Saving Lettuce Seeds: A Simple How To

Posted on May 10 2011 - 2:55am by Mike Lieberman

The first thing you want to make sure before you plant anything in your garden is that you’re growing heirloom or non-hybrid seeds/transplants.  This is really important when it comes to saving your seeds.  With heirloom or non-hybrid varieties you’ll be able to successfully save the seeds from the plant. With hybrid seeds you won’t.   What’s the difference between hybrid and non-hybrid?

Buy seeds from places that only sell heirloom and non-hybrid varieties. 3 sources to buy your vegetable seeds.

When I started my balcony garden from scratch, I left two bolting lettuce plants in a container.

It’s been about 3-months and they are starting to flower, so it’s time to harvest and save the seeds. This was my first time doing it and I was pretty stoked on it.

You will know that it’s time to harvest and save the seeds because the plant will first bolt, then it will flower and little white puffs will emerge.

To harvest the seeds, simply grasp the end of a white puff between your fingers and pull it out. At the end will be a few seeds. Just that simple and pretty f’n cool.

Now I’ll replant these seeds in the late summer/beginning of fall and bring everything full cycle.

Learning and experiencing something new all the time. This is what it’s all about.

Have you ever saved seeds before?

24 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Laura May 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm -

    Hey Mike, absolutely love your site! Quick question: After you harvest the seeds, then what? Do you just put them in a bag or something until you’re ready to plant them in the fall or do you have to do something special to keep them from going bad?

  2. Mike Lieberman May 10, 2011 at 4:20 pm -

    I just put them into a little bag to plant at the end of the summer.

  3. Rebecca Rootsandwingsco May 10, 2011 at 4:20 pm -

    I’m saving my own seeds for the first time this year. My broccoli flowered so quickly and I let it because it was not a very big head in the first place. The flowers were so pretty! I figured I would just leave it alone and see about getting seeds from it. The broccoli plants seeds are awesome. It has pods that grow out of the flowers! So awesome! I am hoping to gather seeds from my tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, and lettuce. Thanks for showing me how the lettuce will look because I have never done this before!!

  4. Julie May 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm -

    It is so cool saving seeds. Obviously you grew an open pollinated variety. I mistakenly planted hybrid spinach and didn’t get seeds. Oops.

  5. Mike Lieberman May 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm -

    The spinach I grew was hybridized…no more of that for me.

  6. Mike Lieberman May 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm -

    Nice. It’s fun, ain’t it?

  7. Kenzie @ A Healthy Purpose May 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm -

    I’ve been following your site loosely for a while, but just started getting email posts – so glad I did – I’m very interested in saving seeds! Thx 🙂

  8. Gardners53 May 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm -

    I harvested seeds for the first time last year and we replanted and have begun to harvest again already. With wacky weather my broccoli that i planted bolted quickly. I have a spinach /mustard hybrid that grew like crazy and we harvested those seeds. Have radish and beets seeds drying right now. and will have lettuce and arugula seeds before i know it. Saving the seeds just feels so important to me now. The radish, arugula, spinach mustard hybrid and the broccoli seeds are all in pods. They are kind of a pain to harvest but oh so worth breaking each of those little pods open. The lettuce seeds are so much easier!! and the beets look more like a grain that needs threshing. Enjoy you fruit ,vegi and seed harvesting!

  9. Mike May 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm -

    Save those seeds while you can! If biotech gets its way, it will patent our food. A terrifying thought byt it IS happening. We need to fight back.

  10. Katherinekelley May 11, 2011 at 12:11 am -

    I’ve been buying heirloom seeds for a while now, but I haven’t ever saved them. At the beginning of this planting season, after spending a small fortune yet again, I decided no more, I would start saving my own. Starting with the peas. I stopped harvesting on Friday and I’m letting the rest dry out as the plant dies back naturally. I actually grew some of my peas in containers this year and they did better than those in the soil. You should try it.

  11. Mike Lieberman May 11, 2011 at 3:04 am -

    Nice. See it was meant to be.

  12. Mike Lieberman May 11, 2011 at 3:05 am -

    You enjoy too!

  13. Mike Lieberman May 11, 2011 at 3:05 am -

    Exactly. Never too late to learn.

  14. Mike Lieberman May 11, 2011 at 3:06 am -

    Word. I think I have some pea seeds.

  15. Ginger Renee Doxie May 22, 2011 at 3:59 am -

    I mostly save seeds from anything we eat or pick that we want to try to grow. We did pear trees from a pear, we have apple seeds and a peach seeds starting in our fridge as well (explained on another post how to)-we save pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins and tomato seeds (they’re my favorite to eat). I hope to try a Cherry tree and a Nectarine tree soon as well. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the lettuce tip here-I’m trying the salad bowl growing this year & this seed saving will be very helpful.

  16. wendopolis May 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm -

    Last year I saved all the seeds from my flowers. I’ve found that after a year or two of regrowing, the plants become sort of strange.  And I’ve always heard that seeds from grocery store produce can’t be saved–not true. One year we had a volunteer pumpkin plant that produced fourteen large pumpkins! Although the seeds from them did not grow. When I made my garden plot this year my compost was still ‘hot’ (stinky) and now there are potato plants (from the skins) and various squash growing along with the seeds I planted. 

  17. Mike Lieberman May 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm -

    That is awesome. Love that you save all the seeds.

  18. Mike Lieberman May 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm -

    Nature and life is amazing…ain’t it!?!

  19. Nora_mary August 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm -

    Awesome!  I have some lettuce going to seed and was wondering how to harvest them.  Thanks!

  20. Mike Lieberman August 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm -

    Word. Glad you found useful.

  21. Al McCullough June 12, 2013 at 6:33 am -

    Just came across your site, think I’ll be a regular here. Any idea how/when to re-plant cilantro/coriander?

  22. RaRa July 14, 2013 at 10:29 am -

    Have saved veggie and flower seeds for many years. Very rewarding in many ways. Great gifts, too. Now important to store them well, know germination rates per year saved, and organized for easier access. Made a germination testing kit this Spring with a plastic shoe box. Put 10 seed on dated and labeled damp paper towel and into snack plastic bag, and then ck’d them every day. Kept records of % germination, etc.

  23. Lettuce Grower September 30, 2013 at 9:07 am -

    Brilliant info and video, you’ve saved me hours of tweezering the flowering lettuce, to get the seeds out.

  24. r May 12, 2015 at 6:46 pm -

    Before saving seeds from fruit trees, taking the time and soil space to plant them, and spending years waiting for fruit, please realize most fruiting trees will not propagate into edible fruiting trees from seed. Most must be propagated by grafted scions onto root stock.

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