We’re all feeling anxious right now, given the global pandemic. But you can take charge of a small area of your life to ensure that you have fresh produce at home. One of the easiest things you can do is start growing lettuce indoors.
A wide variety of leafy greens can grow inside relatively quickly with limited equipment. The best thing about lettuce is that it’s “cut and come again,” meaning you can harvest the outer leaves for a salad while letting the plant continue to grow. Here’s how to get started!
Step 1: Pick Your Location
Before you start ordering supplies, you need to find the best place to set up your indoor garden. Ideally, you’ll find a south-facing window that lets in about 12 hours of sunlight every day.
If that’s not an option, then you’ll need to purchase some grow lights. We’ve gone into detail about how to get started with growl lights here.
Your growing location should be moderately warm, without any potential cold drafts or hot spots. For example, you don’t want to put your little plant friends right next to an exterior door that is opened frequently during the winter or over a heating vent.
Step 2: Gather What You Need
To grow lettuce indoors, you’ll need three basic supplies:
- Lettuce seeds
- Growing medium
You can order lettuce seeds online or buy them from your local garden center. The varieties come down to your personal preference. Loose-leaf varieties are a better choice for indoor growing.
We’re big fans of Black-Seeded Simpson, but Baby Oakleaf is another good choice. If you want to mix things up, also plant some arugula or even spinach to create a custom salad blend.
Your growing medium should be a soil-less blend. Ideally, use a seed starting mix. Fill your containers with 2-4 inches of pre-moistened growing medium. The best way to do is to mix the growing medium with water in a bucket until it forms clumps.
Finally, you’ll need some containers. While you can use traditional seed-starting flats, this is a chance to get creative and recycle.
Plastic takeout packages and clamshells are ideal for starting seeds. You can also use yogurt cups, toilet paper tubes–basically, anything that you can put some dirt in and poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
Step 3: Plant, Then Practice Patience
The active part of your lettuce growing journey ends once you plant the seeds. Typically, you’ll want to put 3-4 seeds in a one-inch area. Put them in the sunlight with either a clear lid or a piece of plastic wrap to retain moisture.
Once the sprouts pop up–which is a seriously magical moment–take off the lid or wrap. Thin the seedlings, saving the most robust, to one plant per inch. Keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater as it can cause the roots to rot.
In anywhere from 3-4 weeks, you’ll have your first crop of lettuce! Wait until the plants are at least 4″ tall and then harvest just as much of the outer leaves as you need right then.
A trick to getting a nearly endless supply of indoor lettuce year-round is to keep starting new seeds every two weeks. That way, something will always be ready to harvest.