Budding Leaf Lettuce

Who doesn’t like the taste of fresh home-grown produce?  One of the easiest varieties of vegetables to grow is lettuce, and it is simple and satisfying once you get the hang of it.   You can even grow lettuce indoors in the winter. 

 Here is What You’ll Need:

-         A small area

-         Seeds

-         Container

-         Soil

-         Light

-         Water

 

A Small Area

First, pick a spot.  You can grow lettuce in your basement, you can grow lettuce in your kitchen or basically any nook in your house where it will be undisturbed.  Lettuce is technically a “cold/cool weather” plant, so there is no need to worry about it being too cold for growth.  I have been successfully growing lettuce in my basement and we do not have HVAC running into the area.  Lettuce will bolt in high heat so don’t choose an overly hot spot like an attic. 

 

Buy Seeds

You will need to buy lettuce seeds.  The best variety for growing lettuce indoors is the loose leaf.  That is because as it grows, you can harvest the outer leaves and it will keep producing.  Your crop will last longer than, for instance iceberg lettuce, which stops producing as soon as you harvest the head.  Some common types of loose leaf lettuce are Black Simpson, Buttercrunch, and Bibb. 

If you are growing lettuce in the winter you may need to purchase seeds.  It is no longer necessary to order a mail catalog!  There are countless farms with seeds for sale online.

 

Container Pot- 6"

Lettuce has a shallow root system that is perfect for growing indoors.  A plastic 6” pot will work just fine.  You can also use the bottom half of a 2 gallon milk jug as a lettuce container.  I use both in my basement and both work out well for me.

If you want a steady harvest, plan on having 2-3 different pots going at one time.  You will plant in 2 week intervals.  Since lettuce takes 4 weeks to mature, this guarantees you will always have some fresh in-season lettuce to eat.  If you are good at tracking your planting dates, you can get a longer bed (think windowsill flowerbed or part of a guttering) and then plant in batches using that single container.

 

Soil

This is easy… use potting soil.  You can get it just about anywhere and it comes already fertilized.  Do not use “garden soil” or “top soil” or dirt.  If you introduce outside elements into your house, you run the risk of also introducing those pesky bugs.  I have used the same batch of potting soil to grow lettuce inside for 2-3 rounds of planting.  I just mix in some additional slow release fertilizer when planting the next batch of seeds.  However, the official recommendation is that you replace it each time.

 

Light

I have lettuce growing indoors without any outside light source.  You will need a grow light. The difference between “grow” lights and regular lights is the spectrum it emits.  Look around, but the best and most economical grow light I have come across is the large single-bulb light found at hardware stores/gardening stores.  The bulb and fixture should run you less than $20.

They also make long fluorescent-style bulbs labeled as grow lights that work excellent.     Make sure you have the ability to hang a light.  A single shop light usually clips on to something. A fluorescent-style grow light will need a longer shop light that hangs from the ceiling via chains and hooks. 

 

Water                                     Watering Can

This is simple, but it is also vital.  Water the lettuce.  Since you are growing the lettuce inside, there is no rain or underground water source.  The water amount is going to be dependent upon your container and the amount of dirt in said container.  I sprinkle a small amount of water on my lettuce daily.  Partly because I found small consistent waterings speed up growth, but partly because I enjoy checking on my plants’ progress daily.  A slightly larger amount every other day will work as well. 

Check the drainage in your pot to make sure you are not overwatering.  If you have sitting water in the drain tray, then cut back the amount but not the frequency. 

With minimal effort and using the guidelines above, you will be growing your own lettuce indoors in no time.  Get some lights, containers, seeds and voila!  Fresh in-season lettuce anytime you want.