Jun 9, 2013

Grow Lettuce From Stumps: Does it Work?


various stages of lettuce stumps growing
Since last year our lettuce did not grow well at all because I grew it in too small of a container and I didn't thin it enough (planted them to close).  So we have been buying our lettuce for a long time now and I am determined to grow my own this year and year round too!  I have been obsessed lately with taco salads (made in a double batch of my taco recipe) and a simple tangerine salad (with apricot Stilton cheese, mandarin oranges, and olive oil and Trader Joe's orange champagne vinegar), so I have been using a lot of lettuce!


The Experiment
I learned that you can grow lettuce from the stumps.  So I have been saving my stumps and testing it out in hopes that I can soon transplant them to our garden or a container. I put a whole lettuce stump (green leaf) in clear plastic glasses near a window in 1/2 inch of water changing the water every one to two days. I started to tear off the first few leaves around the stumps in a hope to avoid having them rot.  I didn't keep track of the days I started each stump so it's not a very scientific experiment and I will speak in general terms. I started trying to grow my stumps in the beginning of April (about 2 months ago). 

lettuce growing from stump rotting on the bottom
So Does Growing Lettuce From Stumps Work?
Well yes and no.  I was pretty hopeful when I started and they grew already overnight.  Although some could also go a week without much growth.  It seemed to generally grow pretty fast the first few days put then they tended to rot out mostly from the bottom (see the picture below) but sometimes the new leaves that grew turned have thrown out about 4 stumps that completely rotted out to the point of falling apart if touched.  That was pretty gross I must admit.

this is the same lettuce stump pictured above just tilted to the side: notice the rotting
 I have had two stumps grow new roots (one pictured below), none of the others did, no matter how long I waited. Why did a few grow roots and most others didn't.  I probably have grown 10-12 stumps so far and only two so far have grown roots.  If I had kept of time I guess I could see if that was a factor.
 
my current lettuce stump notice it has new growth dying, rotting and has roots
 I planted one in our garden and it does not seem to be doing anything (pictured below).  It seems to have just shrivelled up and I do not have much faith in it growing into a new head of lettuce.  Update: June 20th, not long after this post was published the lettuce stump pictured planted below shrivelled up completely and never grew.
our lettuce stump with roots planted the end of may taken June W1
My Conclusion:
As far as I can tell (unless I'm doing anything wrong) it does and it doesn't work.  Your lettuce will grow, but will it grow to produce enough lettuce to actually harvest enough for say a salad? Not likely unless your luckier than I. And if you can is it any easier than growing seed?  

So far I'm not sold that this works, but I'm not yet certain that it's not just something I'm doing wrong.  I'm going to let my experiment go a little longer playing with different variables to make sure that I'm not just doing something wrong, because if this did work it would be super cool.  But my patience is growing thin tending to lettuce that is producing nothing and we are working on starting a kitchen renovation (which is the only place I have to put them) anyways.

With the results I have gotten so far I think I would have been better of growing some from seed in cell packets outside to transplant into our garden later (which I'm also doing now). Seeds are after all pretty cheap and if you can have it outside and are getting adequate rain it's not a lot of effort. It's nice not to have to deal with dirt but you do have to change water daily, so it's not no maintenance.  It'll be interesting to see which way produces the fastest and with the least effort, growing from seed or stump.  

So this leads me to the question assuming growing lettuce from stumps works, what did I do wrong?  I scoured the web for answers.  What did I do wrong?  I didn't find many articles saying anything went wrong with others.  Does that mean others who have tried were a success?  Or did they just not turn out in the end long after other bloggers had posted about their success?  The only factors I could find that might have gone wrong are maybe freshness, size of the stump (mine did tend to vary in size), was the water a better level or changed more often?  Any thoughts? Have you tried growing lettuce from stumps before?  I'd love to hear from ya!

Update: After experimenting I have concluded it's much easier to just to grow from direct seed.  From my experience growing lettuce from stumps seem to produce a lot fast at first, but it just doesn't seem to do much after that.

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