Because lettuce and other salad greens germinate so quickly, it’s easy to grow a salad garden inside on a sunny windowsill. What I like to do is grow a mix of “baby greens,” which means I harvest the leaves before the plant matures. I mix these baby greens in with store bought lettuce for a flavorful salad or snip off a few leaves to top off sandwiches.
Growing baby salad greens and micro greens couldn’t be easier. Simply sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover them with a dusting of soil and keep the seeds moist by lightly misting them with water daily. Keep the pots in a warm location until they begin to sprout and then move them to a sunny window. If the plants look spindly or anemic, they need more light. The baby salad greens may require as much as 12 hours of light for healthy growth. A grow light is an easy remedy for this problem. Hang the lights about 6 to 12 inches above the plants.
Micro greens are ready to harvest in about 14 days. Clip the seedlings off close to the soil. Baby salad greens will be ready in about 3 to 4 weeks. Trim them off at the base, starting with the outside leaves first.
Good to Know
Good Choices for Baby Greens: Lettuce, arugula, basil, spinach, chard, red mustard
Good Choices for Micro Greens: Radish, broccoli, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, sunflowers
For more information about growing edibles indoors, read my article here.
Each spring I eagerly anticipate starting what I call my salad garden. The season’s cool temperatures are ideal for growing some of my favorite greens. I grow plenty of arugula and a wide range of leafy salad greens, such as my favorite Buttercrunch lettuce in my raised bed vegetable garden.
For a little bit of a jump on the season, I like to start my salad garden with young transplants that I purchase from a local garden center. But since lettuce germinates so easily, I also sow seeds for a second crop. In no time my vegetable bed will be full of delicious, crisp lettuce.
Lettuce and other cool weather crops such as green onions, radishes, English peas and broccoli will germinate as soon as the soil begins to warm a bit.
Many salad greens grow so quickly I can harvest several crops by planting the seeds every two weeks before it is time to plant the warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and squash.
If you don’t have room for raised beds or a vegetable garden, don’t despair. You might try growing some salad greens in containers. Just sprinkle a few seeds in containers filled with potting soil, lightly cover the seed, keep the soil moist and place the containers in the full sun. Before you know it, you’ll be cutting fresh greens for your table.
I planted some Romaine lettuce around the end of October, first of November. They are growing great, but yesterday I saw where they are trying to seed! Can you tell me why and how do I keep that from happening? Americus, Georgia (zone 8)
The taste of fresh, home grown lettuce is hard to beat. I always plant salad greens in September for fall harvesting and then again in early spring, right around mid-March. It always makes me a little sad as summer approaches because I know my lettuce crop is on its way out.
I know the season is near its end when heads of lettuce begin to elongate or bolt. Bolting is a process that occurs with many leafy, cool season crops like lettuce, spinach, parsley and kale. All the plant is doing is putting up a flower spike to produce seeds for the next generation of plants. After this takes place, I’ve found that it can alter the delicate flavor of the leaf, making it taste a little stronger, even bitter.
Although disheartening, this is just the nature of the plant. There is not anything you can do to prevent it, but you can delay it by selecting varieties of lettuce that are slow to bolt, like one called ‘Red Sail’. I grow it for the beauty of the leaf as much as I do for its taste in salads. Another type of lettuce that’s been popular for over hundred years is ‘Black Seeded Simpson’. And a recent selection of this variety called ‘Simpson’s Elite’ is much slower to bolt.
The most familiar lettuces are those found in the produce aisle such as Iceberg and green or red leaf
varieties. But there are hundreds of other greens, including mustard greens, spinach, endive, radicchio,
beet greens, parsley, mache and cresses, each with its own delectable flavor and unique form.
Growing your own greens not only allows you to try new and exciting varieties, but is a real cost saver,
too. For the price of one packet of seed you can have delicious salads for several weeks. And if you plant
the seeds early in cold frames, you’ll have homegrown greens long before most plants in the garden even
emerge. In fact, they grow best in the cool, rainy days of early spring and late fall.
Some gardeners grow each variety of salad greens separately in rows or containers, while others combine 4
to 5 different kinds to create mesclun, a seasonal mixture of greens grown and harvested together. You can
easily make your own mix with a variety of leaf lettuces and other greens, or you can purchase pre-mixed
To get a continuous supply of delicious greens through spring and early summer, sow a handful of seeds every
10 days or so. Because lettuce languishes in the heat, make the final planting 2 months before the maximum
daytime temperatures average 80 degrees. Bon appetite!
Here is a list of my favorite salad greens.
One of my all time-favorites, this is a large, heat resistant butterhead type lettuce. The compact heads have thick, juicy, crisp
green leaves tinged in red, with a yellow-white heart. So tasty all it needs is a little dressing.
This loose leaf lettuce is ready to eat in no time. Its red and light green rumpled leaves make a colorful addition to any salad.
More heat resistant than other varieties gives it a long standing quality.
28 to 60 days
A unique looking lettuce, the bright green leaves are speckled with red. Harvest the tasty, young heads in 28 days for gourmet
salads, or full size heads in 55 days.
Red Eruption Bibb Romaine
Add bursts of color to your garden and plate with this intensely red colored mini bib-romaine lettuce, suited to baby leaf and
mesclun production. Glossy, savory leaves are crisp and mild tasting.
Salad Bowl Green Oakleaf
An old-time favorite leaf lettuce that dates from the 1880’s. The thin, light green, oak leaf shaped leaves form tight rosettes.
Heat-resistant, these plants last for weeks after numerous cuttings.
Deer Tongue Green Bibb
This loose-leaf lettuce variety has been a favorite for years because of its heavy production and dependability. The green,
triangular leaves grow on thick, solid plants and have a pleasantly sharp flavor.
Known as the king of gourmet salad greens, arugula’s dark green, lobed leaves have a sharp, ‘peppery’ taste and form an open head.
For best taste, harvest the leaves when they are 2-3 inches long. Very easy to grow!
45 to 55 days
While not a true spinach, this climbing plant is ideal for containers and small gardens because it takes little space. Sometimes
used for its ornamental qualities, it produces large dark green leaves and vines. Young leaves and tips are great for stir-fry
cooking. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water before planting shortens the germination time.
Red Giant Mustard Greens
21 to 45 days
This striking plant has a bright look and bold flavor. Zesty lime-green leaves are overlaid with bright purple to go along with
its delightful sweet, but spicy flavor. Baby greens are ready in just 21 days for salad mixes or 45 days as a cooked green.
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
50 to 62 days
A dazzling plant in the garden with pink, red, bright gold, pale orange, white and mauve stems holding green to bronze-green
leaves. Both the stalks and leaves can be used. You can prepare the stalks like celery or asparagus. The leaves can be used raw
for baby green harvest or cooked with garlic or nutmeg and butter to enhance the chard’s flavor.