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Jun 15, 2009 04:48 PM

Lettuce has not sprouted

I liberally sprinkled my lettuce seeds in my planter box several weeks ago...(3 wks ago) and there are no sprouts. Wondering what happened? Maybe it's been too cold (I live in Toronto - zone 5 or 6?)
last year - i remember it being slow but not this slow... the seeds aren't old... I used a partial pack from last year and part of a new pack this year...

I have kept the soil moist but not too wet and it has been getting partial sun...

When should I give up and re-sow?

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  1. I would say they shoud have sprouted by now. Lettuce will germinate when days are above 40 deg F. Maybe you planted too deep? You want the seeds to be barely below the surface, maybe 1/8 inch. If you carefully scratch with a knife point or toothpick you should be able to find some seeds and see if they are sprouted.below the surface. If you moisten the soil for the first few days after sowing, that should be enough. If inorganic fertilizer was added to the soil you may have appled too much and burnt the seedlings. I assume this was raw seed, not the pelleted type.

    You could test the seed by trying to germinate some between moist paper towels, but at this point it's probably best to replant with some new seeds from a reputable source. Or try planting two sections of the box separately, one with new seed and another area with your problem seed.

    1. Thanks for writing. I also live in Toronto (right in the city). I planted 2 rows of lettuce on May 17th & also nothing has come up. One package of seeds was from Urban Harvest and the second I bought at Whole Foods.

      I think it is all this very unusual cold weather we have been having in Toronto. My radishes planted also on May 17th only showed signs last week and still all I have is little tiny leaves.
      My neighbour started her lettuce seeds indoors and transplanted outdoors into the garden on Victoria Day. Her leaves are small but are growing. But she also raked bags and bags of sheep manure into her soil. Did you do that too? I didn't.

      I bought 2 boxes of Red Ruby Lettuce at the end of May when we had a few days of warmer weather and they are growing well. Last week my corner store got in a lot of lettuce plants. I bought a box of romaine and 1 box of red romaine and 3 boxes of oak leaf lettuce. But looks like they have not grown any at all in a weeks time.

      If it remains so cold I wonder if my lettuce from seeds will ever germinate.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Smachnoho

        I am right in the city, too... half the seeds pack is from salt spring seeds & the other half is from Urban Harvest... so reputable sources. I used organic fertilizer & just the other day used kelp tea. I lightly sowed them as well.. basically scattered the seeds in the container & sprinkled "fresh black soil" (straight out of the bag) on top to lightly cover them... no sheep manure.

        My radishes, on the other hand, are rock stars... I've got three inch sprouts - planted the week after the lettuce (purple plum & french breakfast from UH) - the beets I planted however, TBD.... I think they are also very slow... weird random sprouts happening (weeds? I have no idea) I should also mention my arugula seems to have whithered... really skinny stems that wilted and flopped over (soil still moist)... mizuna and lamb's lettuce on the other hand (planted the same day), doing just find - mizuna is actually ready to be harvested... (not large size but spring field green size) - so I don't know what is going on with the lettuce.

        1. re: Apple

          I have that problem with a bunch of my lettuce where they have really skinny stems and are flopping over. I tried scatter seeding, figuring I would thin once they got bit enough, I wonder if there is just not enough room? Or if there is something wrong with my soil.

          man, this has been a tough gardening year, I am just not enjoying myself.

          my spinach has bolted, my radishes didn't produce, I have cutworms and other eating pests. humphf.

        2. re: Smachnoho

          Just an update. The seeds I planted on May 17th are finally producing something. I have plants that are 4 inches in size. That's after waiting for 2 months.

        3. I'll stab at a guess and figure you maybe planted too deep. The seed just barely needs to be under the surface. I usually just sprinkle a little potting soil over the seed bed, but I also cover with a light layer of straw to hold in moisture. Every year I get mine started in early to mid April in my zone 5b-6a garden along with radishes, peas, broccoli, collard, mustard, kale and kohlrabi. Germination takes between 1 to 10 days.

          4 Replies
          1. re: vera_ewashington

            OK, I will try again the last week of August .

            1. re: Smachnoho

              Don't you think the last week of August would be too late for Toronto, or have you had success with that timing? It might be OK if all you were looking to harvest were baby lettuce leaves. To obtain a more mature head I would suggest the first week of August. and you could probably harvest mid October.

              1. re: gnocchi

                Thank you so much fo your advice. This is my first time trying to grow lettuce from seed. My mistake.
                I wanted some lettuce for September & October. It says on the package to seed when it is cooler and I thought it would be too hot in August. I am also not sure how long it takes until harvest. I will try sowing some seeds the last week in July and the first week in August.
                Any further advice will be greatly appreciated.

              2. re: Smachnoho

                Lettuce needs fairly cool soil and light to germinate. Crusted soil really stops lettuce seedlings, too. In Chicago, where the climate is not hugely different from Toronto, lettuce directly seeded in late August will grow into smallish but decent plants in four to five weeks. Even then, light shade may be needed to keep the soil cool enough in the first week or two. Make sure the top inch of soil has a lot of organic matter to retain moisture and prevent crusting. Manure, even well composted, carries a big risk of burning small plants as well as some risk of pathogens.

                Starting plants in a cool place in late July or early August and then transplanting after three or four weeks can work but is tricky. Lettuce does not like being transplanted very much with a fairly small window of development where it transplants well. Unfortunately, the plants I see in garden centers around here are usually way too old to grow well.

                The days to maturity on lettuce seed packets usually is days to near maximum size and is more appropriate for commercial growers who want big plants to harvest at once. Harvesting much earlier gives better quality. There is quite a range between baby lettuce and the big stuff in most supermarkets that could choke a horse.

            2. Consensus seems to be lettuce should sprout within a week or so....


              keep the seeds rather shallow & don't pack the soil down... here we go again! :)

              1. I garden in zone 1A with extremely short seasons and my lettuce is just coming up. However, it did nothing until we had rain - we had not had rain since last August until a few days ago so we're going through a drought. Although I keep things moist the seeds love actual rain. I, too, successive plant most things meaning I plant most things every two weeks for constant supply. Purchase early lettuces including mesclun mixes which you can harvest in just a few weeks.

                Our spinach is going wild, however - I keep pinching off the leaves (new ones keep growing, obviously) and giving it away to all our friends and neighbours!!