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How to Grow Lentils

Lentils
Lentil
Lentils

Lentils are a cool-season legume. Sow lentils in spring as early as 2 weeks before the average last frost date. Lentils can be started indoors before transplanting to the garden; lentil seeds will germinate in 10 days at 68°F. Lentils require 80 to 110 days to come to harvest.

Description. Lentils are a hardy annual; they are a member of the pea family. Lentils grow on sparsely branched vines from 18 to 24 inches tall. The lentil has small whitish to light purple pea-like flowers. Pods are small, broad, flat and contain one or two flat, a lens-shaped seed that is green or yellow to orange, red or brown.

Lentils .flower from the lower branches up until harvest. Each flower produces a short pod that contains two seeds

Yield. Plant 4 to 8 lentils per household member.

Where to Plant Lentils

  • Plant lentils in full sun.
  • Lentils prefer loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
  • Lentils will grow in poor soil but the yield will be reduced.
  • Lentils will not grow well in water-logged soil.
  • Lentils grow best in a soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing.

When to Plant Lentils

  • Lentils grow best in cool weather.
  • Sow lentils outdoors in spring as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date.
  • Lentils can be started indoors 2 to 4 weeks before setting in the garden.
  • Lentil seeds will germinate in 10 days at 68°F.
  • Young lentil plants are frost tolerant/
  • Lentils require 80 to 110 days to come to harvest.

Planting and Spacing Lentils

  • Sow lentil seeds 1 t0 1½ inch deep, deeper if the soil is dry.
  • Space seeds 1 inch apart.
  • Innoculate lentil seeds before planting with Rhizobium leguminosarum.
  • Thin successful seedlings to 4 to 5 inches apart.
  • Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
  • A target population per acre is 400,000 plants.

Watering and Feeding Lentils

  • Keep the soil where lentils grow evenly moist.
  • Lentils are more drought tolerant than other legumes, however, the yield will be less in dry conditions.
  • Do not water lentils once pods have begun to dry near harvest time.
  • High humidity can reduce yield and seed quality.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing; this provides most nutrients needed during the growing season.
  • Side dress lentils with compost tea when plants are 5 inches tall and again at flowering.

Caring for Lentils

  • Support lentils with a low trellis. Without a trellis, lentils should be set 5 inches apart to ensure ample air circulation.
  • Protect early crops from pests and frost with row covers.
  • Keep the lentil planting area free of weeds; lentils do not compete well with weeds.
  • Protect lentil plants from wind.

Lentil Companion Plants

  • Plant lentils with potatoes, cucumbers, summer savory.
  • Avoid planting lentils with onions or garlic.

Container Growing Lentils

  • Lentils can be grown in containers, but several plants are required for a practical yield.
  • Grow plants in pots at least 8 inches deep.

Lentil Pests

  • Aphids may attack lentils. Control aphids by pinching out infested areas or hose them off of the plant with a blast of water.
  • Weevils may attack lentils; remove and destroy infested plants.
  • Rotate crops to avoid repeat infestations.
  • Other pests that may attack lentils are thrips, Lygus bugs, seedcorn maggots, and wireworms.

Lentil Diseases

  • Lentils have no serious disease problems.
  • Mildew may attack lentils that are too closely planted.

Harvesting Lentils

  • Harvest lentils when the plant begin to turn yellow and the pods become brown.
  • Lentils are commonly used as dry beans or peas.
  • For dried seeds, harvest pods when they have matured and hardened.
  • Leave lentils unshelled until you are ready to use them.
  • Dried lentils are ready for harvest 110 days after sowing.
  • Lentil also can be used as snap beans; harvest these green about 70 to 80 days after sowing.

Storing and Preserving Lentils

  • Unshelled green-pod lentils will keep in the refrigerator for one week.
  • Dried, shelled lentils can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.
  • Lentils can also be sprouted.
  • Lentils are high in protein. They are used in soups, stews, casseroles, and salad dishes.

Lentil Varieties to Grow

  • Lentils can be divided into large lentils and small lentils. There are dozens of varieties of each type.
  • Three common lentil varieties are flat brown ones, small yellow ones, and large pea-shaped ones.

Get to Know Lentils

  • Lentils are a pulse crop, a grain legume.
  • Lentils are believed to be one of the first agricultural crops, grow more than 8,000 years ago.
  • Lentils were first grown in the Near East region of the Mediterranean. They were later grown in Asia, Europe, and finally in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Lentils grow well in regions where there is little rainfall.

Common name. Lentil

Botanical name. Lens culinaris

Origin. Mediterranean region

 

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25 Comments

  1. Can one plant store-bought dried beans (lentils, kidney, & small red)? Or, are the packaged beans one purchases at the supermarket hybrids that are not appropriate for garden planting?

    • It may be difficult–perhaps impossible–to know if packaged legume seed bought at a supermarket is hybrid or not. Certainly, you can check the package label to see if the seed variety is listed. You can certainly plant the seed to find out, though you will invest some time waiting to know. A better bet would be to seek out seed at a farmers’ market where you are likely to meet the grower–who can tell you what variety seed she is offering and if it a hybrid or open-pollinated.

    • I am growing from a package of organic lentils from the store – they are doing great and about 45 days from harvesting – I have quite a few growing in a 5 gallon bucket. Typically anything you buy – whether fruits, vegetables, or bagged seeds will work – unless they have been heat treated. I tend not to follow the rules. 🙂 my website will be coming soon and will provide tips on container growing and gardening on a tight budget.

        • A commercial potting soil is likely the least expensive way to filling your pots. You can buy the ingredients separately and blend your own. Be sure the soil is well-drained. The most common potting soil ingredients are vermiculite, perlite, sphagnum peat moss, pine bark and/or compost. Here’s a blend used by some University of California master gardeners:

          Basic Blend for Potting Mix
          1 part bagged potting soil – to serve as a good base
          1 part peat moss – to add nutrients, hold water and increase acidity
          1 part perlite and/or vermiculite – for good drainage by creating air pockets for water to pass through and to
          keep the mix from being too heavy and dense
          1 part compost – to add high amounts of nutrients
          1 part composted chicken manure or worm castings – to increase the fertility of the mix

          These ingredients can be mixed on a larger tarp. Use a coffee can, bucket to scoop each ingredient onto the tarp. Then, pick the tarp up by opposite corners, and roll the tarp over to mix. If the tarp becomes too heavy to roll, use a shovel or a rake to mix the ingredients.

    • I bought some lentils at my local grocery store, part of a small chain called Food City, several months ago and decided two weeks ago to try to grow them. I had little faith, and as a result I overseeded. As a result, I now have lentil seedlings all over the place. And they came up quickly! I have a large garden, but I’ll be giving some of these babies away to friends who are gardening again for the first time in years.

      The brand is one I’d never heard of, “La Preferida,” but I’ve read of people having good luck with other brands, so I’m unsure if the brand matters much. Why not buy a couple bags of different brands? To test, you could put some in a mason jar and follow the procedure for spouting lentils. I did this with about 50 lentils from the bag (this was before the ones in my flats came up), and darn near every blasted one of them sprouted. I picked the sprouted seeds out and planted them in starting mix, and they broke through the top of the soil in a few days.

      The farmer’s markets in my part of the country are not opening because of the coronavirus, so that’s not an option. But my experience is that it is unnecessary to visit one anyway.

    • Yes i have and they grew just fine my plants are about 6 inches tall and its only been a few days.just know the age of the dried bean u use can affect the germination. Also try the wet paper towel method i placed mine on paper towels and put them in a bag to keep them moist while inwas busy around my house so i didn’t have to spary them all the time.just check them a few times a day i had string like mold grow on some beans i changed and rinsed them and threw away the molded ones so i was left with a handful. About a week or so later they sprouted enough to plant put mine in starter cups since its to hot outside for me and im waiting for the weather to cool but there looking great. Pinto beans and things like that i planted outside and they are doing amazing they dont mind the heat. Hope this helped

    • I just planted two dozen lentil seeds from the grocery store with 100% germination in egg cartons filled with potting soil. I grew them for two weeks under grow lights and moved them out to my greenhouse because they were already 6” tall and wanted to slow them down a bit before transplanting. This is my first attempt and didn’t expect such a high degree of success at this stage.
      The type I planted were labeled as organic and sold in bulk. I believe they are the flat brown variety. Once I move them into the garden, my plan is to plant them 4-5” apart as a companion to my potatoes. I have no expectations of yield but from what I’ve read, we should have enough for two people who consume them occasionally throughout the year. So far it’s been a great experiment.

    • Lentils are a cool-weather crop–they prefer growing temperatures in the 60sF. Lentils require 80 to about 110 days to harvest depending on the variety. Plant them in the time of the year when the temperature stays close to 65-70F for 80 or so days. Lentils will struggle if temperatures are consistently greater than 75F.

    • Estimates on how many plants to grow per household member each season (year) is highly dependent on how the lentils (or other crops) are prepared and how enthusiastic the consumers are each crop. The yield and number of plants per person per year that are used at Harvesttotable.com are based on United States Department of Agriculture and some university research estimates; so they are estimates. A year or two of experience in your house will help you make a more informed and personal estimate.

  2. lentils will be ok in semi shaded areas when its hot if you shade to insulate..this can be done by planting Chiq and flax seed along the borders and amidst your lentils..grow many chia seeds and thin for root space and remove flax leaves to provide sun while the weather is cool..as it heats up just allow companion plants to insulate ..chia and flax work great for this and look good too.. remember to plant flowers to attract bees..(something often overlooked and flowers make a completed look as well as aid in polination of melons and such) listen to your instincts as you look at the plants..what would you want if you had those leaves or stems? the plants want exactly that 9 times out of 10)

    • Lentils, like most vegetables, will not grow in soil that is constantly wet. In all likelihood, wet roots will rot. If the soil is well-drained and moisture does not surround the roots but simply passes by as it seeps deeper into the soil, lentils can grow. If the soil is constantly wet in your planting area, mound the soil 12 to 18 inches high and created mounded planting beds or rows, or plant in raised beds. This method will allow the roots to grow above the wetness.

    • Researchers at Purdue University consider a yield of 2,000 pounds of lentils per acre excellent. A very good yield would be 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per acre. The average yield per acre in the United States is 1,190 pounds. These statistics are based on 400,000 plants per acre.

  3. Please can you tell me that how can we plant lentils. I mean a common way to plant them. I need details. It would be utmost pleasure for me if you tell me every detail, e.g. you planted the seed and then you watered it and then it grew then you cut it and you sell it. Please i need every detail. I am a student and i need to do an assignment related to lentils so please i need every detail. Anyways i found your page really interesting and i have also taken some information from here. Please tell me the details of growing lentils Best Regards. Ayesha

      • Due to Covid 19 schools have been closed in CENTEX and I’ve been upset by the fact that there seems to be a cry out on the news for kids who don’t have access to food! So I’m planting as many seeds as I have in the hope that none of these kids won’t go hungry. The CENTEX Food Bank said they feed 50k people weekly from this area, which is over 200k in a month. It’s been raised 30% with unemployment so yesterday I’ve accepted a challenge from Hollis and Nancy’s Homestead on YouTube and FB. We can’t stop the panic but I or we hope to make people see its OK to grow some food to eat. That being said, I know there’s 220 units in my apt complex so I’ll start here where there’s disabled people as well as Vets living here. I’m going to plant a bunch of food until the seeds run out. I also have 4# bags of black beans, pinto, great northern and lentils. I’ve prayed for Blessing of the Harvest because these people need to eat.

        I noticed that there’s 400,000 plants per acre to get 2k pounds of food and just to make sure I have enough seeds I’m headed to look at the grocery store. Wish me luck! There’s alot of people depending on the bounty.

  4. I got good green stems and leaves growing from store bought lentils, but… Are the leaves and stems edible? As I’m not sure they wikl grow well enough to reach pods. I’m thinking to just eat the shoots but can’t find much information online.

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