As the growing season winds down and you near the end of being able to grow your favorite salad mixings outdoors, you may find yourself wondering, “Is there any way I can take this garden inside?”
The answer? Yes — at least for lettuce! Growing lettuce indoors is a fairly simple task, even for beginners, and it can be quite rewarding, too. Here’s how you can give it a try and ensure you’ll never have to run to the store for a salad base again.
Why you’ll love growing lettuce indoors
Growing your own lettuce indoors has a lot of added benefits aside from bringing a bit of greenery into your space. Unlike store-bought lettuce, you’ll only have to harvest what you need for your meal that day and be able to leave the rest to live a bit longer. Homegrown lettuce is great for fresh salads, especially in the off season when you can’t grow a huge crop outside.
Believe it or not, it thrives inside
Because lettuce prefers a more stable environment, it has the potential to thrive indoors even more than it would outdoors, as long as you have the proper environment. You’ll be able to use up your lettuce at your own pace, replanting new seeds whenever you’re ready for a new batch. It’s important to note, though, that lettuce won’t grow forever. You will eventually have to harvest all of it, but it will last for longer than store-bought lettuce in a plastic bag.
Is it easy?
Lettuce is a fairly simple indoor crop to grow and care for, and there are a couple ways you can do it — either hydroponically or from seeds in a pot. If you don’t have other indoor crops that you’re looking to grow hydroponically — or don’t want to spend the money until you’re sure about growing lettuce indoors — the easiest way to get started would be seeds in soil.
Start by finding containers that have good drainage and are big enough to hold a fully grown head of lettuce. This will vary depending on the variety you choose to grow, so be sure to take that into account. Good drainage is important for indoor growth (and any kind of container growth, really) because you don’t want the plant roots sitting in soggy soil. Since they aren’t planted directly into the ground, the space is limited. The excess water needs somewhere to go.
Planting and caring for your lettuce seeds
Different seed packets may have varying recommendations for how many seeds to plant per pot, but a general rule of thumb is at least three seeds per pot. It’s always a good idea to do more than one because there’s no guarantee that every seed will be viable. Planting more than one per pot increases your chances of having sprouts.
The best growing conditions
Once you plant the seeds, ensuring the best growing conditions is essential to a great crop of lettuce. There are a couple things we recommend you keep in mind as you wait patiently for that first sprout to arrive.
- Make sure the location you choose for your homegrown lettuce stays at least 60° F.
- Keep your pots in a spot where they can receive between six and eight hours of light a day. This can be difficult to achieve, especially in the winter. But don’t worry! There are things you can get to help aid in the growth.
If all goes well, seeds should begin to sprout within a couple of weeks.
What to do with less-than-ideal conditions
If your indoor environment doesn’t meet some of the growth requirements of lettuce, you still have the ability to grow lettuce indoors! You just may need a little extra help.
If it’s lighting you’re lacking, there are a variety of grow lights — ranging in size and type of light — that you can purchase. You should look for ones that not only fit your space but are specific for lettuce/vegetable growth. Keep in mind that you may need different kinds of grow lights for different stages of the plant’s life.
If you’re looking to grow in a hydroponic system, you’ll likely need all of the above along with a proper hydroponic setup. There are ones that are pre-built, which can be ideal for those who are wanting to dabble in hydroponics but not commit to a full system (or those who don’t have the space for something elaborate).
Harvesting your indoor lettuce
With most lettuce varieties, your leaves will be ready for harvest once they’re about four inches long. Just like when you buy a head of lettuce from the store, you’ll want to start by harvesting the outer leaves first and work your way in as the lettuce grows. The outer leaves will be the biggest first, and this will give the smaller leaves a chance to get up to size.
Keep in mind that, depending on how much lettuce you’re growing, you may only have enough for a meal or two. But that’s the beauty of growing lettuce indoors! If you try it a bit and love it, you can easily grow more right away. It really is the gift for your kitchen that just keeps on giving…or, rather, growing!
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