Grow Greens Indoors Under Lights

meadow

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25 days ago I sowed Crawford Estates and Winter Marvel lettuce seed, with some of each variety in 3/4" mini soil blocks and some in larger blocks that were about 1 1/2".
That's a long time to be in a mini block.

I'm glad to see your results. Last year I started a bunch of lettuce in a new root-pruning tray put out by Bootstrap Farmer (maybe 72 cells?) and was not impressed with the results. They grew to a certain point and then just stopped. I was suspecting that they'd been held in the cells too long -- we'd had a pretty bad cold spell, so they didn't get set out when expected. Now I'm wondering if it is the amount of soil OR is it the root-pruning qualities of the soil blocks AND the cells I was using. hmmm. 🤔🧐🤓
 

Branching Out

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Whether it is lettuce or flower seeds, I find I can almost mark my calendar at the 21 day mark to bump them up or plant them out. After 3 weeks they seem to stagnate. I wonder if they have used up all of the nutrition available at that point too? It's a puzzler.

And like you I am struggling with getting some lettuce seeds to sprout, and they are not even that old. Rouge d'Hiver and Winter Density seem to be my nemesis. I am on my third try with them. If I am lucky I get one or two out of ten, and the ones that germinate are really wimpy. I am toying with broadcasting the remains of the packet of each of these to see if I can get something to grow to maturity, so I can save my own seed from them.

Have you tried any of Frank Morton's blends from Wild Garden Seed? They are kind of fun, with lots of variety.

My technique is poking a very small indentations of about 1/8" in the mini soil blocks (usually with the round end of a chopstick), mist them well with water (or else I use a sports water bottle to drip a few drops of water), place a seed firmly on the soil in each 'indent' using a wet toothpick to pick up the seed (for good seed to soil contact it is supposedly important to press the seed in), and then oh so lightly dusting it all with very fine vermiculite to help keep them moist (Ferry Morse makes a nice fine vermiculite). Then loosely cover with a dome and leave it in a bright location at room temperature for a few days. Many of the varieties of lettuce that I have started this way are up by day 3, and leggy by day 4 if I don't get them under lights. Crawford Estates had really erratic germination; it is a new variety for me. Most just pop within days.
 

meadow

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Lol! What a coincidence, Rouge d'Hiver was one that did not sprout! The packet was a freebie from Sand Hill, packaged for 2021 but received with 2022 seed. I suspect it may have already had a low germination rate when it was sent to me. I just ordered a seed packet from Nichols along with Black Seeded Simpson that I've heard people rave about.

The other that was very slow to sprout (2 weak little seedlings did finally make an appearance) was Mescher from Frank Morton, and it was older seed too.

We'll see what a fresh batch of Rouge d'Hiver will do. Fingers crossed!

By the way, a yellow pepper at Nichols caught my eye (Gatherer's Gold Sweet Italian). Their description said that it was 70 days and that it was a Frank Morton pepper. I checked at Wild Garden Seed and his description had it at 102 days. :eek: Not sure what to make of the discrepancy! (but I backed away slowly)
 

Branching Out

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Lettuce and onion seeds just don't last that long. :(:hit
Good point ducks4you. :) And I am kind of asking myself why I am trying so hard to get Rouge d'Hiver to germinate, because when I grew it a couple of winters ago it was not even winter hardy. I must not like being outsmarted by a seed. Lol. I have so many varieties of lettuce and I do not want them to go stale, at least not until I can grow them out and save seed from them. This week I am going to sit down and try to find a space-saving way to store them in the freezer, because once the seeds are frozen I find that they last forever.
 

Phaedra

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From my limited experience, lettuce seeds won't germinate well from the second year. Fresh seeds from a reputable source usually germinate within no longer than two weeks. I used the method from Charles Dowding, let the seeds germinate from a seed tray (which occupies much less space), and then prick them out to module trays.

One of the advantages is more consistent growth after pricking. Besides, the conditions seeds need to germinate differ from what seedlings need to grow.
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Now the seedlings are growing in the unheated room during the cold days and in the greenhouse during the warmer and sunny days.
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Around two weeks after pricking, true leaves are growing.
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Another thing I learned from Charles Dowding is lettuces and basil seedlings are more likely to suffer from damping off; a drier growing condition is helpful for both seed germination and seedlings to grow.
 

Phaedra

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By the way, I put all old lettuce seeds and whatever I'm not interested in growing again into a box and will sprinkle them in the 'chicken garden' after the middle of May. Last year, it wasted me quite some time waiting for those old seeds to germinate, won't happen again.

If they grow, they grow. That small area will be used mainly for producing extra food for chickens and quails.
 

Phaedra

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Wow! Look at the difference between these 1-week old lettuce, 1 batch grown in 1/2 compost 1/2 vermiculite and the other batch grown in homemade compost. This is incredible! So glad you mentioned Charles Dowding, @Phaedra

Yes, I am not easily convinced by someone or something, but Charles Dowding, a true master. The method he grows most of the vegetables is based on soil health, very systematic and evolving with time. Besides, our growing conditions are pretty similar. So far, I didn't find someone else who can do a more comprehensive coaching job than him.

The problem is he runs a market garden, so please don't follow his scale of sowing. I made such a mistake in the first year following his method and ended up with endless lettuce....

I have no special love for lettuce, so most of them go to chickens. Now, I am more aware of what I am doing (hahaha); I only sow cos lettuce (romaine), iceberg lettuce, and some more crispy type lettuce. I still prefer to fry them than eat them raw.
 

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