Grow your salad indoors

2012-06-08

I have been asked about easy gifts from the garden and while this idea is perfect for enjoying organic salad greens year-round from inside our homes, it also makes a delightful idea for a gift. How nice to begin a ‘Living Salad Bowl’ and in a few weeks be able to present it to a loved one for them to enjoy fresh greens in an on-going harvest! “Cut-and-come-again” is a term often used for enjoying a very long harvest of lettuce by simply using scissors to cut off the outer leaves, or the tops of the plants. They regrow from their base. I have lettuce growing in a couple of containers on the back patio but this research has inspired me to extend the season indoors with a grow light by the window in our cool but sunny den. And I think my sister-in-law would love a living salad bowl at Christmastime so I am going to begin hers in November.

Here is a delightful article with easy steps on getting greens growing inside. In my research I have also discovered people having success with spinach in addition to lettuce and kale. Also, below is a link to a great YouTube video about harvesting and storing indoor greens. I hope you enjoy!

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Grow a Quick Crop of Lettuce Indoors

by Barbara Pleasant

If you itch to start growing things weeks before it’s time to start most of your seedlings, use the space under lights (or your sunniest south-facing window) to grow quick crops of lettuce.

Grow quick crops in plastic salad containers.

There is a happy symmetry to the fact that translucent clamshell boxes used to package gourmet salad greens also make ideal containers for growing lettuce indoors. To get the boxes ready for duty, use the tip of a stout knife to make 8 or 9 gashes in the bottom of each one. Then add 2 inches of moist potting soil before planting a pinch (about 25) lettuce seeds, barely covering them with soil. After generously spritzing the surface with water from a pump-spray bottle, pop on the tops and slip the boxes under your grow light, or in any warm, bright spot.

Five days later, when the seeds are up and growing, remove the tops and place them under the boxes, so they become watering trays. The soil usually stays nicely moist if you fill the trays with water every day. By the way, don’t try to remove the labels from the lids. Hot water will warp them, especially if they’re made from cornstarch.

You can let your boxes of lettuce bask in the sun from a south-facing window on bright days, but they will be happy to spend most of their time under the light. Keep the lights on for about 12 hours a day, like from 7 in the morning until 7 at night.

Trim it right into your colander for a quick salad!

The first cutting is ready in 3 to 4 weeks. By holding the boxes sideways, you can clip the leaves right into a colander while keeping the growing crowns intact. The plants will be ready to cut again in about 2 weeks.

If you want to use the clamshell boxes to start another crop, you can lift out the mat of seedlings and transplant it to a larger container. As days get warmer in the spring, you can start lettuce and other salad greens in clamshell boxes and transplant the mats into a cold frame or plastic-covered tunnel.

About the Author: 
Name: Barbara Pleasant, Organic Gardening & Real Food Expert
Occupation: Writer
Location: Floyd County, Virginia
Websites: BarbaraPleasant.com; CompostGardening.com 
Proving that there are always new things to learn about growing and preserving food, recently Barbara was blown away by a fantastic batch of fermented pickles. Next she began making her own yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. To nudge a little closer to food self-sufficiency (and because she likes to watch things bubble), Barbara has been trying her hand at turning raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears and grapes into wine. In her spare time, Barbara loves to cook, hike, bike, read and, of course, garden!

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Helpful gardener Diane shares how she harvests and stores her abundant indoor crops of greens in this 8 minute video. She writes: “2nd harvest of the lettuce and kale indoors I started from seed back in November 2010. Lettuce and Kale are very easy to grow indoors under lights.” 

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