Whether you are trying to save money, like gardening, or just want to know where your food comes from, growing lettuce is a great way to help your health and wallet. However, if you wish to have full-time access to lettuce’s green goodness, you will need to grow lettuce indoors.
How does growing lettuce indoors differ from growing it outside? What do you need to have and know to get started? This article will answer all your questions, and you will grow and eat your own lettuce in no time!
Benefits of Growing Lettuce Indoors
Growing lettuce indoors may initially seem like a large project. Do you really eat enough salads to justify an indoor garden? However, there are a lot of benefits that could make this indoor gardening project well worth it.
1. Fresh Lettuce All Year Round
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit, but it bears mentioning. When you grow outdoors, you must bend to your area’s seasons and climate, but if you grow lettuce indoors, you can have it fresh in the middle of winter! Growing lettuce indoors will provide a continuous supply of fresh greens for salads and more.
2. Full Control of the Growing Environment
Any gardener knows that sometimes the weather just does not cooperate. Scorching heat can dry up your plants, surprise frosts can kill them, and even too much rain can drown them. When you grow lettuce indoors, you have total control over everything from the soil to the water and sunlight access. With some trial and error, you can grow healthy plants every time.
3. Access to Cheap Organic Lettuce
Many of us worry about where our food comes from, and for a good reason. We may try to buy organic produce to ensure that our product is top quality, but this can quickly become expensive.
When you grow lettuce, you can be sure it is safely grown and harvested without paying extra money for that organic label.
4. Lettuce Is a Short-Season Crop
A lot of the produce we eat has to bloom and fruit before we can eat it. However, with lettuce, we eat the leaves themselves.
This means that, compared to many other vegetable growing times, it has a swift growth cycle from when it is planted to when it is ready to harvest and eat.
Because of this short growing season, you can keep yourself reasonably well supplied with lettuce with a continuous indoor garden. It is thus a more particular indoor gardening choice than many other edible plants.
What You Need to Grow Lettuce Indoors
Now that you know the benefits of growing lettuce indoors, it is time to turn to how to get your indoor garden up and running. There are several things you will need to get started.
Like all plants, lettuce needs light! It tends to like a lot of light. To grow lettuce indoors successfully, you will need a place exposed to lights for roughly 12 hours a day. If you have a place exposed for 14 or 16 hours, that would be even better for most lettuce types.
Therefore, your indoor garden probably needs to find a home next to a window, or, if you have one, a sun porch makes an ideal location as well. Check to see that the place you have in mind has constant sun exposure for most of the day before buying and planting lettuce!
You can still grow lettuce if you do not have an indoor location with constant sun exposure. Grow lights can be used in place of sunlight. For some, grow lights are even better, as they allow you to control precisely how much light your lettuces get. Whether you want to use grow lights or sunlight, make sure your lettuce gets at least 12 hours of light daily.
Your lettuce will need a home! Flowerpots and plastic containers work well. If you choose a clay pot, make sure to line the pot with plastic before planting your lettuce. Clay absorbs water and can leave your lettuce dried out.
Lettuce tends to have shallow roots, so your containers do not need to be especially deep. If you turn a recycled object into a container, remember to poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Other than those simple tips, feel free to get creative with your container choices!
The final thing you will need to start your lettuce is soil. Lettuce is not a picky plant when it comes to the soil it grows in, but there are a couple of things to remember.
Do not use old soil. Other plants may leave behind different substances or bacteria that will hurt your lettuce. In general, it is better to use sterilized soil.
If you are growing your lettuce from seeds, make sure to use a seed-starting potting soil or a combination of peat moss or coconut coir fiber, vermiculite, and sand. Thick potting soil may be too dense for your lettuce seeds to start.
4. All-in-One Indoor Gardening Solutions
While you will undoubtedly save money by gathering things yourself, for those who worry about their gardening ability, there are many indoor gardening solutions you can buy.
AeroGarden is a brand that makes indoor hydroponic gardening systems that come with grow lights and nutrient solution. These systems use only water (no soil) and tell you when to feed your plant.
There are a variety of indoor growing systems as well, which can provide everything from the seeds to the containers and potting soil. If you want to grow lettuce indoors but are unsure how to get started, a kit may be the best option for getting everything you need.
Best Types of Lettuce for Growing Indoors
Thus far, we have spoken about lettuce generally. Still, most of us know that there are wide lettuce varieties, and some are easier to grow indoors than others.
When growing something indoors, we do not want our plants to get too big. A good rule when picking a lettuce variety to plant is to choose the smaller breeds. Look for words like little or baby lettuce in the name to ensure you get a smaller strain of lettuce. Here are some of the different lettuce varieties and how they work indoors.
Loose Leaf Lettuce
This is arguably the best lettuce for growing indoors. As the name implies, Loose-leaf lettuce does not grow in a head of lettuce like other types of lettuce. This means it takes less time to grow, can grow in shallow containers, and is easy to harvest. Harvesting loose-leaf lettuce simply requires cutting the lettuce leaves at their bases.
If you are new to growing lettuce indoors, then starting with loose-leaf lettuce is the best way to go. If you can grow it successfully, then you can feel confident in trying to grow other lettuce types.
Romaine lettuce grows broad leaves that are often used as wraps. This type of lettuce can actually be grown from itself! If you cut off the romaine lettuce head and place the remaining cut in warm water in sunlight. After a week, the head should begin to grow again, and you can replant it in soil.
Iceberg grows as a relatively large head of lettuce, which can be tricky to grow indoors without ample room. If you want to grow iceberg lettuce, you will need a bigger and deeper pot. You can also look for little or baby lettuce varieties of the iceberg if you like the flavor but worry about the size.
Bibb lettuce can be a great transition to lettuce from growing loose-leaf to head lettuce. The heads of bibb lettuce tend to be smaller than iceberg or Romaine.
Planting and Caring for Indoor Lettuce
Once you have everything you need and have decided what type of lettuce you want to plant, you are ready to get planting! Here is what you need to know to plant and care for your lettuce.
Sowing lettuce seeds is relatively simple. Sprinkle the lettuce seeds on top of the soil and then cover them with soil (1/8 to 1/4 an inch). Of course, you should always follow the instructions that come with whatever lettuce seeds you buy, but the sprinkle and cover method works well for most lettuce.
When your lettuce is in the seedling stage, it will need the most tender loving care. Seedlings often need more sunlight and more water than adult lettuce plants. Also, this is the stage to see if your plants need thinning. It can be painful to pull up some sprouts, but remember that none of your plants will grow without adequate room.
Refer to the instructions that came with your lettuce seeds to determine how much room individual plants require. Scissors are best used when thinning as they prevent you from damaging nearby lettuce plants.
Watering lettuce plants can be a tricky endeavor. Too much water will cause your plants to become waterlogged and rot. Too little water will cause them to dry out, so what is the sweet watering spot?
Lettuce generally needs a lot of water. The soil should always be moist. Moist means it should feel damp, but you should be able to see water droplets. Ensure your plant has proper drainage, so the soil does not become waterlogged.
This part of care is optional.
You can use a liquid fertilizer or plant food if you want your lettuce to produce the biggest harvest possible. If you are taking multiple crops from the same plant (cutting leaves and then letting more grow back), it is a good idea to provide some fertilizer after each harvest.
From seedling time until your plant is ready for harvest, is different for different lettuce varieties. Loose-leaf lettuce can be ready in as little as two weeks, while Romaine and iceberg take 10 to 14 weeks. Loose-leaf lettuce and Romaine can be harvested whenever you feel it is big enough for your needs. Iceberg lettuce needs to reach maturity before harvesting.
Your homegrown lettuce should be eaten fresh. Wash and dry the lettuce, and then store it in the fridge. It should stay fresh for a couple of weeks, during which time you can get another crop planted and started.
Growing lettuce indoors is an excellent way to provide you and your family nutrient and fresh organic salad greens all year round! All you need is a light fixture, containers, soil, and water to start your lettuce and keep it thriving.
Growing a bountiful lettuce harvest successfully in your home may take trial and error, but lettuce grows quickly, giving you plenty of chances to practice! Having lettuce around all year is a great way to add freshness to any meal, and you now know everything you need to get started.