How to Grow Lentil

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, lens-shaped seed that are green or yellow to orange, red or brown.

Yield. Plant 4 to 8 lentils per household member.

Site. Plant lentils in full sun. Lentils prefer loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They will grow in poor soil. Lentils grow best in a soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing.

Planting time. Lentils grow best in cool weather. Sow lentils in spring as early as 2 to 3 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.

Planting and spacing. Plant lentil seeds ½ to 1 inch deep, spaced 1 inch apart. Thin successful seedlings to 4 to 5 inches apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.

Water and feeding. Keep lentils evenly moist. Lentils are more drought tolerant than other beans. Do not water lentils once pods have begun to dry. Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing. Side dress lentils with compost tea when plants are 5 inches tall and again at flowering.

Companion plants. Potatoes, cucumbers, summer savory. Avoid planting lentils with onions or garlic.

Care. 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.

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

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.

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

Harvest. Lentils are commonly used like 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 like snap beans; harvest these green about 70 to 80 days after sowing.

Varieties. 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.

Storing and preserving. 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.

Common name. Lentil

Botanical name. Lens culinaris

Origin. Mediterranean region