by Jennifer Poindexter
Are there certain items on your grocery list that you refuse to buy? Lettuce is one of those items for me. After learning how easy it is to grow lettuce year-round, I refuse to purchase it any longer.
Would you like to have fresh lettuce at your fingertips anytime? Consider growing it indoors. If you’d like to try raising lettuce indoors, here’s what you must know.
Growing Conditions for Indoor Lettuce
To raise lettuce indoors, you must have a proper set-up. The first thing lettuce needs is light. This can come from a south facing window or grow light.
You may end up doing both, depending upon the time of year. The crop will need 12 hours of light. Certain times of the year, the sun may be able to provide all 12 hours.
During other parts of the year, you may need to supplement the lighting with grow lights. If you don’t have a sunny enough location in your home, go with grow lights year-round.
The next condition lettuce has is it must be placed where there are no drafts. You don’t want an air conditioner or heater blowing on your plants.
Finally, when planting the lettuce, it must be grown in well-draining soil that’s nutrient-dense. Lettuce has shallow roots.
If the water doesn’t drain away from the plants, they’ll drown. Be sure you provide each of these elements for the best experience growing lettuce indoors.
How to Plant Lettuce Indoors
When growing lettuce indoors, it’s best to plant leaf varieties. They’re easier to grow in containers because head lettuce is too large for many set-ups.
To plant leaf lettuce, you’ll need grow trays and a nutritious seed starting mix. Be sure your grow trays are well-draining.
Place four seeds in each cell of the grow tray. Leaf lettuce can be grown closer together, and if a few of the seeds fail to germinate you have plenty of back-up.
Lightly cover the seeds with soil and spray them with water to keep the dirt moist around them. Some grow trays come with a dome lid. Use it to cover your grow tray.
If your grow trays didn’t come with lids, apply plastic wrap to the top of the tray. This will help create a greenhouse effect and hold moisture in the soil.
Continue to supply warmth, lighting, and light moisture as the seeds germinate. It should take a week to 10 days for the seeds to begin sprouting.
After the plants are an inch or two tall, thin them to where there’s an inch of space between each plant. You’ll continue to care for them as they grow from this point.
There’s also another unique way to grow lettuce indoors. This method won’t give you as large of a harvest, but if you’re up for an experiment or looking for a way to avoid waste, this method might work for you.
The next time you chop up lettuce, save the bottom of the stem of the head. Place the stem in a shallow dish filled partially with water.
You want the stem to rest in the water. It shouldn’t be fully submerged. Place the container in a window or under grow lights.
The water should be changed every two to three days. Over time, the stem will sprout a new head of lettuce.
You can repeat this process with each head of lettuce you eat and produce much, if not all, of the lettuce you consume.
Now that you have two different ways to grow lettuce in your home, you’re ready to learn how to care for it along the way.
How to Care for Lettuce Indoors
Caring for lettuce, as you’re growing it indoors, is an extremely basic process. The crop will need light, fertilizer, and water.
To start, make sure the crop is consistently moist. Lettuce has shallow roots. Therefore, it’s better to water it briefly every day.
This isn’t a plant you want to use the deep watering method with. Instead, use a shallow pitcher or a spray bottle to keep the soil evenly moist.
Lettuce will need fertilizer applied when its true leaves begin to form. This will be the only time you need to apply a fertilizer. Ensure it’s balanced.
Finally, if your lettuce appears to be lanky or forming discolored spots on the leaves, it means it needs more light. Move the light closer to the plants, if using grow lights, or move the plants to a location where they’ll receive more sunlight.
If you supply these few basic needs, your crop should do well while growing indoors.
Pests and Diseases for Lettuce Indoors
The great thing about growing lettuce indoors is you get to side-step many pests and diseases you can’t control when growing outside.
Since you’re growing in containers and in a controlled climate, you have much more control over the environment your crops grow in.
As long as you use quality soil, you should be able to avoid many of the fungal diseases that lettuce deals with when growing outdoors.
To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to heat your soil before planting with it. In case any disease is hibernating in the soil, this will kill it prior to planting.
You can fill cake pans with dirt and heat it in your oven until it’s warmed all the way through. Even if you do this, there are a couple of pests which might still make their way to your lettuce.
Aphids and flea beetles are common pests which find their way to houseplants on a regular basis. If they can find your houseplants, they can find your lettuce.
They can both be treated with an insecticide. You can also try placing your lettuce plants in the kitchen sink and spraying them with the spray nozzle of your faucet. This will dislodge any pests prior to treatment.
The one disease you may not avoid is downy mildew. This disease comes from a fungus in the soil, but it breeds where plants don’t get enough airflow around them.
It’s easy to overplant lettuce. Be sure to follow the instructions above when planting lettuce. There should be a minimum of one inch between each plant.
If by some chance this fungus makes its way to your lettuce, it tends to thrive in damp areas which lack air flow and lighting.
By providing the lettuce with what it needs such as ample light, gentle watering sessions, and proper spacing, you should be able to stay ahead of most pests and diseases which could harm your crop.
How to Harvest Lettuce
Harvesting lettuce is an easy and fast process. The lettuce should be ready to harvest within a month. When the leaves are large enough, use scissors to trim them at the base of the soil.
You can harvest your lettuce in large batches or as you need it. Be sure to rinse it before use, and store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator if you’re planning on using it later.
Lettuce should last for four to five days in your refrigerator. If it looks wilted or discolored, don’t eat it.
Harvest is a great time to start your next round of lettuce seeds. You can succession plant lettuce year-round, indoors, to ensure you never run out of this vegetable.
You now know how to grow lettuce inside your house. It’s an easy process which may require a unique set-up in some locations.
However, if you provide this crop with what it needs, it can produce a quick and delicious harvest for you at any time of the year.