Although the weather outside is frightful (at least here in Vermont), growing your own food is so delightful! It will be months before many of us are back digging in the dirt, but we can still enjoy growing many yummy fruits and vegetables indoors. One of things I miss the most in the winter is picking a fresh, healthy green salad to enjoy with dinner.
Well not for long! At our house, we will be enjoying these tasty greens by growing our own salad mix indoors. We decided to grow a mix of leafy greens, so we’re planting spinach, romaine lettuce, and mustard greens.
Say bye-bye to winter sniffles! Eating your greens is especially important in the winter because they are rich in immune-boosting vitamins, which can significantly improve your health. Romaine lettuce and spinach are both great sources of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and folate. So get growing!
What you’ll need:
Containers: I use recycled containers whenever possible. Clear salad mix containers work well for this project.
- Tray or plate on which to place the containers (to catch water as it drains out)
- Seeds: I used spinach, romaine and mustard greens but you can plant any leafy green. Other examples are: arugula, radicchio, cress, chives, and herbs.
- Potting mix specifically made for seed starting
Here’s how to do it:
- Poke small holes in the bottom of your containers to allow for good drainage.
- Pre-moisten the seedling mix with warm water and stir well to ensure all the soil is moist.
- Add moistened soil to the containers and place containers on a tray.
- Sow the seeds to the depth indicated on the seed packet and cover the seeds with soil.
- Place in a sunny south or west-facing window. Make sure the window does not have a draft. Seeds will only germinate if the temperature is between 61-65 degrees.
- If you cannot provide this environment, another option is to place the seeds under two fluorescent lights. The light needs to be directly above the plants, close but not touching them.
- Plants need 12-14 hours of light per day.
- Keep soil moist to the touch, but not soggy. If using a salad greens container, you can close the lid to keep moisture in until the seedlings appear. To keep your seeds from drowning, you can use a spray bottle to keep the top of the soil moist.
- When seedlings start appearing, “thin” your planting by carefully pulling out some of the new sprouts, leaving the largest, healthiest shoots.
- If your plants are near a window, turn your container every few days to keep them growing evenly.
- Again, keep the soil moist but not soggy. The best way to do this without damaging the seedling is to place water in the tray that’s under the containers and allow the water to wick upwards.
- As the plants mature, pinch off the outer leaves for your homegrown salad, which will actually promote new growth. Do not pull out the entire plant, but leave the center to continue growing.
- When the greens begin to taste bitter, the growing cycle is finished. You can compost what’s left of the plant.
- To consistently have fresh salad greens, plant new seeds using the same process every two to three weeks.