Growing Heirloom Lettuce Seeds

The first cultivated lettuce was grown for salads during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian, which lasted from 81 to 96 AD. Over the centuries, people grew lettuce of many different colors, including purple lettuce. People continue to grow lettuce almost 2,000 years later because lettuce seeds will grow nearly anywhere, and lettuce is a favorite on many dinner tables.

Types of heirloom lettuce

There are over 20 different varieties of heirloom lettuce. Therefore, you need to consider which varieties meet your needs the best. Options include:

  • Bath Cos – This lettuce variety comes in white or brown, and it produces a head about 14 inches in diameter. Most people tie up this lettuce a few days before harvesting it to blanch it. This is a fall lettuce that grows best when the days start to turn cooler.
  • Big Boston – Also called Trocadero, this light green lettuce with yellow inner leaves was developed in France before 1887. This variety can be planted in early spring, continuing until the days start to get very warm. This lettuce will mature in about 77 days, and it forms a head that is about 12 inches in diameter.
  • Brauner Trotzkopf – While its exact origin is unknown, this lettuce that forms about a 7-inch head was listed in a German seed catalog printed in 1875. The outer leaves are glossy green with red speckles, while the inner leaves are maroon when the lettuce matures. This variety does very well in cold frames.
How do you plant heirloom lettuce seeds in the garden?

Heirloom lettuce seeds prefer to be planted in a sunny location. The soil needs to be loose and mixed with organic matter before you direct-sow your seeds. You can sow early varieties of lettuce as soon as the ground reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and most varieties grow best when daytime highs stay between 55 and 65 degrees while the seeds are germinating. You should plant the seeds between 0.25-and-0.5-inches deep in rows that are about 12 inches apart. It is important, however, to check your variety for specific growing directions.

How do you save lettuce seeds?

You can save heirloom seeds to plant again. Only non-GMO seeds will grow back to look like this year’s crop. Wait until the lettuce puts on its flower. Then, for several days in a row, put a paper bag under the plant and shake it for a few minutes to make the ripe seeds fall on the paper bag. Separate the seeds from anything else on the bag, then place them in a bowl in front of a fan to remove any remaining chaff while they dry. Finally, place the seeds in a plastic bag or jar and store it in a dark, cool place until you are ready to plant the seeds.