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Lettuce growing advice, just can't figure what i'm doing wrong.

I've tried growing lettuce this year (after having grown it last year) with the same seeds but i can't get the seeds to put out the true leaves. I've tried various months, various things, varying moisture, covering it with cling film, no cover. I can get the seeds to germinate but even when i germinate them in the fridge on moist tissue and then transplant the little root into soil...nothing happens.

I tried April, May June July and then again September, October. I've tried surface planting seeds, little bit below surface...nothing.

Last year when i did it i put some seeds in soil and actually forgot about them and checked it and saw some baby lettuce plants so i transplanted and got full size icebergs. But for the life of me i can't seem to do it this year.

I've tried looking up videos and all say just do this and it's so easy but i can't get it to work.

Any tips appreciated as am flumoxxed. TIA.


  • Sky_
    Sky_ Posts: 605 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Have you tried fresh seeds or new (or sterilized) compost?  The only things I can think of are that the seedlings are dying off due to disease/cold/old seeds/too much or too little moisture.

    What is actually happening to the seedlings (little roots) you're growing? Are they shrivelling up or keeling over at soil level (known as damping off)?
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  • I've tried new compost and the seeds are still in date and viable. As when i germinate them in the fridge, little roots or tiny hairs grow and look healthy but when i transplant them into various composts nothing actually grows above the soil. So there is nothing to shrivel up as i bury the root under soil. I can't figure how wet is too wet to get them started. I'm normally okay with tomatoes etc and never had this problem of not getting started. 
    Any tips on how to gauge moisture etc and how deep to go would be appreciated. Do people just direct sow into soil or transplant from germinated seeds in the fridge?
  • Sky_
    Sky_ Posts: 605 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    They possibly just don't like being transplanted, the tiny roots are very fragile.  On the rare occasion that I germinate seeds in the fridge (some wildflower seeds need this), I do so on a piece of tissue and put the whole thing into the soil.  Lettuce though should just grow if given water, food, warmth and light.

    I normally just sprinkle the seeds onto compost, water them, then cover very thinly with vermiculite, but a thin sprinkling (1-2mm) of compost should also work, then I cover with a propagator lid or plastic bag.  I take the cover off once I see green shoots.  Seeds like to be kept moist whilst germinating, but not too wet once shoots appear.  I water with a spray bottle and (once I have shoots) allow the very surface of the the compost to get dry in between waterings. 

     In warmer months I sow lettuce directly into the soil outside, water as needed and they do fine.

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  • mumf
    mumf Posts: 604 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Lettuce also struggles to germinate ABOVE about 12 degrees C.
  • Thanks Sky, i had tried transplant with the paper towel but still no success, i've tried covering with cling film and taking it off to let air in at regular intervals during the day and leaving it uncovered and in different areas. I guess maybe the moisture and temperature are playing a part and just need to figure out how wet is too wet etc. 

    Thanks mumf, i didn't know that about lettuce, maybe that was where i am going wrong during the warmer months as i did manage to get germination in the fridge but nothing after i brought them out. 

    How long does germination normally take? I've grown carrots and they took ages so wondered if maybe i'm not being patient enough. 
  • Slinky
    Slinky Posts: 9,976 Forumite
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    mumf said:
    Lettuce also struggles to germinate ABOVE about 12 degrees C.

    Ah, that probably answers the question of why I can't get a second sowing to germinate when growing outside.
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  • We've had a lot of success with Tom Thumb which is a small lettuce, direct sown into an outdoor trough by sprinkling, and they get thinned as they mature and are picked. After trying loads of varieties, this is the only one I really bother with now. Cheap from premier seeds direct.
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