I seem to always have the best intentions to continue eating salad all winter, but often fail miserably, so thought that if I grew some lettuce at home, it may inspire me to do. Lettuce is actually incredibly easy to grow from seed & is quite happy on a windowsill provided it gets some decent light. Here’s your how-to….
Choose a Variety
There are literally masses of lettuce varieties, but the best for your kitchen windowsill are loose-leaf ‘baby’ lettuce. Varieties such as Baby Oakleaf & Lollo Rosa work a charm, but as a rule if it mentions baby or little, you’re good to go.
(Side note – I’ve provided links to Seed Saver’s Exchange, which is a non-profit seed bank that is doing fantastic work to save seeds for future generations.)
Choose a Container
Lettuce grows rather quickly, so while you can start your seeds in seedling pots, it will just involve another step that isn’t completely necessary. The root system on the plant itself don’t grow very deep, so you can get away with a slightly shallow container. Plastic generally works better for indoor gardening as clay or terracotta pots absorb water from the soil & thus from your seedlings. Now, if you’re like me & tend to freak out if everything isn’t aesthetically pleasing all the time, you can line your terracotta planters with plastic & have the best of both worlds. Just make sure that you puncture some holes in the bottom for drainage.
Add Some Soil
Lettuce isn’t really a high maintenance plant, so a standard potting soil works just great. For crying out loud however, don’t go digging any up from outside. Bagged soil is sterilized & won’t carry any harmful bacteria or pests.
Sow Your Seeds
Drop some seed into your hand & pinch a few with your fingers. Lettuce seeds are teeny tiny, so be a little careful. Try to avoid dropping too many in the same spot, but don’t worry too much about spacing. Cover very lightly with soil – no more than 1/4 of an inch, as they will need some light in order to germinate. Spray lightly with water.
Waiting & Watering
Seeds days to germinate. In the mean time, make sure that the soil is kept moist particularly during the winter. Room temperature of 15-20°C /60-70°F is ideal. Do try not to over-water as the shallow roots will get soggy & unhappy. Misting & light watering every couple of days will be fine.
Let There Be Light
South facing, sunny spots are the happiest places for your little seedlings to grow. They require about 14-16 hours of light, and a lack of light will make them rather spindly. I live on the ‘Wet Coast’ in the Pacific Northwest, where sun during the winter is almost mythical. Thankfully however, there are grow light bulbs that will work with any normal light fixture & won’t make your kitchen look like a grow-op.
Thin your seedlings after they have grown their second set of leaves in order to provide a bit of room for the strongest plants. Remove the weakest & set aside. (Don’t throw them away, rather replant them in a separate container. If you really can’t be bothered or don’t have room, you can actually eat them at this point)
You need to allow about 3 inches between the strong plants in order for them to mature. Giving them a dose of mild organic fertilizer at this point is a good idea. You can even cut in dilute with half water, half fertilizer & feed them about once a week for three weeks. Just ensure that you only fertilize the soil & not the leaves.
What You Sow, You Reap
As I mentioned above, even your seedlings are edible, but after about 4-6 weeks your lettuce will be fully grown & ready to harvest. Pick outer leaves first in order to continue growing.