Potting up the lettuce seedlings

Potting up the lettuce seedlings

Its been a busy 3 weeks since my last post! A couple weeks ago I transplanted the lettuce, cress, arugula and pepper starts I sowed at the end of November. In this post I'll be showing you how I transplanted the lettuce.

I was hoping to have the lettuce ready to begin harvesting by now but various delays in transplanting them and then feeding them put them a couple weeks behind where I was hoping they'd be. If all goes well, I hope they'll be ready for their first harvest by the middle of January.

Here is what the lettuce seedlings looked like before I began transplanting them.

Multi-sown lettuce starts in 3" grow pots

Lettuce starts on December 15th (18 days old), multi-sown in 3" grow pots containing 100% peat.

Step 1: Remove seedlings from grow pot

Multi-sown lettuce starts, removed from grow pot
It was easy to remove the starts and their interconnected root ball in one piece after pealing away some of the grow pot.

Step 2: Separate seedlings

I divided the root ball into half and then half again (and again) until I was left with individual shoots. A moist but not wet root ball makes this easy. In my experience, gentle but consistent force will coax the root balls apart while minimizing damage to the roots. Avoid making quick movements (like yanking) as these are more likely to break the roots. Don't worry if you break some of the roots!

Multi-sown lettuce starts, divided in half

Multi-sown lettuce starts, further divided

Lettuce starts, divided into singles

You'll likely have more seedlings than you need so pick the best ones and compost the rest.

If this makes you feel a little sad, you're not alone. I've always felt quite torn about this... having just kicked off a little spark of life, I'm now deciding that it isn't quite good enough and discarding it. The knowledge that the discarded seedlings are not wasted and will soon be feeding the soil and future plants is at least somewhat consoling to me.

For fun, I asked Chat GPT, the fancy new AI chat bot you may have heard about, to write a little poem about these discarded seedlings:

A poem by Chat GPT

Step 3: Prepare new containers

I used two nested blue containers, one with holes and one without to enable bottom watering. I've filled the top container with a mixture of moist peat and perlite. I probably could've used more perlite but I think it'll be fine as-is. I haven't added any fertilizer to the mixture but I will be adding liquid fertilizer as they grow.

Container prepared with peat and perlite to hold 3 seedlings

Step 4: Plant starts in containers

Once separated, I put individual seedlings in each planting hole and tucked them in. I planted mine very close together with the expectation that I'll be harvesting them a baby leaves. Give each seeding more room if you'd like to get larger leaves from it.

Container with 3 lettuce seedlings

7 containers with 21 lettuce seedlings

2 weeks later...

Its been a far from ideal first two weeks for these little seedlings and some are struggling more than others. I fed them liquid fish fertilizer about a week ago. Yesterday evening when I went to water them I found them quite sad and wilted. I had been watering them every other day or so but they're now at the point where I need to start checking on them more closely each day.

Nevertheless, I'm optimistic they'll be fine and I'll post new pictures of them when they're ready for their first harvest.

Lettuce starts two weeks after transplanting

You can see the other grow pot I hadn't pricked out. At this point it is probably still possible to separate and transplant those seedlings but they may suffer from greater transplant shock.

Lettuce starts two weeks after transplanting, angle close up
Lettuce starts, two weeks after transplanting, closeup
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