Grow Salad Indoors: Lettuce, Microgreens, and Sprouts

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Grow Salad Indoors: Lettuce, Microgreens, and Sprouts

Looking for an edible houseplant? Consider this. Increasingly, people opt to grow salad indoors! Growing lettuce, microgreens, sprouts, or a mixture, you produce a beautiful and healthy salad to enjoy. And, it grows with ease.

You may already know the health benefits of eating more fresh greens. In fact, studies show the amazing results from plant-based eating with an emphasis on vegetables such as greens.

grow salad indoors
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Now consider the benefits of enjoying that fresh salad minutes after harvesting it. One report in the Chicago Tribune explained the great loss of nutrients that starts at harvesting.  Additionally, most of us notice a flavor difference.

If you live in a year-round gardening climate and have outdoor space, you might grow your own salad greens and other vegetables. However, for most people, this isn’t possible. But growing greens indoors almost always fits our lifestyle and homes.

An added bonus for those with children: they often choose to eat foods they have helped grow. Imagine your child happily enjoying a fresh-picked salad! Then take it a step further with a homemade salad dressing. 

Now that you can almost taste your home-grown creation, let’s see how to begin.

Begin with Sprouts

Yes, I suggest beginning with sprouts as you grow salad indoors. Put simply, sprouts help you get your feet wet in indoor gardening. Most grow easily and they are ready to harvest in days, depending on the variety.  Sprouts require no soil and no fertilizer to grow.

Sprouts can be grown in a jar or on a tray. Our choice usually depends on the type of seed we are using, but the process is similar with either.

The Tray Method

  • Use a sprouting tray such as those found here.
  • Soak seeds about 8 hours
  • Transfer to tray and spread evenly
  • Rinse and drain twice a day, making sure all the seeds are rinsed well
  • Allow sprouting until they have 1/4 to 1-inch tails.
  • Broccoli, alfalfa, and clover sprouts are best when allowed to “green”, a process that generates chlorophyll through photosynthesis, giving sprouts added color and nutrients.
    • to green, simply expose to sunlight for a few hours
  • Enjoy immediately or dry on a paper towel to store in an air-tight container up to several days

The Sprout Jar Method:

  • You can use a quart or half-gallon canning jar with a sprouting lid or find sprouting jars here.
  • For a quart jar, we use ¼ cup of small seeds or ½ cup of large (double the seed amount for a half-gallon jar). Pour seeds in the jar then fill with water and let soak for 8 hours.
  • Drain out all the soak water. Place the jar in a bowl out of direct sunlight to drain. Ensure it has good airflow. Stagnate air causes sprouts to spoil.
  • Rinse seeds 2-3 times daily. Drain the water by keeping the jar at an angle This also allows air to flow in and out of the jar through the sprouting lid.
  • When sprout “tails” are between ¼ and 1 inch in length, they are ready to eat. Rinse thoroughly and enjoy!
  • Follow greening as explained in the tray method for alfalfa, broccoli, and clover.
  • Store sprouts up to several days by drying with a paper towel and placing them an air-tight container in your vegetable bin.
  • Note: you will eat the entire sprout, root and all. It’s delicious!
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freshly cut microgreens

Now try Microgreens

Think of microgreens as a step between sprouts and greens. While they take a few more days (usually 7-10 days) longer than sprouts, they are still easy to grow.

You can grow them hydroponically on a soilless media or even with no media for some varieties, but beginners often find using a good potting mix helps build success. You will plant them (essentially scatter the seeds) on the top of damp media, lightly cover, and keep them moist. It’s possible to grow them by misting the top surface when needed. However, we prefer to set up bottom watering. To do this, we set up two trays. The top one has holes to allow the water to drain and wick. The bottom tray has a solid bottom. It holds the water until the plants need to wick it up to the roots.

You can design this system from odd items around your home. However, very reasonably priced trays or containers can be purchased.   Growing soilless is also easy with these trays. Using products like baby’s blanket, stg, burlap, or even paper towels, your seeds will grow and flourish. Harvest microgreens when the first true leaves emerge for the best flavor.

Note: Microgreens are harvested by cutting above the soil line, leaving the roots behind. Some microgreens will regrow, giving you multiple crops from one seeding!

Grow Salad Indoors: The Lettuce

We suggest you start with a simple salad blend, then add new varieties as you taste and explore. One such mix might be a blend of lettuces grown to baby leaf size. At this stage, they contain strong nutrients and are quite sweet and flavorful.

Baby lettuce takes less space than full-size heads, but of course, it also produces less food. For indoor growing, it is often the best choice, however, this is your garden, you decide.

Many types of lettuces and greens can be grown as “cut and come again.” That means you cut off what you need and it will regrow time and time again. However, you will probably notice that the regrowth is a bit less over time. Still, this is a good way to have your edible houseplant and eat it, too!

One mix we especially enjoy is the “mesclun” which consists of a variety of compatible greens. Plant the seeds a bit further apart to allow plenty of air to circulate. Some people prefer to plant as for microgreens, then thin to use the microgreens, leaving the rest to grow into lettuce.

Lettuce will require a small amount of fertilizer unless you are using a fertilizing potting soil. Since it grows quickly, the greens require less fertilizer than some vegetable crops. However, they need a lot of water. In fact, lettuce and other greens are frequently grown hydroponically without soil.

With your greens growing, you might want to consider adding other edibles. Look for our future articles on edible flowers and edible herbs, too!

We use these Seeds

Next, Read about growing more produce indoors

10 Comments

  1. Virendra

    I seriously had no idea that you could grow lettuce indoors as well! It’s a great article for a lot of people who don’t have the luxury of their own garden. Just as a bit of a side question, what fertilizer should I use for my lettuce? I’ve never had any experience with gardening 😉

    Reply
    • Diane

      Yes, so many things grow well indoors. For lettuce, they need a very light fertilizer as they grow quickly and are full of water. I recommend a water soluble organic fertilizer that they can utilize quickly in their growth.

      Reply
  2. Jason

    A timely review (for me) Diane. What caught my eye was directing these ides towards our children. Interesting kids in veggies can be tough enough as it is but if they’re taking ownership and growing them then I think thats half the battle. My kids and I are trying to work out what we want to plant in our soon to be started outdoor veggie garden but perhaps we should start with some of your simple indoor suggestions as a kickstarter.

    Some nice suggestions so thanks for ‘planting the seed’!! All the best – Jason.  

    Reply
    • Diane

      Jason, your children will benefit from any gardening experience, indoor or out. But yes, sometimes they enjoy seeing a few indoors to help the ideas grow with the plants!

      Thanks for visiting the site-please stop back soon.

      Reply
  3. Mojisola Kupolati (Debbie)

    Thank you for these amazing ideas. I have never thought this is easily achieved, as a matter of fact, I thought sprouts would require some delicate procedure to grow. I say this because they are a bit costly at my grocery stores and are not available every day. I enjoy having sprouts in my salads, I am very eager to go and try it out right away. However, how do I obtain the seeds for alfalfa and broccoli? Or which other plants aside from these can I easily grow into sprouts on the sprouting tray.

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks for your comments. We will have a more in-depth article on sprouting in the near future–please stop back to learn more about seed types and sources.

      Reply
  4. Cameron

    Hello, 

    This was a helpful and interesting article. 

    You’ve clearly done a lot of research and were able to recommend several ways of growing your own salad crops. 

    Fresh stuff always tastes so much better compared to what you get in the supermarkets which may have been picked several days ago. 

    With home grown you can also be sure there are no additives or pesticites involved. 

    A lot of us have more time for gardening now but not everyone has a garden or the best weather for growing.

    Best wishes, 

    Cameron

    Reply
    • Diane

      I’m glad you found the article useful, Cameron! 

      Thank you for reading; please visit again soon.

      Reply
  5. Sami

    Really enjoyed your article about growing lettuce, microgreens and sprouts.  Many years ago we used the plastic trays to grow sprouts, and when faithful with the watering and rinsing, had great results.  However, your method seems to be easy as well.  The sprouts were very good, but like all good habits, bit the dust somewhere along life’s way.

    Do you just use tap water, or do you use some treated kind?  If using tap water, ours is pretty warm coming from the tap as the temperature is high in the spring and summer, and the ground the lines run through get warm.  Should the water be allowed to cool a little?  I wonder about the chance for mold when the water is warm?

    Reply
    • Diane

      If your tap water is tested clean, it should be fine at room temperature. Some people buy spring water to use, but most find tap water sufficient. However, if your water is chlorinated, it can prevent good germination. In that case, we recommend drawing water 24 hrs ahead of using it and letting it de-chlorinate before applying.

      Mold is a problem from very warm air temperatures, especially if you don’t have good air circulation. If you keep the sprouts in a warmer area of your home, providing a small fan can help alleviate any mold issues.

      I’m glad you find the information useful. Please stop by again soon!

      Reply

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