Lettuce is easy to grow, which makes it the perfect veggie to grow inside your home. Do you want to start growing lettuce indoors before moving the plants to a vegetable garden outdoors? Or is your goal to start cultivating lettuce in your kitchen? Either way, we’ll show you the easiest way to get started, with detailed instructions to make sure you’re on the right path.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Growing Lettuce Indoors
You don’t need a greenhouse to start growing lettuce in your kitchen! With these step-by-step instructions, you can learn the easiest way to build your perfect, fresh salad at home.
1. Find a Home for It
Look for a location where lettuce can grow strong and healthy. Sunny window—especially bay windows—are perfect places if you don’t have a greenhouse. That said, you can set up a grow light just about anywhere, if needed.
2. Collect the Right Materials
Since lettuce adapts well to indoor conditions, you can begin growing it from seeds indoors with basic care and a few standard materials such as:
- Potting soil, such as a seed -tarting mix
- A sunny window or a grow light
- A 4 to 6-inch pot or container: choose shallow containers with good drainage
- Plastic bag (optional)
The container you choose is essential. Plastic pots are light, making them easy to move around the home, while clay pots usually have appealing aesthetics. Clay, however, can absorb water. As a result, the drink you mean to offer your plants can easily be consumed by the pot instead. This will dry out the soil faster than if you had used a plastic container.
If you choose to use a clay pot, line the container with a plastic bag. Puncture a few holes into the bag’s bottom for drainage, and use it as a liner between the soil and your container.
Never reuse old soil, or you risk introducing insects or bacteria from earlier inhabitants. The soil you choose should be fresh, and have a pH between 6-7.5. Potting soil is also too coarse for starting lettuce from seeds, so look for seed-starting soil mix. These are lightweight and designed to help a plant take root. If you prefer to create your own soil mix, try using equal parts coir or moss, sand, and vermiculite.
The pot you choose is crucial to your plant’s survival. As such, if you’ve used the pot to house another plant in the past, make sure you clean the container very well using soap, warm water, and bleach before using it again. Old plants leave behind remnants of disease or other things that can threaten your lettuce seeds’ health and safety.
Which Variety is Best?
Head lettuce is more difficult to grow indoors. Therefore, avoid traditional head lettuce and aim for leafy lettuces instead. Just remember you can regrow romaine lettuce from the base of another. Instead of throwing away the scraps, place a lettuce stump in a container with an inch of water: just enough to cover the roots.
In a few days, the stump will begin to grow new leaves. All you need to do is replace the water every few days, as required.
There are also some lettuce varieties that grow better indoors. Knowing which type you’re growing is helpful when you select the seeds. Some of the best varieties that do well inside include:
- Loose-leaf varieties: Tom Thumb, Baby Oakleaf, and Black-Seeded Simpson
- Winter varieties: Winter Marvel, Arctic King, and Winter Density
- Other – Spinach, Arugula, and Mesclun
Select the materials you need, and the lettuce variety you want to grow. Are you having a difficult time deciding between the many greens you can grow at home? Then choose a lettuce that your entire family enjoys eating. Just make sure it will grow well at your home, based on your sunlight availability. Growing winter lettuces along with summer blends will allow you to harvest crops all year long.
3. Get Dirty
Once you have the materials you need, you can plant. Start around 25-46 days before the last frost date, depending on where you live. If you start during autumn (for winter varieties), begin 77-97 days before the first frost.
Fill your pot with soil to about an inch or two from the top, leaving a little room so you can plant the seeds. Some gardeners prefer to moisten the soil before planting to prepare it.
A lettuce plant will require at least 4 to 6 inches of space, and 8 inches’ worth of depth. Select a pot with drainage holes, placing a saucer underneath to collect any excess water. Additionally, make sure its size is large enough for your lettuce plants. Consider how many plants will fit in a pot for the best results.
4. Spread Out the Lettuce Seeds
Seeds must remain at least 1 inch apart, and you’ll want to place a limit on the number of seeds in each pot for the best results. Stick to 4 seeds in each container to avoid overcrowding your lettuce, and lightly shake the seeds into the soil. Take a handful of soil to sprinkle over the seeds, and gently water the seeds with a spray bottle.
If you don’t want to wait for seeds to sprout, you can also plant seedlings instead. They’re available from any garden center or nursery near you, and you can use the same planting technique as mentioned above. Never plant more than four lettuce plants in a pot.
5. Watch Your Lettuce Take Root
Next, you’ll want to cover the seeds with a lid or plastic wrap to help retain moisture. Check on the plants each day to look for signs of sprouting, and once you see the sprouts, make sure to remove the cover. The seeds must remain moist, yet not overwatered.
When the seeds sprout, provide the plants with at least an inch of water each week. Poke your finger into the pot to check the soil a couple of time per day, and if the soil feels dry, give your plant a small drink. Soil should remain moist, but not waterlogged. Another way to check is to pick up the pot and feel the weight. Heavier pots mean that the water has saturated the soil.
Lettuce will let you know when it needs more water as well. Look to the leaves, and when they begin to wilt visibly, they’re thirsty. Hot conditions like in the summer months will require more frequent watering for the best results.
Once the seedlings sprout, you may also need to thin out the plants to keep them about an inch apart. This will help your lettuce plants grow and help provide an adequate amount of space necessary to do so. Scissors work well here, and you can gently cut back the seedlings to keep them apart.
Caring for Lettuce Indoors
Growing lettuce indoors requires diligence, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your plants. The seedlings should appear robust and green rather than yellow. If you notice a yellow discoloration, your plants are probably light starved. Move them to a sunny location with at least 12 hours of bright light to take care of this problem. South-facing windows are perfect, especially bay windows.
If finding enough sunlight is difficult in your home, try using grow lights for your crop. Small lettuce crops that fit on countertops should be perfect for systems designed for this purpose, like the My Greens Light Garden.
Make sure the location is also warm, but not too hot. Lettuce grows best in temperatures around 65-70 degrees and requires a small tray underneath to collect the extra water. Once your plants grow tiny leaves, you’ll also need to begin using a liquid fertilizer and monitor their growth closely. The seedlings must be moist, yet not drenched in water.
You may find a seed starting system or water reservoir helpful for keeping your plants watered. Additionally, some people prefer to cover the seedlings with plastic to hold in moisture until they sprout.
How to Harvest Home-Grown Lettuce
As long as everything goes according to plan, your lettuce should begin to sprout in 3 to 4 weeks.
Harvest once the plants are about 4 inches tall. It’s best only to cut off the amount you need as you need it, starting with the outer leaves first. Trim the plant from the base—about an inch away from the soil—allowing the other leaves to continue growing.
Morning is the best time to harvest lettuce, as the plant is typically more hydrated and perky. Keep your harvested green in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for anywhere from 3 to 10 days, depending on the lettuce variety. Certain cultivars will last longer than others, and you can check how long your type of lettuce is expected to continue.
Cut back another harvest two weeks later, as it takes about that long for the plant to grow more leaves. Plant a new set of seeds after a full harvest every few weeks. This will ensure that your crop will continue growing throughout the year.