How to Grow Little Gem Lettuce In Paperpots (Paper Chain Pots)

Growing Little Gem Lettuce in Paperpots

Better germination!

No hand transplanting!

Less transplant shock!

Growing little gem lettuce in paper chain pots will save you a lot of time and labor transplanting the seedlings into the field.

Lettuce is a popular crop for most market gardeners. 

Direct seeding lettuce can be very difficult and often produces subpar results at certain times of the year.  Given that most market gardeners transplant their lettuce during these periods.

But transplanting lettuce (the traditional way) brings its own set of problems.   Transplanting is both time and labor-intensive.

The Paperpot Transplanter solves this problem.

It allows you to germinate lettuce in a controlled environment then quickly and easily transplant it into the field 30 days later.

All without bending over and less transplant shock!

The Specifications for Paperpot Little Gem Lettuce

ROWS PER 100’ X 30” BED4
TRAYS PER 100’ X 30” BED 3
KWIK KLIK™ TOP PLATE Plate: Paperpot (264 holes) / Thickness: 3mm / Hole Diameter: 5mm
SEED PER 100’ X 30’ BED760 seeds (+/-) *Always round up when placing seed orders to ensure having enough
RECOMMENDED CULTIVARSNewham, Rosaine, Cegolaine
GERMINATION 48 hours at 68°F
DAYS TO TRANSPLANT 28 days (+/-) *time from seeding to transplanting in the field
DAYS TO MATURITY 50 days (+/-) *time from seeding to being ready for harvest
HARVEST WINDOW14 days (+/-) *time crop is at ideal stage for harvest after reaching maturity
TOTAL DAYS IN FIELD 36 days (+/-) *DTM + harvest window - days to transplant
HARVEST UNIT Mini-heads (4-5” diameter)
TARGET CROP YIELD 760 heads (+/-)
PRICE PER UNIT $1.50 *depending on local market pricing
REVENUE PER BED $1140 *depending on local market pricing
SEEDINGKwik Klik™ Drop Seeder, Paperpot Germination Trays, Paper Chain Pots
TRANSPLANTINGPaperpot Transplanter
TILTHINGPower Harrow or Precision Depth Roller (With no tractor: Tither)
AERATIONMeadow Creature Broadfork
SHAPINGBed Preparation Rake
CULTIVATIONFlex Tine Weeder or Collinear Hoe

Suggested Tools for Paperpot Little Gem Lettuce

Bed Preparation for Paperpot Transplanting

  • Broadfork the bed to aerate and loosen the soil.
  • Smooth and shape the bed with a bed preparation rake, removing any debris.
  • If the previous crop was fertilized, little gems will do fine without reapplication.
  • If not, here are two options:
    • 1) Layer on 1” of compost, enough to mostly cover the native soil.
    • 2) Sprinkle on a combination of alfalfa meal and pelleted chicken manure.
  • If layering compost, do not tilth in hopes of smothering any surface weed seed.
  • If adding amendments, tilth the top 1-2” of soil to mix in amendments.
  • Irrigate for 10-14 days*, allowing any weed seed in top layer of soil to germinate.

Planting Little Gem Lettuce in Paperpots

Seeding Lettuce in Paperpots

Prepare trays with 6” paper chain pots, and fill with potting mix. 

Install Paperpot bottom plate and specified top plate into Kwik Klik™ (KK) Drop Seeder

Pour seed onto the top plate and rotate until one seed fills each hole. 

Position the KK Drop Seeder over the tray, ensuring the holes are lined up with the cells, and click to drop the seeds. 

Water the trays, then place in germination chamber for 48 hours at 68°. 

Transfer the trays to greenhouse tables after germination. 

Thoroughly water trays before heading to the field for transplanting.

Using the Paperpot Transplanter, plant the four rows of little gems.

There should be 7.5” between rows, and 3.75” from the outer rows to the edge of the bed. 

Reference for instructional videos if needed.

Transplanting Little Gem Lettuce with the Paperpot Transplanter


Water the beds thoroughly with overhead irrigation or four rows of drip.

Frequent and consistent watering will promote succulent growth and avoid bitterness.

10-12 days after transplanting, cultivate using the Flex Tine Weeder (repeat again after 7 days).

A collinear hoe is also an effective cultivator for lettuce.

Cultivation (Weeding)

Harvesting Little Gem Lettuce

Little gems are ready for harvest when the heads are approximately 4-5” in diameter.

Harvest in the kneeling position next to the bed, two rows at at time.

Harvest only the heads with dense hearts. Remove slugs and damaged leaves if necessary.

Little gems should be dunked in cold water when brought in from the field.

Do not soak for longer than one minute to avoid damage from becoming waterlogged.

Lay the lettuce heads on a drying screen to drip dry.

Stack the washed little gems upside down in totes to continue draining in storage.

Store at 35° until taken to market.

Washing and Packing Little Gem Lettuce

Overall Paper Chain Pots make little gem lettuce a much more farmer-friendly crop.

Time savings, ease of transplanting, and high germination rates are some of the reasons why little gem lettuce is one of the most popular market garden crops grown in paperpots.

Get started growing lettuce on your farm using a Paperpot Transplanter and download the Growers Notes below.


If you have any questions, please reach out or 877.850.1555.