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Growing Winter Salads Indoors

Are you craving fresh salad greens? In mid-winter, the greens found in the grocery store often seem to wilt within a day or two – probably because they have been in transit for a number of days before you purchase them. You can, however eat local produce in the off-season, you just need to grow it yourself!

Charlevoix Garden Club Member Rhea Dow shares her method for growing salad greens indoors.

Jiffy pellets work well. Just add water for a perfect seed starter.

Select seeds for containers. Small plants are best under indoor lights. Following germination, select one plant per pellet (thinning out the others).

Transfer the seedlings to a larger container when roots reach out of the Jiffy pot. Use any good potting mix.

This lettuce has been growing under grow-lights for 21 days.

This French Red Leaf Lettuce from Renee's Garden Seeds has been growing for 41 days.

Here is the progression from seedling to table ready. Eleven days, twenty-one days, forty-one days. Under the grow light, the younger plants are elevated to be closer to the light source.

Some Helpful Tips:

Location and Light: If your natural light is dim in winter, (which it typically is here in Northern Michigan), provide supplemental lighting for baby greens. The full spectrum grow light should be placed about 4″ above the top of the leaves. Your chosen location must also be a safe one. Pick a spot away from active heat sources and cold drafts, and inaccessible to mischievous, hungry pets.

Seed Starting Containers: Flat, shallow containers or 4-inch pots are work well for starting the seeds. You can recycle produce containers or take-out dishes, some of which come with clear covers handy for seed starting. Wash them well and poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage.

What Seeds to Use: A fast-growing mesclun is a good choice. Look for loose-leaf varieties, such as Baby Oakleaf, Tom Thumb and Black-Seeded Simpson. Some varieties are known to grow well in winter light, such as Arctic King, Winter Marvel and Winter Density. Avoid head lettuces, which are difficult to grow indoors.

Planting: Scatter the seeds thickly across the soil surface, covered them with a bit of seed starting mix, and water them well with a small watering can. Place your containers in a warm location, on a small tray to collect excess water. To maintain moisture, cover them loosely with plastic wrap or a lid. Check daily for signs of sprouts. Once sprouts appear, remove the cover and thin the seedlings so they're about an inch apart. Keep the seedlings moist but not overwatered.


Another (quicker) option is growing microgreens. Microgreens include a variety of edible immature greens, harvested with scissors less than a month after germination, when the plants are up to 2 inches tall. The stem, cotyledons (or seed leaves) and first set of true leaves are all edible. Here's a step-by-step guide to growing microgreens from Penn State University Extension:

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