Cut-and-Come-Again Lettuce Sampler

comments (11) November 11th, 2009

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The Seed Sower delivers a thin, evenly distributed line of lettuce seeds.
Freckles makes a lovely leaf lettuce for the salad bowl, and if you let it go to seed, you might be surprised by an enchanting flowering plant.
Click To Enlarge Photo: Boyd Hagen

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Better ways to sow small seeds
Because they are harvested while very young, cutting lettuces can be planted in fairly dense bands. Instead of broadcasting seed, it is just as easy to sow rows about 3 inches apart, with 1⁄2 inch to 1 inch between plants in the row. I have found that it takes less time to plant seed carefully than to thin seedlings; besides, if not done properly, thinning often disturbs the roots of the seedlings that are left.

There are several ways to sow seed to eliminate thinning. Simplest is to mix the seed with dry builder’s sand (not salty beach sand), using about twice as much sand as seed. This makes it easier to dribble seeds at fairly even spacing down a marked row. An inexpensive little gadget that distributes seed much better than a seed packet is the Seed Sower, which has five different-size outlets to control the flow of seeds down a tapered spout.

Seed Sower Harvest carefully
The author uses the Seed Sower to deliver a thin, evenly distributed line of lettuce seeds.   Cut carefully while harvesting. Damaging the crown will hinder the plant's ability to resprout.

For garden rows, my old reliable is an Earthway Seeder, for which I now have a dozen seed plates for different seed types and spacings. It makes a furrow, plants the seed at whatever depth I want, covers it, and firms the ground, all in one pass.

Last season I experimented with the Pinpoint Precision Seeder, which can handle six seed sizes. It’s smaller and more maneuverable than the Earthway, and works well with a finely tilled, debris-free bed, but is a bit finicky in less-than-perfect conditions. A larger version sows four rows 2-1⁄4 inches apart, perfect for mesclun.

If enough space is available, or just to confuse pests, I sometimes skip the cut-and-come-again routine in favor of harvest, hoe, rake, and reseed. I harvest the young plants, roots and all, stir the soil up with a stirrup hoe, rake the bed flat, and sow fresh seed.

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posted in: Lettuce

Comments (11)

A4MyAngel55 writes: Hi when I plant my seeds they come up ok, but they look week and spindly. I usually end up with two plants per spot, I wait till they're about one inch tall before thinning. After that they get week looking. What am I doing wrong. I want to start a green house in my basement this winter, but I want to make sure I'm doing everything right. HELP PLEASE.
Posted: 4:04 pm on May 29th
Jesully414 writes: When do I cut it after it's sprouted? How high? I'm not sure what leash lettuce I have. More of a salad bowl or an oak leaf.
Posted: 7:46 pm on May 25th
Fields writes: I would recommend using a sanitizer on your cutting tools. Sanidate and other OMRI horticulture products are great for that. I have used scissors and knives in personal and commercial lettuce harvesting with no issues. Pinching does work well but anytime you leave an unclean pinch or tear in the skin you open the door for disease. I have also sped up my production by using a simple hdroponic NFT unit. Works great outdoors or in the basement under simple, cheap lights. I would also agree with the varieties in this article. Great choices and good article.
Posted: 9:45 am on May 7th
Flmastergardener writes: when you use scissors to cut anything in your gardin, which I do quite often, just dry them and spray with some pam and store with blades open. Of course away from children
Posted: 6:46 pm on July 17th
Chaef writes: I have never used a scissors to cut my lettuce, because when your scissors get wet, they rust, and when you cut the lettuce, it leaves rust behind on the lettuce. Rust will damage your lettuce!
Posted: 12:09 pm on May 30th
debbieb73 writes: I actually plant garlic around my garden as I have a bunny "problem". The garlic is the first thing up in the spring, they bite it & never return to my garden. They must not be Italian rabbits. We LOVE garlic!!!!
Posted: 8:07 am on May 3rd
BillyJoesFoodFarm writes: I love this article, and have reposted an excerpt with a link back to you on my facebook page and on our farm website.

Here in zone 6, I let a couple of my lettuce plants go to seed right in the garden. They will self-sow and come back up the next year, with no work from me. Less work is always a good thing!

Thanks for the article.

Tina Elliott
Posted: 12:45 pm on February 26th
Susieqtwo writes: Good information.
Posted: 9:53 am on January 29th
clematislover writes: Instead of using a scissors, I just use my thumbnail to pinch off the leaves. I have so many plants in a row that if some pull out, instead of being cut off, it's not a big deal. I've done this for 20 years and not had a problem. It's much faster than using a scissors.
Otherwise, this is a very complete article about growing lettuces. The photos of the different varieties are great too.
I've also used lettuce as an edger in my perennial garden. You have lovely choices of yellow green, green,red and red greem combos to pick from.
Posted: 8:55 am on April 14th
PeterGarnham writes: Tigerlady, use a really sharp knife, or sharp scissors. Cut the whole plant, and do it a bit lower than shown in the photo. Leave about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of the plant so it can regrow. It may regrow even if you cut too low, but it will take longer. If you cut too high the leaf "stubs" will die back and rot. Experiment until you get the hang of it. You can generally get two or three cuttings off lettuces and spinach before it's time to re-seed. Hope this helps!
Posted: 2:55 pm on March 26th
Tigerlady writes: I would like to read more about the actual cutting and harvesting, please. Tips? I'm not at all sure I do it properly, and find it takes me a very long time cutting leaf by leaf, but also saw your warning in the picture caption to not damage the "crown". Is the crown the inner most small leaves? The center? Also, if I don't break it off, the center of the plant gets long, leggy and then weak. Perhaps I just need to cut and reseed more often? Thanks.
Posted: 12:39 am on March 14th
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