- Growing Lettuce Indoors: Information On Caring For Indoor Lettuce
- How to Grow Lettuce in the Home
- Caring for Indoor Lettuce
- Growing Lettuce Indoors
- Grow Fresh Salads Indoors All Winter
- What Kind of Lettuce Should I Grow?
- Lettuce Grow!
- Survival Gardening – How To Grow Lettuce Indoors
- How to grow lettuce indoors
- Edible Landscaping – How to: Grow Greens Indoors
- How to Grow Lettuce
- Growing Lettuce from Seed
- Lettuce Types
- Growing Lettuce in Containers
- Growing Lettuce Indoors
- Storing Lettuce
- Learn How to Grow a Salad Container Garden
- Soil Prep for Growing Lettuce at Home
- Growing Lettuce at Home
- Harvesting Lettuce
Growing Lettuce Indoors: Information On Caring For Indoor Lettuce
If you like the fresh taste of homegrown lettuce, you don’t have to give it up once garden season is over. Perhaps you don’t have adequate garden space; however, with the right tools, you can have fresh lettuce all year. It’s extremely easy to get started growing lettuce indoors, and if you are a big salad eater, you’ll save a ton of money doing it yourself rather than paying retail prices at the store.
How to Grow Lettuce in the Home
Choose containers for your indoor lettuce plants that hold at least ½ gallon of soil per plant. Select only high quality, loamy potting soil; organic is best and will offer the most nutrients.
Place two to three seeds just under the surface of the soil in each container.
Allow a little space between each seed. Water each container thoroughly and keep the soil warm. For best results, place the planters under a light for 24 hours a day.
You can also cover your pot with a clear plastic bag and place it in a south-facing window. Check the soil moisture daily and water as needed. Depending on the type of lettuce planted, seeds will begin to sprout in seven to 14 days. Take the bag off when the lettuce begins to sprout.
Caring for Indoor Lettuce
After the seeds have sprouted, thin each container down to one plant. Water lettuce plants at least twice a week. Check the soil daily; it shouldn’t dry out completely.
As long as you have used high quality soil and seed, there’s no need to fertilize the plants.
Keep lettuce plants in a location where they receive six to eight hours of light and temperature remains at least 60 F. (16 C.). If you don’t have a sunny place to put the lettuce, you can use a few different types of lights, including compact fluorescent lights (15 watts) located above your lettuce. (These are fantastic if you’re on a budget.) Position the lights about 3 inches away from your plants. If you have a larger budget, invest in high output T5 fluorescent lighting.
Harvest lettuce when it reaches a desirable height.
Growing Lettuce Indoors
Growing lettuce indoors allows you to reap a huge variety of fresh, crispy homegrown lettuce year-round. Here you’ll discover the best types of lettuce to grow indoors, how to grow lettuce under lights, how much to water, when to fertilize and more.
One of the most popular vegetables, the abundance of lettuce varieties available is staggering.
Four basic types of lettuce are butterhead, crisphead, cos or romaine (upright) and loose-leaf.
Which lettuce variety grows well indoors? Among all the lettuce types, loose-leaf lettuce is easiest to grow and will provide a steady supply of leaves to harvest. Some upright varieties stay small. Look for baby or little in the name to ensure a small type suitable for growing indoors.
Baby leaf lettuce varieties tend to be the most tender anyway. ‘Little Gem’ is a popular upright variety. Some good loose-leaf varieties include ‘Oak Leaf’ and ‘Salad Bowl’.
Loose-leaf lettuce makes a quick crop under grow lights. Grow a variety — you have a lot of choices.
Tips for Growing Lettuce Indoors
Because lettuce is a short-season crop, you can get an ongoing harvest by making small, succession plantings.
Baby-sized lettuce reaches maturity in about 4-6 weeks. Sow lettuce seeds every couple weeks to stretch out the harvest season.
How to sow lettuce seed: Drop a small amount of lettuce seeds into one hand, then pinch the seed between your forefinger and thumb of the other hand. Drop the seeds thinly over the soil. Lettuce seeds are tiny, and they need light to germinate, so cover the seeds lightly — never more than 1/4-in (.5 cm) — with potting medium. Then spray with water until thoroughly moist. Mist every morning to keep the medium moist at all times. Seeds will germinate in 7-14 days, depending on the type.
What temperature? Lettuce bolts (goes to seed) quickly in hot weather, but because you’re growing lettuce indoors, you do have control. Cool to average room temperatures of 60-70°F/16-21°C, with a 10°F/6°C drop at night, will keep seedlings growing steadily. Don’t use a heating mat for the seedlings. They like it cool.
How much light is enough? Seedlings need more intense light than mature plants. If seedlings don’t get enough strong light, they’ll become spindly. Give them at least 6 hours in front of a sunny window. Turn pots or trays as necessary to prevent seedlings from leaning toward the light.
A sunporch can be ideal, providing more sun exposure as well as the cooler temperatures ideal for cold-loving lettuce.
Don’t have a sunny window? Grow lights raise good seedlings. Keep light fixture close — no more than 4 in (10 cm) above the seedlings — and leave it on for 14 hours a day. Turn it off at night because plants won’t thrive in continuous light.
The light garden shown here, provides full-spectrum light, while using 45% less energy than standard fluorescent bulbs.
Keep soil moist. Lettuce is made up of 90% water and has shallow roots, so water as often as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. When growing lettuce indoors, in a warm, dry house, they may need watered every couple days. For seedlings, it’s best to water from the bottom, using a watering tray. This helps to prevent fungal diseases such as damping off. Use tepid water rather than cold water.
Thin seedlings when they grow their “true” (second set of) leaves. Pull out seedlings to allow 3 in (7.5 cm) between plants to give them room to grow. You don’t have to waste them. Transplant them in separate containers. Or wash them and toss in salads. Lettuce seedlings are edible, delicious and chock-full of vitamins A and C.
When and How to Fertilize. You’ll get an abundance of leaf growth by giving seedlings a light feeding. Start fertilizing after the first true leaves appear (they are the second pair of leaves that develop). Use a fertilizer solution at half-strength, once a week for three weeks. Fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer is good for growing lettuce indoors. Avoid getting any fertilizer on the leaves.
How to Harvest Lettuce
Loose-leaf and romaine can be harvested anytime the plants are big enough to use. Pick the outer leaves first, allowing the inner leaves to grow. Watch your crop closely because mature lettuce plants go to seed quickly and become bitter-tasting.
Wash lettuce in cold water, blot dry, then store in the refrigerator to keep lettuce crisp and fresh.
Wash and store the cool way. The best way to wash lettuce is to fill a large bowl with cold water and submerse the leaves. Shake the leaves dry, then wrap them in dry paper towels before refrigerating. Lettuce will stay fresh for a couple weeks.
- Indoor Vegetable Garden
Grow Fresh Salads Indoors All Winter
Enjoy free, tender salad greens indoors in recycled plastic containers under a couple of inexpensive fluorescent shop lights. Seriously, it’s not that hard to grow salads all winter long! Here’s how.
Growing Lettuce Under Lights
For starting my spring transplants, I’d already installed six two-bulb shop lights outfitted with full-spectrum grow lights and suspended by chains and S-hooks from the ceiling of my living-room alcove. I used a couple of them for my experiment growing winter greens.
You could hang your lights in an attic, basement, or even a large closet. As long as the space can maintain average temperatures of around 50°F and has an electrical outlet for the lights, you can grow delicious, nutritious greens.
For planting containers, I used some of the recycled polystyrene (both foam and transparent) containers I collect for starting my spring transplants, filling them with a mixture of half soilless potting mix and half compost.
Photo: Margaret Boyles
What Greens To Plant?
The simple answer: almost any type of salad or cooking greens—the faster-growing the better—and leafy herbs.
During my first experiments, I mixed together seeds left over from my spring–summer garden, dividing them into three categories with similar germination and growth habits:
I also planted a few seeds each of basil, parsley, and cilantro in smaller, separate containers.
If you’re buying new seeds for winter planting, I suggest one of the fast-growing mesclun or braising mixes (also called stir-fry mixes) sold by most seed companies.
I scattered the seeds thickly across the soil surface, covered them with a bit of compost, and watered them well with a small watering can.
Credit: Margaret Boyles
Care and Harvest
I turned the lights on when I got up each morning and shut them off around supper time. I watered them every couple of days, when the top of the planting medium felt dry. Every week to 10 days, I watered with a weak solution of seaweed and fish emulsion (available at garden stores).
I started thinning the plants as soon as they’d developed two or three sets of leaves, gently pulling them out by the roots, rinsing them, and tossing them into soups and cabbage salads.
As the plants grew bigger, I harvested the outer leaves and left the rest to grow. Alternatively, you can clip greens from throughout the whole container with fingernail scissors, making sure to leave the growing tips to produce another crop.
After 5 weeks of growth, six to eight containers of greens began producing robust, two-person salads three or four times a week for about 6 weeks, as well as quite a few handfuls of greens to toss into our frequent winter soups.
Photo: Margaret Boyles
By the way, producing winter salad greens under lights makes a wonderful project for children of any age. Great science project possibilities, too.
The alcove where I keep my containers is also home to my stationary bike, which I ride almost every day or evening all winter long. Good food and good exercise: What a combo!
See the Almanac’s Growing Guides for vegetables and herbs.
Do you love salad? Well, if so, then you need to keep reading this article. The reason is because I’m going to share with you how to grow lettuce indoors.
Yes, this means that you can grow lettuce year round.
This also means that you can enjoy fresh greens even with snow on the ground.
And if you are like me, then this is great news because I hate being forced to buy veggies from the store during winter months. I find it even more exciting that there are at least 5 different methods to growing my own lettuce indoors.
So if you find this idea exciting then read on. Your year round salad awaits you!
Lettuce Plant Info
- Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- Soil: Loam, PH between 6.0 to 7.5, loose, well-drained, fertile
- Sun Exposure: Part sun
- Start Indoors: 25 to 46 days before the last frost date
- Start Indoors (in fall): 77 to 97 days before the first frost date
- Hardening Off: 7 to 10 days before transplanting
- Transplant Outdoors: Between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the last frost date
- Spacing: 6 to 12 inches between plants and 12 to 14 inches between rows
- Depth: ¼ to ½ seed depth
- Best Companions: Carrot, radish, strawberry, cucumber, beet, asparagus, corn, eggplant, peas, potato, spinach, brussel sprouts, onion, sunflower, tomato
- Worst Companions: Celery, cress, parsley, broccoli
- Watering: Deeply at least once a week, frequently during dry spell
- Fertilizing: Side dress with balanced fertilizer 3 weeks after transplanting
- Common Problems: Aphids, cutworms, armyworm, loopers, tarnished plant bug, western spotted cucumber beetle, anthracnose, bolting, bottom rot, downy mildew, damping-off, varnish spot, mosaic virus, watery soft rot, leaf drop, septoria leaf spot
- Harvest: When there are 5 to 6 mature leaves of 2 inches long
1. Growing Lettuce From Lettuce
Did you know that you can actually grow lettuce from another head of lettuce? Well, you can! This method works best with Romaine lettuce.
So you begin by taking a head of romaine lettuce and cutting the end off of it. You use the rest of the lettuce as you normally would.
Then you place the base of the lettuce in a small bowl of warm water. You’ll want to place the bowl of warm water near window where it can receive some sunlight. You’ll need to leave it cut side up for about a week.
Over that week you should begin to see small amounts of growth.
Next, you’ll want to take that head of lettuce that is now sprouting and place it into a flower pot. You’ll need to plant it in potting soil and make sure the whole base is buried. Just be sure not to cover up the new growth.
Then you’ll need to water the plant regularly and watch it grow. You can do this with each head of lettuce this plant produces. Plus, the plant will keep producing.
So you could theoretically have a never ending supply of lettuce right in your kitchen.
2. A Garbage Bag is for More Than Trash
You will begin by purchasing a gallon sized black trash bag. You’ll need to snip the corners off of it so that it can have a mostly rounded top. It makes the process easier.
Then you’ll need to poke holes all in the garbage bag in order for the soil to properly drain.
Next, you’ll want to fill the bag half way with moistened potting soil. You’ll then sprinkle the lettuce seeds lightly into the bag.
Then you’ll want to finish covering the seeds with the rest of the potting soil. Place the bag on a plate in order for it to catch any drainage.
Your next move is to gently spray water on the seeds and use a lid to a pot to cover the top of the bag. It shouldn’t be a snug fit but not too loose either so you won’t lose too much heat.
Then place the bag in a windowsill or on a sunny spot on the counter. Over the next week you should keep spraying the seeds gently. When germination has occurred you’ll need to uncover the bag.
Finally, when the plant grows large enough you can harvest lettuce leaves right on your counter at any time. It is that easy to keep constant lettuce growing in your window or on your counter.
3. Lettuce From a Flower Pot
This is probably the most traditional indoor way of growing lettuce. It is also super simple. You’ll want to begin by picking a favorite decorative flower pot. It doesn’t have to be super large as lettuce roots aren’t very deep.
Then you’ll want to fill the pot ¾ of the way with potting soil. Next, you’ll plant lettuce seeds in the pot. Because lettuce seeds are so small, it is important to remember that you’ll need to go back over the grow area when germination has occurred in order to thin it out.
After you have planted the lettuce seeds, you’ll need to fill the pot the rest of the way with potting soil. Then spritz the soil with water.
Over time germination will take place and the seeds will need to be thinned. As the lettuce grows you harvest the leaves as needed.
4. The Mobile Salad Garden
This is probably my favorite grow option. I think it looks so nice and is very functional too. It is called The Mobile Salad Garden.
So there is nothing fancy about how you grow lettuce in this salad garden. It has a planting station, and you will plant the lettuce seeds as I mentioned when planting it in a flower pot.
But what makes this set-up so great is that it doesn’t look out of place. You can place it virtually anywhere and it won’t be an eye sore. To me, this is important.
I struggle with growing things in the house a lot because I want it to be functional, but I don’t want it to clutter up my house or stand out and be abrasive to my decor.
Which is why I think this little cart would make it easier to grow you own lettuce and keep all of the items you need to grow it neatly organized.
As an added bonus, if you are someone that likes to build, you could actually build your own lettuce cart. You could make the cart out of warm wood instead of stainless steel and help it to fit into your home that much easier.
I’ve even seen grow carts that have a place for grow lights to hang over your plants. I think they are a neat way to stay organized and grow things in a fashionable way.
5. You Need Lights….Grow Lights
The final method I’m sharing with you on how to grow your own lettuce indoors is by using grow lights. As I just mentioned, you can combine this with some of the other methods.
But when I grow plants indoors under grow lights, I place them on a stainless steel shelf. Then I place them inside seed starter trays or plastic flower pots. It just makes it easier to not over plant that way.
Next, I make sure to keep them spritzed with water in the trays and watch for germination.
However, I don’t have to worry about where I place them for sunlight because the grow lights do the job. Another tip I have for grow lights, is that I don’t actually use grow lights. I use shop lights. I’ve found them to be just as effective and cost a fraction of what grow lights do.
So if you don’t have a ton of window space, don’t think that growing lettuce indoors is out of the equation for you. Just invest in a set-up that works for you and pair it with grow lights.
What Kind of Lettuce Should I Grow?
There are many types of lettuce that will grow well inside your home. I wanted to give you an idea of a few options that you might enjoy but also let you know which might work best for the indoor set-up.
Here are my recommended options for lettuce:
I love romaine lettuce. I think it tastes wonderful, it is a sturdier type of lettuce, and is my preference when trying to grow lettuce from lettuce.
Since it is has such a strong base on it, it makes it easier to germinate in my opinion. Plus, if you try to watch how much gluten you ingest or carbohydrates, this type of lettuce is wonderful for using in the place of wraps or sandwich bread.
I’m a salad person. I think they are a wonderful meal by themselves, and one of my favorite meals is soup and salad. It is fresh, inexpensive, and easy to make.
So those are the reasons I love iceberg lettuce. It is pretty easy to grow and always taste so crisp and fresh.
However, growing this or Romaine lettuce in the house (besides if you are using it as a base to grow lettuce from) is a little more challenging because you need more space for the heads to develop.
But if you have ample of window space or indoor grow space, then that might not be an issue for you. I am limited on indoor grow space so this isn’t my first choice for my situation.
3. Leaf Lettuce
Leaf lettuce rocks! It is great to add in a salad so you can get different textures for your salad. It is also wonderful to use on sandwiches too.
Plus, this type of lettuce is great to grow indoors. It doesn’t take up much space because of the way it pops up in single sprigs of lettuce.
Therefore, if you are limited on indoor grow space, then you might want to consider this type of lettuce. You could grow a bunch of it in flower pots, mobile grow spaces, or in seed starting pots as well.
However, it wouldn’t be a good choice for trying to grow lettuce from lettuce.
Spinach isn’t necessarily considered a lettuce, but I use it in my salads a lot. I’m a huge spinach fan because of all of the vitamins and minerals it brings with it.
Plus, spinach is very similar to leaf lettuce. It is easy to grow in smaller indoor spaces and doesn’t require a lot of work.
However, if you don’t plant it in seed starter pots that make it easier to keep your seeds separated, then you’ll have to be sure to go back and space it properly later after germination happens. Otherwise, it could end up becoming over crowded and not producing as it should.
Well, there is my take on the different ways you can grow lettuce indoors. Having your own fresh salad bar year round is a wonderful feature to have in your home.
Plus, it could save you a bunch of money as well. Lettuce is usually inexpensive, but if you eat it as much as I do, you’d be surprised how it can add up.
But I’d love to hear from you on this matter. Have you ever grown lettuce in your home? Have you grown it year round? What tips can you offer? What struggles did you face? Have you found that there is a particular type of lettuce that grows better? If so, what method works best for it?
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The holidays are history, seed catalogs are piled in a basket next to a comfortable chair by the fire and I’m looking for lettuce to grow indoors.
The quality of grocery store lettuce reaches its low in the dead of winter. Half-rotted, tasteless leaves and astronomical prices are prompting me to grow a decent salad indoors, because of the foot of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures.
I usually start Bibb and Romaine seeds under lights in early March and set out seedlings in pots and beds when days warm and nights stay in the 20’s. But this year I’m starting seeds as soon as they arrive from various catalog sources.
Growing lettuce under lights is easy. All you need are flats or shallow pots filled with potting mix, slow-release fertilizer and a light source. A south-facing window with supplemental light works, but plants will be leggy. Grow lights are the best, but if you use a shop light fixture with two fluorescent bulbs, you’ll save big bucks. The fixture and two bulbs come in at under $20 versus $75 or more for grow lights. Shop light fixtures are 48 inches long, but you
can find some that are 36 inches in length.
I suspend the fixture on chains from ceiling hooks in my sunroom. You can do this any place where the temperature stays between 50ºF and 70ºF, including basements. Lettuce grows best in cooler temperatures, so avoid areas near heat vents that blast hot air.
If you don’t want to use chains and hooks, stack books or bricks in two piles and use them as pillars on which to suspend the light fixture. Because plants grown indoors need about 16 hours of light daily, plug the fixture into a timer.
Fill containers with potting mix, scratch fertilizer into the top two inches of the mix and then space seeds across the surface. Press so they make contact with the mix. Lettuce needs light to germinate, so don’t bury the seeds.
Place containers under lights and adjust so lights are about two inches above containers. As seeds germinate and seedlings grow tall, adjust lights upward so that they are about two to three inches above plant tops. Keep containers watered; spray water on the container surface to keep seeds hydrated until they sprout. Add diluted water-soluble fertilizer to the water weekly.
You should be harvesting your first salad within 35 to 40 days. Pick outer leaves only so that plant crowns or centers will produce more leaves.
Suggested Lettuces for Indoors
- Baby Oakleaf
- Lollo Rosa
- Tom Thumb
- Garden Babies
- Red Deer Tongue
- Black-Seeded Simpson
- Salad Bowl
- Any salad lettuce mix
Around 80% of United States residents live in what is considered an urban area. Unfortunately, that means that many of us don’t have easy access to plots of land to grow a garden on… some of us don’t even have so much as a balcony for an herb garden ! At least that’s what most people think… did you know that you can grow a garden inside your home? You can save money and grow delicious foods without ever leaving the comfort of your couch!
Read on to see how to grow lettuce indoors!
Survival Gardening – How To Grow Lettuce Indoors
One of the easiest vegetables to grow indoors is lettuce! Iceberg, romaine, and leaf lettuce are among the most popular (and easy to grow) choices for indoor gardens. In this article, we will discuss two great ways to grow lettuce indoors.
I’ll take you step by step and you’ll have the perfect indoor lettuce garden in no time! I will also go over how to care for your indoor lettuce garden. Let’s get started!
1. Growing Lettuce From Lettuce Scraps
This process of growing lettuce is super easy! It’ll make a fun project for the whole family!
What you’ll need:
- Romaine lettuce
- Shallow container
- Remove the core from the lettuce, which will be the bottom three inches.
- Add water to your shallow container.
- Add toothpicks to the bottom of the lettuce core. This will elevate the lettuce and allow circulation.
- Place the lettuce core into the shallow container. Once the lettuce is placed inside the container, ⅓ of the lettuce core should be covered with water.
- Set the container in a place where it will receive plenty of sunlight such as a window sill.
After a few days, you will see new growth in the center of the lettuce! On day 5 or 6 you will notice the lettuce growing at a faster rate. Between day 12-14 you will notice the lettuce leaves turning a darker and richer color. At this time, you will also see that the roots are starting to sprout. These are indications that the lettuce is ready to be planted into soil.
If you are interested in other vegetables that you can regrow from scraps, then check out 16 Sustainable Gardening Foods That Re-Grow From Scraps for more information.
2. How To Grow Lettuce From Seed In Flower Pots
This method of growing lettuce indoors is also super easy!
First, you’re going to choose a pot for your lettuce, which doesn’t have to be that big due to the fact that lettuce roots will only reach about six inches when planted into a pot. When lettuce is planted into the ground, their roots can grow up to 17-21 inches.
Next, comes the soil and lettuce seeds. Fill the pot with soil about ¾ of the way up. Plant the lettuce seeds and cover with soil. Due to the seeds being so tiny, you will need to possibly thin out the plant as it grows.
Place your potted lettuce plants on a window sill to ensure they receive plenty of sunlight. Seedlings need about 14-16 hours of sunlight a day to ensure healthy leaf growth. You may need to invest in a grow light to ensure that they have this amount of light per day.
Try to keep the room temperature at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. If possible, keep the room temperature at about 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. These temperatures will help imitate their natural habitat.
3. Caring For Your Lettuce Plants
Seedlings should be watered every other day to keep the soil moist. Do not saturate the soil as this can cause root rot and/or fungal disease. More mature lettuce plants should be watered every 3 days.
Make sure to rotate your lettuce plants about a ¼ turn about every 2 days. This will help your lettuce plants to have an even distribution of sunlight.
Fertilizing is important! When you grow lettuce from seed, distribute a tiny amount of compost (about a ⅛ – ¼ cup) on the first day of planting and reapply a small amount (about ¼ -½ cup) about every 7-10 days. Of course, the more they mature, the more compost you may apply to their soil but, don’t over do it.
4. Harvesting Your Lettuce
As soon as the lettuce leaves reach a size you like, harvest the outer leaves. Never harvest the inner leaves so they can continue to grow. Immature and mature lettuce both have good flavor. It is just a matter of preference on the size of lettuce leaves you want for your meal.
If you want to harvest the entire head of lettuce you should wait 4-6 weeks for it to mature completely. Fully matured lettuce can produce seed rather quickly so be sure to harvest before this process begins because once it reaches this point, it will have a bitter taste.
Watch this video by Khang Starr on how to grow lettuce indoors:
If you have had success with an indoor lettuce garden, we would love to hear from you!
Check out these other great gardening articles so you can have the perfect survival garden this year!
Beginner’s Guide To Having an Outdoor Herb Garden | Survival Gardening
Survival Gardening Hacks | Bringing It Back To The Basics
4 Organic DIY Insect Sprays For Your Survival Garden
12 Budget Friendly Must-Haves For Every Beginner Gardener
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Try your hand at an indoor winter garden! You can have fresh salad greens year round by growing lettuce indoors. This idea works year round and is a great solution for city folks who simply don’t have the space to grow a garden outdoors.
Consider growing microgreens inside, too!
Contributed by Chris Dalziel.
If you give lettuce what it needs, you can be successful and provide your family with baby greens that will rival those store-bought clam shells of salad greens. Lettuce has different needs than microgreens, so keep that in mind.
How to grow lettuce indoors
1. Soil depth of four inches
Baby lettuce has a long tap root. They need a deeper pot than microgreens. If you can give them at least four inches of soil depth, your lettuce will have room to grow. The deeper one-pound plastic clam shells that organic greens are often sold in are 4″ deep. That’s just the right size container to grow lettuce in. If you have some of these to recycle, they’re ideal for growing lettuce indoors. Other recycled options include plastic milk or juice jugs and large yogurt containers. Just be sure that the container has drainage holes.
I recommend using a sterilized organic seed potting mix for indoor growing. If you are using a commercial potting mix, add 1/4 cup of kelp meal, and 1/3 cup of worm castings for 1 gallon (16 cups) of potting mix to provide the micronutrients for your growing lettuce.
2. Bright grow lights or bright daylight window
Young lettuce needs a bright, full spectrum grow light, or a very sunny window. If your natural light is dim in winter, provide supplemental lighting for baby greens. The full spectrum grow light should be placed about 4″ above the top of the leaves.
I use lights to grow lettuce indoors in January, when the natural light is lacking.
If you notice the leaves of your baby plants stretching and becoming spindly, lower the light to give adequate light for plant growth or raise the plants to get them within four inches of the light. If they are in a sunny window, this is an indication that they need supplemental light.
Related: Winter Garden Projects to Tackle
3. Organic fertilizer
Microgreens grow to harvest size from the energy inherent in the seed, so soil fertility isn’t as great a concern. On the other hand, baby lettuce leaves require nitrogen and trace minerals for fast growth. Sweet, tender baby lettuce leaves must grow fast to maintain their good qualities.
Liquid kelp fertilizer, worm castings, or compost tea can ensure fast growth in your indoor winter garden. In a greenhouse you can also try fish fertilizer or manure tea, but these are too strong smelling to use in your home.
Plan to feed your baby lettuce with liquid fertilizer after each harvest. When treated this way you can expect three harvests of baby lettuce from each planting, every 3 to 4 weeks. When you are finished harvesting your lettuce, just dump the soil in the compost, then wash and sanitize the container. Now you are ready to replant with fresh soil to start the cycle again.
Since your container can be harvested every 3 to 4 weeks, consider staggering your plantings when growing lettuce indoors. (Kind of like the succession planting you’ll use in your outdoor garden.) If you plant a new container every week, for a month, and give the lettuce what it needs to thrive, you’ll have a continual supply of lettuce over the winter.
Related: Growing Lettuce in Containers to Deter Pests
Related: Perennial Vegetables and Fruits: Plant Once, Harvest for Years
Where to get lettuce seed for growing indoors?
Butterhead and loose-leaf lettuce varieties are the best choice to grow in containers. They mature faster than romaine and iceberg types, and make fast growth early on. Look for lettuce varieties that mature in 45 to 55 days. Or buy a mix of lettuce seed specifically chosen for baby leaf production.
You can find seed in the specialty seed catalogs that cater to market gardeners. Many of these catalogs carry fast maturing lettuce with interesting leaf colors and shapes specifically for baby leaf production. In Canada I get my seed at West Coast Seeds (see pages 38 to 40 in their 2016 catalog). In the USA try Annie’s or Baker Creek.
Related: Try Growing Lettuce Hydroponically
How to harvest your baby lettuce
After four weeks your baby greens should be ready to harvest. The leaves will be 3-4″ high. Using scissors, cut them off ½ inch above the soil surface. Wash them well. Drain them or put them through a salad spinner. Use them as you would lettuce or spring greens in a salad or stir fry.
You can grow lettuce indoors!
Don’t hesitate to try growing lettuce at home. Lettuce seed is inexpensive. Soil is cheap. The investment in a grow-light set up will pay for itself over time. And if you live where the sun shines brightly year round, you don’t even need a grow-light to get started.
Originally published in January, 2016; this post has been updated.
Edible Landscaping – How to: Grow Greens Indoors
You can have fresh lettuce all winter by growing plants indoors.
Start greens from seed planted in trays grown under artificial lights.
It may dark and chilly in November in most parts of the country, but a true gardener will always find a way to keep growing plants, even under adverse conditions. Gardeners in warm climates are enjoying the fall planting and harvest season, while gardeners in cold climates still continue to harvest winter hardy vegetables such as kale, carrots, leeks and Brussels sprouts. These will survive temperatures in the 20 degree F range with some winter protection.
But if you crave delicate salad greens and don’t live where you can grow them outdoors in winter, or you live in an apartment with little room to garden outdoors, there’s another option. The solution is indoor gardening under lights. By using an artificial light setup and growing plants in pots or containers, you can harvest lettuce, spinach and other greens right through the winter instead of paying through the nose for these salad greens at the grocery store. All it takes is a little preparation to grow your own salad garden this winter. Here’s how:
- Purchase a lighting system for growing greens indoors. It’s best to have a 2 or 4 fluorescent bulb fixture with a mix of cool white and warm white bulbs. You can also purchase grow lights or the newer T-5 lights. Though more expensive than other fluorescent lights, T-5 lights are skinnier than regular fluorescent bulbs, use less energy, last longer and deliver more of the light spectrum plants need to grow. Replace fluorescent bulbs when they turn black at the ends. The black color indicates the light output has greatly diminished.
- Choose greens that are adapted to indoor growing. Loose leaf lettuce varieties, such as ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ and ‘Tom Thumb’, baby spinach varieties, such as ‘Catalina’, arugula and mesclun mix are some good choices. You can even experiment with growing radishes, Asian greens and broccoli as micro-greens, or grow herbs indoors. See the links at the end of this article for more information on these crops.
- For containers, use plastic pots, seed trays or even the clear plastic containers in which lettuce is sold at grocery stores. If using recycled plastic containers such as the lettuce containers, be sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom.
- Add moistened soilless potting soil or seed starting mix to the pots and trays so it’s about 3 to 4-inches deep.
- Sow seeds 1/2 to 1inch apart in rows in the trays, or sow a few seeds per small pot. Some lettuce varieties need light to germinate, so barely cover the seeds with potting soil and mist with water.
- Cover the trays and pots with a black plastic bag and place them in a warm (70F) spot. Often the top of the refrigerator is a good place to hasten germination since it stays consistently warm.
- Check the pots and trays daily. Once the seeds begin to germinate, remove the plastic bag and place the seedlings under lights.
- Position the lights just above the growing seedlings. Using a timer, keep the lights on during the day for 14 hours/day.
- Move the lights up as the seedlings grow, keeping them about 6-inches from the top of the plants. If you place your hand on top of the greens and it’s warm, then the bulb is too close and may burn the tender foliage.
- If you’re growing lettuce, spinach and mesclun mix for baby greens, begin to harvest when they are 4-inches tall (20-30 days after seeding), cutting them with a scissors one inch above the soil. Allow the greens to grow back again for a second and even third harvest.
- If you’re growing lettuce and spinach into larger heads, transplant individual seedlings into 4 to 6-inch diameter pots. Let them grow to full size (45-60 days), then remove the entire plant when harvesting.
- Keep the pots watered and fertilize weekly with a dilute organic fertilizer. While fish emulsion is a great organic fertilizer for greens, be aware if you use fish emulsion indoors, the smell will permeate the house. Consider other organic fertilizer options if that’s a concern.
- Once you harvest the large heads of lettuce and spinach, or the baby greens begin to get tough and woody, compost the plants and potting soil and start over again. You can repeat sowing a greens garden 2 to 3 times in winter to have a continual salad crop. You can even time your greens garden to be in full harvest for the holidays or a special birthday. Imagine a celebration featuring greens grown indoors in your house.
Micro-greens are vegetable seedlings that are picked very young. You can use a variety of vegetables for micro-greens, such as radish, broccoli, and bok choi.
Grow your indoor salad garden so the lights are about 6 inches above the tops of the plants. If the lights are too far away the plants will get leggy. Too close and the lights may burn the leaves.
Other indoor greens growing stories:
Micro-greens are Big
Growing Herbs Indoors
And What Color is Your Lettuce?
How to Grow Lettuce
Lettuce-growing seasons are a bit tricky. Lettuce grows best when it’s cool, but the leaves quickly dissolve when exposed to freezing temperatures. When it’s too hot, lettuce bolts (goes to seed), becomes bitter, or dries up and dies.
Plant lettuce in early spring when the soil is about 60 to 80 degrees F and dry enough to work into a fine texture. For a continuous crop, sow seeds every week until temperatures get too hot for lettuce to thrive. Begin sowing again in late summer when high temps become a thing of the past.
To extend the season once the weather warms, add a shade cover such as netting or cheesecloth that allows light to penetrate but not burn the plants.
Growing Lettuce from Seed
Planting lettuce from seed is easy. The plants emerge quickly—in about 10 days—so it’s fun for kids to plant.
However, lettuce seeds are so tiny that it’s hard to space them properly. It’s easiest to put seeds in the palm of your hand, then use a pinch of your fingers to sparingly broadcast them so they’re spaced about 1/2 inch apart in a row or seedbed.
Cover the seeds with no more than 1/4 inch of soil. Keep the soil lightly moist. A handheld sprayer is ideal for the task so the water doesn’t move the seeds.
Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged as the lettuce grows.
Leaf lettuce is the easiest to grow and offers the widest array of colors, shapes, and sizes. It’s ready to harvest in 40 to 60 days. It grows, as its name implies, in loose shapes that resemble single leaves. Exciting colors and leaf forms make leaf lettuce a great addition to a mixed salad.
Cut the leaves at ground level whenever they are large enough to use. Try not to pull the roots out, because this can dislodge the roots of other nearby lettuce plants. Cutting the lettuces also allows them to regrow new leaves several more times until warm weather stops their growth.
Romaine, or cos, lettuce grows with upright leaves that are often sweeter and firmer than other types of lettuce. It’s the most nutritious of lettuces.
Butterhead lettuce and crisphead lettuce are a little more difficult to grow than leaf lettuce because they take more time to mature and are sensitive to heat. Both form rounded heads. Crisphead (think ‘Iceberg’ lettuce) is larger than butterhead lettuce, which gets its name because the inside leaves stay a lighter butter color due to lack of sunlight.
Mesclun simply means a mixture of varied greens. Mesclun can be purchased as a seed mix, or you can grow your mesclun garden with an assortment of lettuces and salad greens such arugula, chervil, chicory, and endive.
Growing Lettuce in Containers
Its shallow roots and relatively small size make lettuce ideal for growing in containers. Grow it the same way you would in the ground, but use a soilless potting mix instead of garden soil, which is too dense and won’t allow good root structure to develop.
Growing Lettuce Indoors
Growing lettuce indoors is a little harder than it is outdoors unless you have grow lights. Most indoor light through a window—even direct sunlight—isn’t as bright. However, lettuces grow inside when you keep the temperature below 70 degrees F and keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Store lettuce unwashed in plastic bags in the coolest part of your refrigerator. Keep it away from apples, bananas, and pears. These fruits emit ethylene gas that quickly damages lettuce, causing it to decay.
Learn How to Grow a Salad Container Garden
- By Deb Wiley
Lettuce is a quick salad crop and is usually harvested within a few weeks of planting the first seeds. It is one of the few vegetables that can be grown as easily in containers as it is in the ground.
Through this article, we’ll guide you through the basic requirements and care tips on how to grow lettuce at home in India. Let’s start with some points that you should keep in mind while growing lettuce at home.
Soil Prep for Growing Lettuce at Home
To get the best yield out of home-grown plants, you need to make sure that the potting mix you use to plant seeds is rich in all the essential nutrients. AllThatGrows always recommends using organic compost for your plants. Always strive to achieve a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0 for the soil.
An ideal potting mix should be a perfect blend of fertile soil and vermicompost. If you are growing lettuce in pots, you can also mix equal parts of any natural compost such as dry leaves or grass, food scraps, etc. with perlite to make the potting mix.
Growing Lettuce at Home
Now, we know that you can grow lettuce by sowing the seeds. This method allows you to choose from a variety of different seeds. The yield from the plant is guaranteed as long as you take care of it well.
At this stage, you should be all set to sow the seeds. So, let’s discuss the process of growing lettuce by sowing seeds.
- First, prepare the potting mix. If you are planting directly in the ground, then just add vermicompost to the fertile soil. If you are using containers, then fill the containers with potting mix, leaving 1 inch of space from the rim.
- Next, sprinkle the seeds 1 inch apart and cover with a thin layer of potting mix. Make sure that the place your garden is situated in gets an adequate amount of sunlight for the seeds to germinate.
- Spray just enough water to moisten the soil. But, don’t make it wet. Pouring too much water will not let the roots grow and expand to their full potential.
- Lettuce seeds usually take 7-10 days to germinate. During the germination process, make sure that your plants are getting the right amount of sunlight, the soil is consistently moist, and the temperature is maintained between 18°C to 22°C.
- Once the seeds have germinated, they will turn into small seedlings with 2-3 tiny leaves. This is the right time to thin them out. Thinning simply means trimming a few plants so that the others get room to grow.
At this stage, you can either continue the growth process or you can transplant your crop into a different container or into the ground. If you do decide to transplant the seedlings, there are a few things that you need to do to prepare the plants for transplanting.
Reduce watering the saplings by 20% from Day 15 onwards. Continue to reduce watering until 48 hours before the day of the transplant. Two days before you have to transplant, complete stop watering the plants.
Before you transplant the seedlings, water them really well so they can stock up on water.
It is recommended to transplant the seedlings 21-25 days from the day of sowing. The most appropriate time of the day that is suggested for the transplanting process is around early evenings (post 4 PM). This will increase the chances of survival for the lettuce without making it limp.
It would be a good idea to mulch your well-manured soil beds with a dry straw before transplanting. Make sure that you create a gap in the straw to prevent contact with the transplanted saplings.
Scoop out a handful of soil from the bed and put in some manure before transplanting the seedling in. This will ensure that the plant retains the water in the roots without soaking the leaves excessively.
Cover your plants with a shade cover for the initial 5-6 days after the transplanting process is complete. This helps the saplings recover faster from the procedure and make them look healthy again.
The lettuce plants will continue to grow well after they recover completely. In case, at this stage, caterpillars and grasshoppers create a problem, you can spray the plants with a simple home-made remedy. Dilute neem oil or cow urine with some water and just spray it on the plants whenever the pests cause problems.
Your lettuce plants should be feeling right at home at this stage. It’s now time to focus on fertilization. With lettuce, the right fertilizer is very important since this can lead to better produce. It is advisable to fertilize lettuce plants once they grow 3-4 inches and stand firmly in the soil. Your organic household waste like vegetable or fruit scraps would make the best fertilizer for the plants. Apply the fertilizer at least once a week for 3-4 weeks.
The harvesting may depend upon the climatic conditions in your area and the variety of seeds that you are using. Usually, after 6-8 weeks of planting the seeds, you would be able to harvest the delicious goodness of your lettuce plants.
Lettuce is a ‘cut and come again’ plant when it comes to harvesting. This simply means that if you plant lettuce once, you can harvest it multiple times. Let’s take a look at how you can harvest the lettuce that you have spent weeks nurturing with love and care.
- Always harvest lettuce during the early hours of the morning. The leaves would be more fresh and crisp during this time.
- If you can’t harvest in the morning, you can always do it in the evening as well. But, before you head out to your garden with your harvesting tools, water the plants and wait 15-20 minutes.
- The perfect time to harvest the lettuce leaves is when they grow up to 4-6 inches. You can also harvest young leaves which give a great flavour to salads.
- To promote regrowth while harvesting, pick the outer leaves. If you are using scissors to cut, chop off 1 inch above the base of the leaf.
- To keep the lettuce leaves fresh and crispy, wash them just before use so they don’t go limp.
AllThatGrows strongly believes in consuming the freshest of produce. So here are a couple of useful tips for storing and consuming the yummy lettuce leaves that you have grown in your own garden.
Storing green leafy vegetables like lettuce is always tricky. There is always a possibility that the crisp-looking leaves will lose their freshness.
However, if you still want to store lettuce leaves, wrap them in a dry newspaper or paper towels and store them in the freezer.
Lettuce stored in the freezer will remain fresh for at least a couple of weeks.
If your lettuce leaves have developed a bitter taste, you can keep them in the refrigerator for a day to rid them of the bitterness.
See! That wasn’t so hard. Now you know all there is to know about growing lettuce at home in India. Go ahead! Grow your own little garden with yummy vegetables, herbs, fruits or whatever else you like. We would love to hear about your gardening stories. But, make sure you get the best quality seeds from AllThatGrows.
If there’s one vegetable I wish I could have on tap, it’s lettuce. I make salads all the time, so I end up buying a lot of greens. This backfires because lettuce takes up so much space in my fridge that I have no room for other things. I rapidly evolve into an herbivore; my incisors fall out and I grow an extra stomach. And who has time for that much digestion?
Luckily, I discovered a solution: I can grow my own lettuce inside, thus allowing me to have infinite lettuce all year (maybe? hopefully?). Here’s how.
Choose a location
© Hakinmhan/ Lettuce doesn’t need a crazy amount of sun, but the more the better. So walk through your home and find a sunny spot. For extra points, make it a spot with a window facing south.Avoid traps. Don’t plant your veggies right next to, say, a fireplace or your dog’s food bowl, unless he too has evolved into an herbivore and really needs the nutrition.
© Banderchenno/ Arctic King, Tom Thumb and Winter Marvel may sound like reindeer that escaped Santa and became wrestlers, but I hear they’re actually types of lettuce suited for winter and indoor light. Do the research and pick a species made to do well inside.
© bluedog studio/ Find a shallow container (take out dishes with holes punched in the bottoms work too). Use a planting mix specifically designed for seed starting. Scatter the seeds and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
Keep the soil moist. They’ll sprout after a week or so. Once they do, thin them out so seedlings are about an inch apart.
© Neil Langan/ Keep watering. After about a month, you’ll have lettuce! Hopefully. If you do, eat the outer leaves, letting the inner ones keep growing. And don’t let any runaway reindeer wrestlers snack on them. Those guys can fit a lot of lettuce in all their stomachs.