Growing Salad Greens Indoors – A Full Guide

Growing Salad Greens Indoors.
Growing Salad Greens Indoors.

Introduction: Hello gardeners, today we have a great infromation of growing salad greens indoors. Salad greens are vegetables that are grown for their leaves and normally used in salads. Salad greens contain similar nutritional content to lettuce; however, some varieties such as the rocket are richer in vitamin A (from beta-carotene). They are low in energy (kilojoules). Salad greens give a range of phytonutrients depending on the mix of leaves but include carotenoids (rocket, baby spinach), anthocyanins (red-colored leaves) and glucosinolates (leaves from the brassica family such as tatsoi, chard, mustard, and rocket). In this article we cover all the following topics;

  • Salad greens growing conditions
  • Grow baby salad greens
  • Different types of salad greens
  • Tips for growing salad greens
  • Container for growing salad greens
  • Time for growing salad greens

A step by step guide to growing salad greens indoors

Growing a salad garden is easier. Most salad greens are quick growing and ready to harvest within 4 to 6 weeks from seeding. They can be grown in garden beds or containers, with the majority thriving in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, although there are plenty of heat-tolerant greens for summer harvesting. There is no shortage of variety when it comes to leafy greens, with trendy mustards and mizuna as popular as the more traditional lettuce and spinach.

Guide to Grow Salad Greens.
Guide to Grow Salad Greens.

Types of young salad leaves

Cut-and-Come-Again – Usually clearly labeled as such, this term means that the greens (usually mixed lettuces) can be trimmed to about 1inch (2.5cm) above the soil and left to grow again for up to four crops. There are some herbs, such as Arugula (Rocket) and Cilantro (Coriander) that will come in Cut-and-Come-Again varieties.

Baby Leaf Salad Mixes – These are often made up of a mix of lettuces, spinach, beet greens, chard, and Asian greens that could have to be resown again after the first or second harvest.

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Soil and moisture for growing salad greens indoors

Leafy greens produce best in rich, loamy soil that contains plenty of organic matter. Before you sow or plant out seedlings, use a trowel or hand fork to dig some compost into the top couple inches of soil. Seedlings benefit from being watered right after transplanting with a weak solution of seaweed or fish emulsion.

Lettuce and other salad greens are shallow-rooted and produce rapidly. They want continuous access to lots of water to produce tender, succulent leaves. Maintain the soil consistently moist so the plants don’t get stressed. If your summers are hot and dry, invest in a soaker hose or a dripper line.

Microclimate for growing salad greens indoors

The idea is to make miniature growing environments where the soil and air temperature are well-suited to salad greens. Depending on where you live, this will probably need hoops (or some other kind of support frame), clothespins, Earth Staples, and as many as four types of garden fabric (row cover).

As daytime temperatures rise into the 80s, it’s time for shade netting and this knitted fabric reduces incoming sunlight by about 50 percent. It keeps the soil cool and moist, lowers the air temperature, and shields green plants from intense sunlight. Shade Netting is too heavy to rest right on the foliage and must be supported by hoops or a frame.

Tips to growing salad greens indoors

Salad Greens Growing Tips.
Salad Greens Growing Tips.

Feed the soil – Salad greens produce best in fertile, moisture-retentive soil, so dig in some compost or well-rotted manure before planting. This is a good time to add a granular organic fertilizer if necessary.

Seeds versus seedlings – With salad greens like arugula, leaf lettuce, and baby kale ready to harvest just 30 to 40 days from seeding, direct sowing is the way to go. Plus, direct seeding allows dense planting if you are aiming for a crop of tender baby greens. For larger plants or mature heads of lettuce, direct sow, thinning as plants size up, or start plant seeds indoors under grow-lights. The seedlings must be transplanted into the garden after 3 to 4 weeks of indoor growth.

Steady moisture – Because most types of salad greens are shallow-rooted and fast-growing, they require an even supply of moisture. If the soil is dry for an extended period, the plants could bolt or the leaves will become bitter. It’s difficult to mulch around densely planted baby greens, but if you are growing salad crops that form ahead, like romaine or butterhead lettuce, a mulch of straw or shredded leaves will help retain soil moisture.

Succession plant – Succession planting is simply following one plant with another to ensure a non-stop harvest. For a long season of high-quality salad greens, sow fresh seed every 2 to 3 weeks, or use your grow-lights to produce seedlings to plug into empty areas of the garden. Even container gardeners must succession plant. The same rules apply; pot up a new container with potting soil and fresh seeds every few weeks to replace spent greens.

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Interplant – Interplant fast-growing salad greens such as leaf lettuce and arugula between slower-growing vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in the spring garden. The salad greens are ready to harvest in 30-40 days at which point, the slower crops are ready for space.

When to sow salad greens

  • To achieve the best germination rate from seeds, the optimal soil temperature range for most lettuce varieties and salad greens are between 50 and 80°F. Below 50 degrees, germination will be spotty, and above 80 degrees, the plant seeds go dormant.
  • Once the plant seeds have germinated and sprouted, the ideal air temperature for the best growth and flavor is in the 60s, with an upper range to the mid-70s.
  • When the temperatures get higher than 77°F, flavors become bitter as the plant prepares to set seeds. For spring planting, seeds can be sown directly in the ground approximately 4 weeks before the last frost. But, it is always wise to check your seed packet for optimal germination temperatures and suggested planting dates.
  • Many salad greens can be directly sown in late summer, well before the last frost date. If provided with proper mulch, these will overwinter and be ready for picking in March (see Overwintering below.) Again, check the seed packet for specific details on late sowing time.
  • The time from sowing to reaping takes 3 to 6 weeks, more or less, and is dependent on the time of year. The warmer it is, the quicker the seeds and plants will germinate and produce to maturity, providing they have enough protection from sun, wind, cold, and just enough moisture to keep them happy.
  • Direct seeded plants can be started in containers and, when the seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves, may be set out in the garden. When transplanting, space plants depending on the size of the salad plant you want to harvest. A fully developed head of lettuce requires 12 inches or more; lettuces harvested at 3 to 4-inches tall can be grown an inch or two apart.

Growing conditions for indoor salad greens

Salad greens grow best in fertile soil and use good quality compost for adequate soil nutrition. Many salad greens are fast-growing and shallow-rooted, requiring regular moisture (but not wet soil). Inadequate irrigation can cause bolting (going to seed) with tough and bitter leaves. A mulch of rice straw, shredded plant leaves or other organic material will retain soil moisture and suppress weeds that compete for water, nutrients, and light.

Growing Conditions for Salad Greens.
Growing Conditions for Salad Greens.

If you scattered seeds in a bed or planted seeds in a row closer than recommended, then start removing plants (thinning) when they are 3- to 4-inches tall. Leave 8 to 12 inches between plants in rows and cut the plants off at ground level to avoid disturbing the roots of the plants that are left to grow. Use your thinning for salad.

Containers for growing salad greens indoors

You don’t want a garden to grow salad greens. If you are short on space, produce lettuces and other salad greens in containers. Size of container 10 to 18-inches wide and 8-inches deep (with drainage) will be adequate for most salad greens. If growing leaf lettuce, a 6-inch depth will be sufficient and fill the container with an organic potting mix. Smaller containers can be moved to protect them from the afternoon sun during warm months.

Harvest your salad greens

There are several ways to harvest salad greens. In all cases, you want to create a clean cut using a knife or scissors. Most salad greens will re-grow after cutting, as long as you leave about a half-inch of the plant behind. Individual leaves can be picked, entire heads may be cut, cutting mixes and leaf lettuce may be cropped off with scissors.

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Different salad green varieties growing indoors

Arugula

Arugula is also called rocket or roquette, is a fast-growing, cool-season green in the mustard family. The dark green plant leaves resemble dandelion greens, have a distinctive peppery taste, and are best when picked young. Give arugula compost-enriched soil, and space the arugula plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Pick from the arugula plants anytime, but allow some leaves to remain, so they can keep growing until it gets too hot.

Bok choy

Bok choy can grow full sun, but it grows best in partial shade. It needs about 3 to 5 hours of sun each day. You’ll want well-draining soil with a lot of rich, organic matter mixed in. Bok choy will grow at a soil pH level from 6.0–7.5. Bok choy needs consistent watering, particularly in the fall.

Mesclun

Mesclun is a cool-season crop and starts with a well-prepared 2 or 3-foot square seedbed or use a half barrel or a 15 to 18-inch planter filled with good potting soil. Mesclun plant requires a fertile, well-worked seedbed. Wait until your soil is moist, but not soggy, then add compost or a well-balanced fertilizer and dig it into the soil. Break up any clumps and rake out the soil so that the surface is level and even texture.

Lettuces

Lettuce grows in all shapes and sizes but generally falls into one of two categories they are head lettuce or loose-leaf lettuce. Head lettuce grows in a tight ball, while loose-leaf lettuce grows in, well, looser bunches. It’s one of the most popular veggies to grow in home gardens, so if you decide to grow it, you may want to go the loose-leaf route–instead of needing to harvest the entire head of lettuce at once, you can just grab a few plants leaves here and there as needed. Plant lettuce in the cool temperatures of spring and fall. Sow the seeds indoors or directly in loose garden soil, about 1/4-inch deep. The lettuce plants can take full sun to part shade.

Baby spinach

Young spinach plant leaves are often used in salad mixes and sold with other salad greens. The baby spinach plant has round to oblong leaves with a mild flavor. Spinach is mainly nutrient-dense with a wide range of health benefits.

Endive and escarole

Endives have a light green, frilly plant leaves that are called frisee in the gardening and culinary worlds.  The broader leaved varieties are normally called escarole.  They contain a bitter taste that can balance out a salad very well.

Radicchio

Radicchio plant leaves are red, slightly bitter and have a nutty flavor. The Radicchio plants form cabbage-like heads, with green outer wrapper leaves. The dark-red interior leaves with white veins of the red heading or Chioggia types are tangy to bitter and crunchy.

Mizuna

Mizuna has a spicy piquant flavor, is great mixed with other lettuce leaves and is commonly found in commercially available lettuce leaf mixes. Mizuna plant is medium green with deeply jagged leaves. This awesome and cabbage-tasting green is a fast producer, maturing in a little over a month. It has serrated plant leaves and is a great minor addition in salads for a little kick.

Kale

This cabbage relative has frilly blue-green, purplish or whitish-green leaves loaded with several vitamins and minerals. Dress your soil with compost every 6 to 8 weeks. You want loose, well-drained soil to grow Kale. Make even rows 18 inches apart, and direct sow your seeds 0.5 cm deep. Cover your kale seeds with soil and water them well to settle the soil around the seeds. Kale can be grown perfectly well in pots. A single plant can be grown in 12 to 14 inch round pot. Use good quality potting soil mix to produce Kale in pots. For best results, test the pH level of your soil and grow kale between 6.5 and 6.8.

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