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Growing lettuce indoors is easy, it doesn't require a lot of room, and the supplies are readily available, plus it might be healthier and safer for you than buying it from the grocery stores.
With the latest lettuce contamination scare and recall, I feel a lot better picking up my tray of salad greens and clipping off fresh leaves each time I want a salad.
Growing lettuce indoors isn't as hard as you would think. Growing heads of lettuce is possible inside, but growing young leaf lettuce or salad mixes is the way to go.
In a little over 30-days you can be making a salad with greens you've grown yourself!
Let's run through the process of growing lettuce indoors from seed. The method shown below can be used for straight leaf lettuces (any kind) or salad mixes.
Here is the equipment that you'll need.
Optional items that grow lettuce faster.
You can use LED shop lights to grow lettuce. The more expensive grow lights work too, but aren't necessary for growing greens. Lights made by Commercial Electric work well for me, plus you can connect them together reducing the number of plugs needed.
Use un-chlorinated water when growing lettuce indoors (or any other plant for that matter). A calcium based fertilizer works best because salts won't build up in the soil and your plants will grow more lush. Nectar of the Gods is an amazing fertilizer. It seems expensive but you don't use much. I saw results first time using it.
I guess I forgot you'll need a home for your lettuce tray once you've seeded it. I use a cheap plastic rack, but you can get a fancier rack, use a table, end table, or any flat area where you can place a light over the tray.
Set up your heat mat and plug it in. Don't worry it doesn't get very hot, just warms the soil media and increases germination rate and speed.
Watch the video below to see the process and I'll discuss it more afterward.
That was pretty simple, right?
You can choose to pre-wet the soil before planting, but mine was damp and I'd rather top spray then bottom water once the plants start growing.
It's easy to over-seed the tray, so try to stay around 350 to 400 seeds per tray. Using too many seeds will not allow the plants to grow well as they'll compete with each other.
Lettuce greens or salad mix is very easy to grow.
As the heat mat warms up the soil, condensation will accumulate on the cover, this is good as the rise in humidity is good for seed germination and the young seedlings.
Leave the clear cover over the tray until there is a good carpet of seedlings poking up out of the soil.
At this time, take off the clear cover so the seedlings can receive more direct light.
It's also time to start bottom watering.
Bottom watering is simple. Lift off the top tray and pour water or fertilizer mixture into the bottom tray to about an half-inch deep.
Slowly place the top tray down into the water. The soil will absorb the water as you lower the tray.
Some growers use more water, lower the tray and then lift it out again and allow it to drain. I use less water and leave it inside the lower tray.
It's okay if the top gets dry, the roots will find the moist soil.
Use a cheap moisture meter to test the wetness level. After a while, you'll be able to tell by the weight of the tray.
Most good soil mixes will have the necessary nutrients to grow lettuce well for 30 days or so.
However, using a liquid fertilizer will make your lettuce grow faster and bigger.
There are many fertilizers that will do the job. Since we won't be top watering, liquid feed by bottom watering is the best way to go.
I use Oregon's Only Nectar of the Gods. Although it isn't labeled organic, it really is. The way it's made doesn't allow labeling as such because it's not a nitrogen salt based fertilizer. Those type of fertilizers have a tendency to accumulate salts in the soil. Rather Nectar is a calcium based fertilizer.
Remember, we're going to compost the soil after we use it, so we don't want salts to build up.
Learn more at Oregon's Only website.
Keep the greens under the light and watered and in 30 or so days you'll be able to cut your fresh greens.
Below are the greens from the seeds I planted in the video after 15-days.
Harvesting is a simple process. All you need is a sharp knife or a clean pair of scissors.
Grasp a few greens by the top and cut the plant just above the soil surface.
Obviously, try not to get any soil. It's a good idea to wash your greens before eating anyway.
Below is a tray of lettuce that I'm harvesting, I clip off enough to make my salad and put the tray back under the lights.
Work your way down the tray as you go. From that tray in the image I got six good sized salads.
Notice that the first cutting of lettuce is growing back.
Time will tell if allowing the lettuce to grow back is worth the time and space. I'll update the post once I have an answer.
Growing lettuce indoors during the winter or anytime if you live in an apartment is a great way to add nutrition and good food to your diet when fresh produce has to travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to your grocery store.
The initial investment can be a bit pricey, but once the basics are bought all you need is a bit of soil and new seeds.
The quart bottles of fertilizer will last a very long time, since you only using milliliters at a time.
Please leave a comment below if you've grown lettuce indoors or want to try. Share with your friends and don't forget to subscribe to get updates, both for the website and the YouTube channel.
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