Lettuce – The Seed Saving Super Selfer

Lettuce is another good candidate for #seedsavingformarketgrowers

It needs NO isolation distance. Thatís right, lettuce is a SUPER SELFER. It is exceptional to see any crossing in lettuce. Even if the plants are grown side by side.

And pretty much all the lettuce varieties you use are open pollinated. I donít know of any hybrid lettuce varieties readily available for market growers.

This means that any lettuce you grow from your own saved seed should look just like its parent.

But there are 3 things that might frustrate you about growing lettuce to seed if youíre growing in a wet climate like us.

  1. Lettuce is susceptible to all types of diseases. And the longer the plant is in the ground the more chance you have for your lettuce to go full jelly. Some varieties might get you decent baby leaves, or even a decent head but will melt before you can get the plants to flower and set seed.
  2. Seed yield can be lower under rainy weather.
  3. Lettuce seed can be frustrating to clean when you have any amount of moisture clumping the little fuzzies to the seed.

Part of the solution is to trial lettuce varieties for good seed yield in your climate.

As for not perfectly clean seed goes. Part of the secret is making sure the plants are real dry. Weíll talk about this more this summer.

Now, if youíre ready to save some lettuce seed, all you have to do is let some plants go to flower. (You can harvest leaves from these plants for letting them bolt.)

You could leave the first 20-30 plants in your lettuce bed, go to seed.

Or, you could flag the best plants as you harvest lettuce leaves. Then when the bed is finished for salad greens, you can dig up the flagged plants to replant them into a seed saving area.

10 thoughts on “Lettuce – The Seed Saving Super Selfer

  1. Thanks for these encouraging tips. A few thoughts:
    Transplanting plants to a seeding area, great workaround, and lettuces move well with attention to limiting shock..
    Summer high tunnels can be a great place to mature seed, including lettuce. Soil and plant moisture so much more easily controlled. Roll up sides and removeable ends increase air flow to limit foliar disease.
    Some lettuces have been selected for high resistance to basal rot diseases, Start with these, and/or select for these traits.

    Jadeite and Xeno’s still working for you, as small summer romaines? Other favs?

    1. High tunnels are great for lettuce going to seed. We actually grow our commercial lettuce seed in an unheated greenhouse to get the best seed yield.

      Still loving Jadeite. Actually haven’t grow Xeno again since it did so well in our trials. But will probably to so again sooner than later!


  2. Thanks for the great tips. Never thought of a seed saving space, makes lots of sense.

    1. We’re also learning from self-sown lettuce: In my unheated high tunnel, we let about a dozen lettuce varieties go to seed last year, one to few plants of each. We’re seeing a range of germination times and rates of growth in cool soil, from self sowing. Figuring out which ones give us earliest lettuce in quantity.

      1. That’s the challenge of the seed saver. You want a lettuce to take a long time to bolt so you’ve go good eating but you also want to get the seed so it can’t bolt too late!!!

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