Saving Lettuce Seeds

I’m so very tired.   The kind of exhausted where all day long the only thing you can think about is going back to bed and when your office is only 6 feet away from your bed it makes getting that particular thought out of your mind quite difficult.

I probably do too much and probably don’t get enough sleep and with two cats sleeping on my head the sleep I do get isn’t what you’d call quality. Unless you judge the quality of your sleep by how many cat farts it’s filled by.  I do not.

But there are just so many things I want to do, try and accomplish on any given day that sleep seems to be unimportant, ya know?  Until I realize I’ve nodded off in the middle of peeing.  Then it seems pretty important indeed.

Saving seeds is one of those extra little things that I like to do on any given day. The great thing about it, is it’s a PERFECT ACTIVITY for anyone who is too busy to not save seeds.


Let me explain.


How saving lettuce seeds is perfect for anyone too busy to bother with saving seeds.



In the heat of summer, lettuces and other greens do something called “bolt”.  Once the weather gets too hot the plants recognize that these aren’t optimal conditions for growing, so they panic.

In their panic they realize, “Holy shit.  I need to reproduce before I die!!!”.  It’s similar to a man’s mid-life crises, only instead of heat driving them to it, it’s the loss of hair and the realization they’ll never be an actual super-hero.  The end result of needing to suddenly reproduce is the same.


So the lettuce/greens will start to send up a tall stalk which has flowers on it.




If you are busy enough, and lazy enough your lettuce will send these flowers up before you can be bothered to pull the bolted lettuce out.  You’re halfway to being lazy enough to saving tons of seeds!  Good job!


After the plant flowers, depending on the type of lettuce/green it is, it will start to form seeds. With regular lettuces like romaine lettuce for example, the seeds form right from the flower.  The flowers get puffy and silky exactly like a dandelion and the seeds are in the middle of all that puff.


With greens like this red mizuna (mustard greens) the seed pods form all the way down the flower stalk.





If you are exactly busy enough you will leave the bolted lettuce/greens in the ground until these pods form.  Then you can either continue to be busy and let them dry right there in the garden or …

You can pull the entire plant up, roots and all and hang it somewhere to dry out. The seeds/seed pods need to dry out on the plant, so you need the whole plant.  You shouldn’t just pull off the individual seed pods.




This is an immature pod from red mizuna.  The pod is green and so are the seeds inside.




There’s no guess work in figuring out when the seeds are dry enough to harvest so a busy person doesn’t need to waste time thinking about it. Also, a lazy person doesn’t need to worry that their seeds are too dry.  No such thing.

This is working out just perfectly for the busy/lazy lettuce eating people of the world.

The immature pods (not ready for harvesting) are green …





… and the mature pods are brown and dried.




Within a week or two your pulled lettuce plant will look like this.




The seeds inside will be dark and dried.  Mine are brown with a hint of red  (for red mizuna).



See? So as long as you’re busy enough, as long as you’re lazy enough you too can successfully save lettuce seeds.


  1. Barbie says:

    Pretty sure I qualify for this one.

  2. Maxwell says:

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  3. Kristina W. says:

    My husband is our veggie gardener. He simply lets the lettuces self seed (red romaine works well for this). In the spring, he transplants the little plants from the paths or wherever and we have plenty of lettuce. Same with kale. He does save squash seeds and broadbeans.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristina! Yup that would work well and in fact has worked well here. :) But I like to have actual seeds on hand for starting indoors or planting at my community garden. Plus for sharing of course. ~ karen!

  4. theresa says:

    thanks for this post–totally loving fresh lettuce from the garden this summer but was worrying that bolted lettuce was money wasted– not future crops in a convenient package

  5. Stephbo says:

    And here I was thinking that saving seeds didn’t seem all that lazy to me since all it does is create more work to do by having to plant them again. I could get used to the automatic re-seeding plan!

  6. Jean says:

    In fact, I was so busy/lazy last fall and this spring, that by the time it warmed up, I found a bunch of new lettuce had started growing right in my garden without ever gathering, drying or planting seeds at all. I might have you licked on this busy/lazy thing. :-)

  7. Toni in Iowa says:

    If you’re lazy enough, those seeds will fall onto the ground and plant themselves. There are some greens that I haven’t planted for years. This year I have been pulling dill and mustard by the handful to throw on the compost pile. It’s gotten ahead of me. With baby plants coming up every day, I’m not worried about running out. I had a variety of parsley that over wintered and each year got bigger. the root was like a hollyhock root so when I transplanted it, it didn’t make it. I’m going to let some go to seed this year. As for tomato cages, I use field fence formed into a cylinder and I wire that to the garden fence because the tomatoes always tip them over about now. We had 23 inches of rain in June. Everything that grows on/into a vine has taken over the whole garden. I will have to sacrifice some vines for foot holes or never get all the way into the garden. It’s time to pick green beans. I missed the peas last week so today they are picked and on the counter drying to be used for seed next year. And now I have two hens setting. That was NOT in the plans but they were so insistent they wore me down. I hope I end up with 6 living chicks and hopefully not all roosters!

  8. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I have a big planter that I grew loose leaf lettuce in..they stopped when it got very hot out so I guess that was the bolting I will have to wait for them to flower and grow seeds..I guess..Thanks for the info..NOW GET SOME REST HONEY..If I were you I would fall over from exhaustion sometimes..maybe you need a little Summer know..just some time off, some stuff..

  9. Maria says:

    This year, I was finally given two rows in our community garden. It is on private land, just for people in the neighborhood and you have to be invited to join. It’s a big honking deal in my neck of the woods. A few weeks ago, I picked my very first my very own grown by me green pepper and zucchini. I did the snoopy dance up and down the row hugging my veggies and occasionally lifting it aloft while I boogied up and down the row in the dirt. I am a large woman with very crusty feet. It was a sight to see. I have since harvested roma tomatoes, crookneck squash and more zucchini. Sauteed zucchini is wonderful

    I just got back from the garden store where I bought more beans, butternut and acorn squash seeds for the second planting. Sweet potatoes, field peas and lima beans are coming along nicely. (If you help hoe the rows, you get part of the produce planted in the main garden) Corn was really really good.

    I saved the seeds from my very own first grown green pepper and will start them in the spring. A neighbor gave me a spaghetti squash and I saved the seeds from that.

    I love this saving seeds thing. Free food!!

  10. JeannieB says:

    “Brushing horse poop out of my horse’s tail? “There’s something for me to ponder about, today. Get sone sleep Karen. Go and crawl under the duvet for an hour.

  11. Leslie says:

    Very pretty.

  12. Gail says:

    This also works for arugula! What a great way to start gardening next year- and less expensive too!!

  13. jainegayer says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh, someone last week mentioned to me that her lettuce plant had “bolted.” We were at the barn and I was too busy brushing horse poop out of my horse’s tail to ask her what that meant. But I did get a visual in my head of this lettuce plant with tiny legs, running out of the garden. Thank you Karen, for explaining bolting plants.

  14. Cred says:

    Hey, this is the exactly how I discovered saving cilantro seeds… But I’m going to go with because I’m busy even though sometimes it’s just because I’m lazy.

  15. Danni says:

    Karen, when do we get an update on those miracle seeds you found in the road when you came home from vacation!? When do we get a garden update?!
    BTW… started the base for my cob oven, the one I didn’t realize I couldn’t live without till recently… and yes I can’t sleep at night either thinking about all the things to do and try and build and grow…

    • Karen says:

      YAY!! Good luck with your oven. You’ll love it. I mean you’ll hate it at some point I’m sure. Probably when you’re stomping your 3rd layer of insulation, but then you’ll love it again. The seeds are at my community garden! ~ karen!

  16. Gina says:

    Karen, how do you stake your tomatoes? Have you found a solid way that works all summer?

    • Karen says:

      Nope. LOL. Actually the best thing to last all summer would be something like rebar in the ground if you’re going to grow heirlooms. I use bamboo hammered into the ground. I just tie the tomato stalk to the stake. But I’m guessing they’ll rot and break by about the middle of August like they did last year. ;) Determinate tomatoes aren’t so much of a problem because since they’re so much smaller a regular cage often works fine. ~ karen!

      • Carolyn says:

        Old hockey sticks cut to length work well (minus the blade of course but not usually a problem since that’s the part that usually breaks off).

      • Karen says:

        That’s a good idea! ~ karen

      • theresa says:

        love it and it will go with the old helmet I use to plant black sweet potato vine and orange flowers (Go Flyers!!)

      • julie says:

        So apparently there is a spiral metal stake you can use…as the tomato grows you just guide it into the spiral…could not find them anywhere, but then…D-Store to the rescue!…$2 each…too late for this year, but I’m all set for next year!

      • Rondina says:

        I studied that tomato cage question a couple of years ago. The Santa Clara Master Gardeners did a study with the results found here:

        I decided the best method was to build four square six foot structures (not pictured) with crossbars made of dowels or wood between each corner to tie the stakes to. These would be too time-consuming to make though.

      • Patti says:

        Haha! This is our problem, too! Grr!!!!!!!

    • Pam'a says:

      We (okay, my husband) made cages out of wire fencing– the kind with upright rectangle-shaped openings that I *think* is called “deer fence.” It’s about 4′ tall. Just cut it, bend it into a tube, wire it closed, and attach it to a sturdy stake. For ease of harvesting, cut out a few “windows.” I recommend covering the edge of the windows w/duct tape. Otherwise, speaking from experience, you’ll walk around all summer looking like you were attacked by a tiger.

  17. Tigersmom says:

    Now this sounds like gardening at my level. Those red mizuna seeds are so pretty. Great pics as always.

  18. Ev Wilcox says:

    Sweet dreams!

  19. Dagmar says:

    No wonder you don’t sleep Karen, you (not unlike myself) wonder about everything, and NEED to learn everything. Unfortunately, I know you have the upper hand in the gardening department. Who knew lettuce grew from seeds? I am always looking things up and checking what something means and asking random questions…precisely why I treasure every word that comes from from your mind (blog). Sweet dreams.

  20. Darlene says:

    You are superb at project management!

  21. Turly Bower says:

    God, I wish I lived near you! You crack me up! Just love your blog.

  22. Susan says:

    It’s to late for me too….you have 2 sisters.

  23. Susan says:

    Take your Mom….

  24. Susan says:

    Honey….take a break!
    Take you Mom and your sister, go on vacation, and don’t work, kick back and let us entertain ourselves while you recharge….
    We’ll all be here when you get back…

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