California gardeners in warm areas may find that the lettuce in their gardens is bolting, or going to seed, as a result of recent heat waves. While the heat may end your lettuce harvest, in some cases even before it has begun, the silver lining is the opportunity to save seeds for this fall.
It’s easy to save lettuce seeds. Most varieties of lettuce are open-pollinated (non-hybrid); if your lettuce variety happens to be a hybrid, I recommend not saving the seeds.
You can grow out seeds from early-bolting plants for harvest only in cooler weather, but I recommend not saving seeds from any future generations of plants grown from early-bolting seeds. You don’t want to perpetuate the early-bolting genetics, so it’s usually best to save seeds from slow-bolting lettuce plants only.
Allow a few of the healthiest, slowest-bolting, most-vigorous lettuce plants to go completely to seed over the next several weeks. Seeds are ready when tiny flowers dry and turn semi-translucent, like tiny dandelion heads. One lettuce plant may produce thousands of viable seeds that nearly always are true to variety, meaning they grow to be like the parent plant. These are the seeds you should use to produce lettuce plants for the next few seasons, and in turn, continue saving seeds of the most-desirable and slowest-bolting future generations of lettuce plants.
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