How to Grow Fresh Lettuce Indoors
Crisp fresh lettuce can make the difference between a mediocre salad and a great salad. It’s also great on a homemade hamburger. Whatever you choose to use lettuce for is up to you, but one thing isn’t up for dispute – fresh lettuce should be a staple of any health conscious home.
The problem is that grocery store lettuce isn’t always as fresh as it should be and this might make you bypass the lettuce aisle altogether. It’s understandable, but you needn’t despair. There is a better solution.
Our family has been growing our own lettuce for years and once you’ve made the switch from store bought lettuce to your own home grown lettuce you won’t look back. The reason being is you can actually harvest it right before you make a meal.
That means your lettuce is as fresh as it can possibly be before you eat it. If this sounds appealing then read on. Here are some great suggestions you can use to begin growing your own fresh lettuce indoors today.
An easy way to get all the equipment you need is to use an Aerogarden. Read our reviews here.
The best way to grow lettuce is right from seedlings. They grow relatively quickly and as long as you provide them with the light they need during their growth cycle you should have no problems.
Typically lettuce seeds need about 14 to 16 hours at first, but you can cut this back a bit once the seedlings begin to grow into mature plants. If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of light it is, but if you want health and fresh lettuce to add to your favorite dishes it’s an absolute must.
It may seem impossible to provide your seedlings with 16 hours of sunlight per day, but it’s not. There’s actually a fairly simple solution to this problem. Since you’re growing your lettuce plants indoors you can add some artificial light to the equation to make up the difference.
LED lights are widely available and they can easily provide your lettuce with the extra light it needs to grow into healthy and tasty mature plants. You have tons of options to choose from and there are plenty that fall into the affordable category. This doesn’t have to be a major expense at all and when you consider what you’re paying at the grocery store for fresh lettuce it’s actually quite a bargain.
Watering and Mist
Have you ever noticed at the grocery store they make every effort to keep the lettuce wet? Many grocery stores actually have an automatic spray mist that constantly waters the produce every few minutes.
Lettuce is a water hungry plant and if you forget to water it for more than a couple of days you’re going to be in trouble. Your lettuce leaves will quickly turn brown and wilt leaving you in a tough spot trying to bring them back to life.
It’s not a bad idea to spray your lettuce with a water mist every day and adding a water tray underneath your pots is also a great option. Just make sure they have drainage holes so the water can soak into the bottom of the soil or you’ll be wasting your time.
Whether you choose plastic, clay, or ceramic pots isn’t the major issue, but the size is important. You should look for pots that are at least 12 inches in diameter so your lettuce heads have room to spread their leaves.
The pots shouldn’t be too deep though as lettuce tends to have shallow roots and deep pots will make it difficult for your plants to draw water from the tray underneath your pots.
Lettuce is not the type of plant that does well in hot muggy conditions. It’s more of a cool weather plant and that’s why outdoor gardeners tend to plant their seeds early in the spring just as the frost is breaking. You should keep your indoor lettuce in similar conditions – no more than 65 to 70 degrees. The cool temperatures will also help them to maintain their moisture longer.
Some veggies and herbs can do just fine without fertilizer, but if you truly want healthy lettuce your family will enjoy you should introduce some to your pots. Look for fertilizer that’s rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus – these are the key ingredients that will help your plants grow.
If you start with a nutrient rich soil that’s high in nitrogen this will give your plants a great head start. Your local garden center will have plenty to choose from, just be careful to read the label carefully – one soil is not the same as another. A soft, loamy, nutrient rich soil will give you far better results than a dry brittle variety you dug up from your backyard. It’s worth the expense.
Even in the Winter
The best thing about growing lettuce indoors is that you can grow it all year long. You don’t have to worry about the frost in the fall ending your growing season – all you have to do is maintain a nice comfortable 70 degrees and your lettuce will continue producing right through the winter months.
Short Growing Cycle
Some plants seem to take forever to grown and if you’re not a patient person it can lead you to lose interest and look to a different hobby. Lettuce is the perfect plant for the type of person that wants to see results quickly. It has a short growing cycle so you will be able to harvest fresh lettuce within 4 to 5 weeks after planting under the right conditions.
Watch for Pests
One more thing. Don’t forget to keep your eye out for pests. Just because you’re growing lettuce indoors it doesn’t mean your plants are immune from being attacked. At any sign of a problem prune the damaged leaves and evaluate the problem.
You may even have to start again from scratch, but this is rare when you’re growing indoors. If you follow all of the suggestions we’ve laid out you’ll be eating your own homegrown lettuce in just a few weeks.