in the top of the head, to enable the flower stem to emerge (as you would with a cabbage). If the flower stem is very big you may have to stake it, to prevent it from falling over when it gets loaded with seed.

The yellow flowers are followed, 2 to 3 weeks later, by fuzzy seed heads. Gather the seed as it ripens by holding a paper bag over the head and shaking. The seed ripens sequentially, so you must collect it every few days to get all the ripe seed. Keep on collecting until you have all the seed you need, or until it is blown away by the wind. Alternatively you can cut the entire head when about 50% of the seed has ripened and dry it in a paper grocery bag. Clean the seed as much as possible, then dry and store it in a cool place. Newly harvested seed usually won't germinate for a couple of months.

Lettuce Mosaic virus can be seed borne so watch out for it if you save your own seed, or swap seed with others.

Seed Viability in Years: 2-5 Years

Germination Percentage: 80%