Whether you absolutely love eating salads or you’re feeling guilty because you know you should eat more greens, it can often be challenging to keep a steady supply of fresh lettuce. We’ve all been there. You’re motivated to eat healthily, and you go to the grocery store and buy all your salad fixings. Then you end up with a bunch of slimy lettuce in the bottom of your produce drawer several weeks later. Lettuce growing indoors is a solution for fixing all these problems. You’ll have a constant, fresh lettuce supply year round and less waste.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Growing Lettuce Inside
- Lettuce Nutrition
- Indoor Lettuce Growing Basics
- Growing Lettuce from Seed Indoors
- Growing Lettuce from Lettuce Scraps
- Growing Lettuce Hydroponically
- Lettuce Growing Indoors Nutrients
- Lettuce Growing Indoors Final Thoughts
Benefits of Growing Lettuce Inside
Whether you have a bunch of space or your acreage is limited to your windowsill, lettuce is very easy to grow indoors using various methods. There are many upsides to the process of growing lettuce indoors.
Year Round Lettuce
You can grow lettuce year-round: This is particularly appealing if you live in a cold climate where fresh produce can be challenging to come by during the long winter months. With tools like grow lights or an indoor greenhouse, you can transform any dreary winter into thoughts of spring (and a beautiful green space). Growing lettuce indoors can also give you a head start; you may wish to transplant your lettuce outside once the weather is nice enough.
Where Does My Lettuce Come From
You know where your lettuce is coming from: While there are many commercial farms growing sustainable, chemical-free lettuce, many factory farms use all kinds of pesticides and herbicides. By growing your own lettuce, you know exactly where it came from and what was used (or not used!) on it. This knowledge lends peace of mind that you and your family are not ingesting anything toxic.
Endless Lettuce Supply
You’ll have an endless supply of fresh lettuce: Never again will you end up with slimy lettuce at the bottom of your refrigerator. Once you have some established plants, you’ll be able to continuously pick and eat lettuce at your whim. If you have a constant cycle of new plants coming up as the older ones mature past viability, you’ll never have to worry about running out. Plus, you will not find a better tasting, more nutritionally dense lettuce than what goes straight from the plant to plate.
Growing Lettuce Indoors is Fun and Easy
It’s so much fun! Watching your plants begin to grow from nothing is so rewarding. It’s educational for the kids and fun for the adults to plant the seeds, see them sprout, and watch them grow. Every day you’ll get joy from seeing their progress.
These benefits also apply to growing kale indoors or any other produce besides lettuce that can easily be grown inside! Many of the methods we will talk about are also applicable to herbs and other vegetables.
There are many fun facts about lettuce. The Egyptians initially cultivated it. They took what was once a weed whose seeds were used to produce oil and made it into a viable food source.
If you were on the fence about why growing and eating lettuce is good, here is some nutritional information to help convince you:
Lettuce has only 15 calories in 3.5 ounces of lettuce, but it’s an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and molybdenum. It has plenty of other nutrients as well, including manganese, potassium, biotin, vitamin B1, copper, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, phosphorus, chromium, magnesium, calcium, and pantothenic acid. It is also high in dietary fiber.
Eating a good salad is a much more cost-effective source of vitamins than store-bought supplements!
While some countries like the U.S. prefer to eat their lettuce raw, others, such as China, often eat it cooked in various ways. It is undoubtedly the world’s most popular salad plant!
Indoor Lettuce Growing Basics
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. It does well in cooler weather but is also great for growing indoors. Lettuce needs the following three things to do well:
- 12-hours of light
- Avoid drafts
- Well-drained, nutrient-rich soil
The first thing lettuce needs to grow is light. This can be natural sunlight or come from a grow light. It requires almost 12 hours, so depending on where you are in the world or how much sunlight your window gets, you may definitely need a grow light.
If you’re going to grow lettuce inside, make sure it is positioned a decent distance from hot and cold drafts. A moderate temperature is best for growing lettuce.
Lettuce Shallow Roots
Lettuce has shallow roots and therefore needs to be planted in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. You can easily drown a lettuce plant if it sits in water rather than draining away. It is best to water lightly every day, rather than heavily every few days. Using a spray bottle to douse the soil is an effective way to ensure it receives the correct amount of water.
Fertilize the soil with a vegetable-specific fertilizer after the true leaves have begun to grow. Make sure it is spread evenly. You won’t need to fertilize more than once.
If your lettuce appears unhealthy, has brown spots, or is lanky, it needs more light. Add a grow light or move it to a sunnier window.
Additionally, lettuce should be harvested in the morning or evening because temperatures are lower during these times of the day. The lower temperatures can help extend shelf life. Use scissors to cut the leaves. Cut at the base near the soil, rinse and eat, or store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Growing Lettuce from Seed Indoors
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to grow lettuce inside is to buy inexpensive pots, planters, or grow trays, potting soil, and seeds. If you want to forego pots, you could also use whatever containers you have on hand, as long as they are big enough. These methods are for growing leafy lettuce rather than head lettuce, simply because head lettuce takes up much more space.
Next, plant the lettuce seeds at the depth indicated on your seed packet, usually around ¼ inch. It is okay to plant several seeds fairly close together. Eventually you will thin them to about 1 inch apart when they are around an inch or two tall.
After you have planted the seeds:
- Spray the soil with a mist of water to keep it damp.
- If your planter has a dome, place it over the top to create a greenhouse effect.
- If it does not, use cellophane. The seeds will begin to sprout in around 10 days.
Lettuce & Greens Starter Kit
If you want a quick and easy, dummy-proof way to do this, you can also try a lettuce grow kit like the Indoor Lettuce & Greens Garden Starter Kit. These kits are certified organic. Not only are the seeds organic, but so are the compostable peat pots and the soil pods. These kits come with five types of lettuce, including arugula, spinach, loose-leaf lettuce, kale, and red romaine.
Because of their size, these work great in window sills or small areas. However, you will need to eventually transplant the pots to a larger container or outdoors. This kit is an excellent option for starting your lettuce indoors in late winter, then transplanting outside as soon as the weather is warm enough.
Growing Lettuce from Lettuce Scraps
Another exciting way to grow lettuce involves growing lettuce from scraps. Scraps of lettuce, obviously. You do this by growing lettuce in water. Save the bottom of the stem of the head and put it in shallow water. Change the water out every day or two, and soon you’ll start to see new growth.
Once the leaves are around 3 inches tall, you can transplant the lettuce into the soil and let it continue growing. Harvest once there are enough leaves for a small salad!
Growing Lettuce Hydroponically
Another method that is perhaps the most prolific indoor method is to grow hydroponic lettuce. Hydroponic means it is grown without the help of soil, only using water or moist air, and it just so happens lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically.
DIY Hydroponic Systems
There are many complex DIY hydroponic systems, but there are also some really cool hydroponic systems you can buy that will ensure you’ve got plenty of lettuce year-round.
AeroGarden Harvest Elite
A lettuce grow hydroponic system like the AeroGarden Harvest Elite is excellent for growing lettuce, but the beauty of this system is it’s adaptable to also grow herbs or tomatoes all year long. Aerogarden makes several sizes of hydroponic systems, so depending on how much you want to grow, you can spend more or less depending on the size. This particular system allows for up to 6 pods (plants) at a time. The system comes with an herb kit, but you can order lettuce pods (or tomatoes!).
It is operated through an easy-to-use digital screen that even keeps track of the days your plants have been growing. The AeroGarden Harvest Elite comes with energy-efficient LED grow lights. These lights can be set on a timer that automatically turns off and on according to how you set it. It also reminds you when you add more water or plant food!
The nice thing about growing lettuce hydroponically is the lettuce is cleaner. Even when you wash lettuce that has been grown in soil, there is always a chance you’ll have a gritty bite or two. You eliminate that problem with this system.
Lettuce Grow 36-Plant Hydroponic System
A vertical hydroponic garden such as the Lettuce Grow 36-Plant Hydroponic System will grow more produce in less space. While these are much more expensive, they give you far more square footage while taking up a small amount of room because the pods are essentially “stacked.” This system allows for growing lettuce in water where the water and light cycles are on a 24 hour timer. The Lettuce Grow Farmstand is expandable for 12 to 36 plants depending on your budget.
This system allows you to grow up to 36 plants at a time and over 200 varieties! It comes with everything you need and, like the previous garden, eliminates the use of soil, making it a very clean option. It also only requires once-a-week maintenance. The biggest downside to this lettuce grow tower is it’s much more expensive than the other options. But, you do get a lot more food and can grow several items at once. This makes it an excellent option for families. Over time, it will pay for itself.
Lettuce Growing Indoors Nutrients
AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients
While most hydroponic systems come with everything you need to get growing, several items such as seed pods and nutrients you may need to replace occasionally. AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients is obviously a good choice for your Aerogarden, but it will work in other systems as well. The nutrients are also beneficial for other indoor and outdoor plants, trees, and shrubs. The larger quantity lasts a long time and is more cost-effective.
The downside is it’s difficult to pour without spilling, but many fans have found ways to adapt for easier use, such as transferring to a container with a better spout.
Lettuce Grow Farmstand Nutrients Jacks – Part A and Part B
Recommended with the LettuceGrow.com Farmstand are Jacks Part A and Part B Nutrients.
- Jacks Hydroponic 5-12-26 Fertilizer – Part A is a 15-12-26 mixture of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Soluble Potash.
- Jack’s Hydroponic 15-0-0 Calcium Nitrate Fertilizer – Part B is a 15-0-0 mixture of Nitrogen with Calcium.
Lettuce Growing Indoors Final Thoughts
As you can see, you don’t need much of a green thumb for lettuce growing indoors. Clearly the benefits of an indoor greenhouse are numerous. It is pretty simple, fun, and straightforward. Because lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, it is virtually dummy-proof. Whether it’s knowing where your food comes from and an unlimited harvest, or as a fun educational project for your kids. There is a indoor method for you. Whatever your reason for doing it, the results will be worth it!
You’ll enjoy a bounty of delicious and varied greens using any of the methods discussed. From planting them the traditional way in planters starting from seed, to fancy hydroponic systems, you can’t go wrong. There is also a price range for everyone in these methods. You can spend as much or as little as you can afford and still produce great results.
So next time you’re digging slimy lettuce out of the bottom of your refrigerator, remember it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way! Think about the fresh, flavorful lettuce you could be eating. You’ll know your lettuce is pesticide and insecticide-free and healthy for you and your family, full of nutrients and sustainably grown. You can’t go wrong with growing your own lettuce inside.