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Thursday, April 6, 2017

When is Spending $3 on Lettuce Seedlings Actually a Good Deal?

When it means that we will have garden salads 6 weeks earlier than if I started from seeds right now.

This is supposed to be a six-pack, but I counted 15 seedlings
 in here. If I'm careful, i can tease each out separately,
and have 15 heads of lettuce for $3.

For various reasons, I didn't get lettuce seeds started indoors this winter to plant out this month. If I were to start seeds this week, I wouldn't have lettuce to harvest for another 8-10 weeks. With the seedlings, I should be able to harvest lettuce in about 3-4 weeks. In between those 3-4 weeks and the 8-10 weeks, I would still be needing leafy greens for my family; which means I would be buying lettuce or other greens in that time period. By buying the seedlings, I will save about a month of purchased greens, which could cost about $8, given two heads of lettuce or other greens per week, multiplied by 4 weeks, priced at about 99 cents/head. So, I come out $5 ahead after the cost of the seedlings.

There are times when buying the seedlings makes financial sense. Another example is in buying tomato seedlings. If those don't get started indoors early enough, there simply isn't time for them to produce very much, in short growing seasons.

I will be starting lettuce seeds in the same bed with the seedlings, so there won't be need to buy more lettuce seedlings.

P.S. if you couldn't access the poll yesterday, I've archived the results from yesterday and have opened the poll up for another day. There's a limit to how many people can access the poll, so this one may fill up too. Anyway, today I figured out how to embed it into my blog, to make things easier for you.


  1. Wow, 15 heads of lettuce for $3.00 is a great deal, Lili. :)
    We have a bag full of seeds that we bought at the end of last season for dirt cheap. I need to look in there and see if there are any lettuce seeds.

    I hope you have a good day. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      A bag full of seeds means somebody will have a garden this summer! How exciting! I hope you have lettuce seeds in that bag.
      Thank you, and you have a good day, too!

  2. I totally agree with your philosophy . . it's the big picture that is important, it DOES make sense to buy these seedlings.

    1. Hi Carol,
      I think so. There are a few instances where starting from seeds could cost me more, like this year, when I didn't have seeds started in time.
      Have a great day, Carol!

  3. Once again a very thorough analysis that I appreciated. It drives me crazy when so many "experts" go on TV with money advice and haven't thought through all of the parameters involved. One of my pet peeves. Can you tell?

    1. HI live and learn,
      I think buying seedlings sometimes sounds counter-intuitive, when trying to make the least expensive move. But there are times when it is the better of two choices. I do try to see the whole picture, and think through all the ramifications. Then I can choose to do the sensible thing, or do things a different way. But at least I am choosing. I understand your pet peeve.
      Have a great day, live and learn!

  4. Seeds are not exactly cheap either. Locally a package of seeds can run anywhere from $1.50 to almost $3. You have at least 6 successful seedlings (possibly 15 if teased out carefully) grown from possibly more than 15 seeds counting those that didn't germinate. So generally 50 cent a seedling sounds expensive but actually may be the equivalent to the cost of seeds just on the guaranteed success rate of germination, plus saving on water, fertilizer, and labor to tend the seedlings for a shortened growing period by 5-7 weeks. That's comparing seeds vs seedlings.

    In another comparison, because you are planting seeds alongside seedlings, you can overlook the cost to tend the seedlings, at least on labor. I can't help but think your savings would range from a plus $12 on 15 heads of lettuce at grocery pricing to a minus $3 if the seedlings for some reason all failed. There is always a risk of losing money in gardening.

    In fact, being able to save on lettuce at the grocery a month earlier is not cost saving since you could forgo lettuce and substitute. But if you cannot wait, and must eat lettuce, than the $$ saved is real.

    I am not sure why I don't agree.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Right. And I didn't take into consideration what my costs associated with starting my own seeds would have been. I would have had the electricity and seed starting soil plus the seeds, because in my climate seeds have to be started indoors, if done before mid-April.

      You make a point that I could substitute something else in that time frame, but for nutrition it should ideally be another leafy green. However, I don't have leafy greens in abundance in the garden this time of year, so I would have to purchase the substitute, if not lettuce. Leafy lettuce is on the low end of the price spectrum, for a leafy green that is fresh. I do buy frozen spinach, but even there, I spend 75 cents per family meal, when buying spinach in the 3 lb block. Green cabbage is the "cheap" green vegetable, but I don't think it is as high in some nutrients as other leafier greens, like folate. 100 grams of green cabbage has 50 mcg of folate, whereas 100 grams of Romaine lettuce has 130 mcg. And I think I would be tempted to buy fresh leafier greens in April and May, as we have tired of cabbage by that point. In fact, last month I did spend about $1.30 for a single head of lettuce, because I was "hungry" for that fresh leafiness of salads.

      So, yes, I could forgo lettuce altogether until my seeds presented as heads. But I could also forgo butter altogether, and save $2 per week, or meat and only eat beans, or only eat the neighbor's dandelions for vegetables, or give up chocolate entirely, or give up coffee and save a bundle. But I know my own self, and that wouldn't satisfy me. Sometimes knowing what I am "most likely" to do helps clarify where the cost savings are and where they aren't.

      Have a great day, YHF!

  5. My BIL works for Dole and he mentioned that lettuce prices will go sky high as a result of mold - so good for you! You've got the answer. BTW - have you ever tried rooting a head of romaine lettuce - using the top of the head and rooting the bottom?

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      Oh gosh, I hope that the growers can get in another crop to offset the losses from mold. And here I was thinking with all of the rain that California has seen this winter that produce prices might actually drop. I never thought all of that rain could be a bad thing.

      I have never done that with the Romaine. I've seen others do it. I may give it a try with one of the heads of lettuce in these seedlings. Have you tried growing a new head of lettuce this way? Sounds like a very fun experiment!
      Have a great day, Ruthie!

  6. Oh, that sounds so good right now! Fresh lettuce from the garden. I don't think we have any seedlings on sale anywhere yet here in Michigan. Besides, it's snowing here today and cold.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Snow! Doesn't the weather know that it's April?! It's not balmy here, if that's any consolation. Hopefully this latest snow will melt quickly and by month's end you'll be into the lovely spring weather. Keep warm, and drive safe.
      Have a great day, Alice!


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