How to Grow Fresh Salad Greens Indoors


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Kale, spinach, lettuce, basil, cilantro, parsley, scallions. Warm weather stuff, right? Yet all that and more grows and thrives in tiny pots in my basement. It’s warm down there, thanks to hot water pumped in from the outdoor wood furnace, and full-spectrum grow lights provide plenty of almost-sunlight.

Not so many years ago, salad was hard to come by after October. Grocery stores carried sad heads of iceberg lettuce, which thankfully was not enough to induce my parents to attempt to feed us salad after the summer garden season was over. And rightfully so, since fresh greens are out of season around here in the dark of winter. That is, until high-efficiency grow lights were available in every hardware store!

This is no longer an experiment: it’s a proven success! I have been successfully growing garden greens in the basement for a number of years now. We eat salad year round, albeit a little less frequently in winter, but still regularly. Lettuce is easy to find now, but nothing beats delicious salad greens you can grow yourself! They’re ultra fresh, picked literally right before mealtime, and you know exactly what goes into them. An organic grower, I look for plain no-additives seeding mix and liquid organic fertilizer to add when the plants are ready for it.

Ready to start growing salad indoors? Try kale, spinach and romaine lettuce for a salad mix. Herbs make great indoor crops, too: basil, parsley and cilantro are easy to grow. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Light. In the north, a sunny south-facing windowsill; or, if that’s not enough (as in my case) invest in an inexpensive grow light. I bought theย Jump Start Grow Light System ย and have used it exclusively for a number of years now.
  • Heat. Make sure your seedlings are in a warm room! If your basement is not heated, you may need to base your winter garden in a warmer spot.
  • Containers. You can be creative here, or buy a tray with 3- or 4-inch pots. I used theย Planters Pride Transplanter Tray and Pots with 3.5-inch pots.
  • Soil. Basic organic grow mix is great for starting seeds.
  • Water. Make sure the seeds/baby plants don’t dry out! If they’re under a grow light, you will probably have to water every other day. To keep them from drying out, you can place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the tray just until the seeds come up.
  • Fertilizer. After the second set of leaves appears, apply a dilute solution of liquid organic fertilizer like Nature’s Source twice a week.
  • Seeds. I buy from my local organic seed company, but any seeds will probably yield good results!

A month after seeding, we’ve enjoyed baby greens and herbs a number of times. You can’t beat fresh-picked greens for salad!

Do you grow salad in winter? What tips do you have to share?

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  1. I think I need to try this. Now, just to find a space for this…. hmmm. I’m in California, so no basement space. I’ll have to think about this one!

    1. That’s funny, I can barely keep succulents alive…I’ve had the worst luck with them. Kale is easy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

    1. Yes growing greens is a great start! I’d love to hear more about your healthy kitchen plans ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  2. Those are healthy looking greens! Thank you for sharing your tips. We grow our greens indoors without soil, and it is interesting to see how other folks grow. Plants are amazing things.

    1. I’d love to hear more about growing without soil. How much space do you need for that type of setup? I love my winter greens ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  3. What a great idea to grow salad indoors. We have a small garden outdoors where we grow green peppers, jalapeรฑos, tomatoes and basil. Does your garden get very big indoors?

    1. I have an expansive summer garden, but in winter we’re limited to a small table in the laundry room. So, not big at all! I look forward to summer ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This is a great idea. We don’t have a basement but I would love to grow greens all winter. I think the herbs would do well in our spare bedroom, just wish we had somewhere else to put them. Our living room gets too cold with the draft.

    1. Our biggest dilemma was finding the space; in our very small house, the basement was really the only candidate. The grow light is key! Good luck with your indoor garden.

  5. Great post. I rally want to grow some herbs and salad greens but the only windows in my tiny house are in the bedrooms and I’ve tried growing int he patio but everything dies on me. I’m in Miami which I know is supposed to make for easy growing with the warm weather. I picked up some micro greens that I will try to grow in the patio. I just hope it’s not too hot.

    1. How I envy you your warm winter weather! Seeds/seedlings can dry out quickly, especially in a warm environment… Good luck with your microgreens! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I thought that for years, then realized I had a warm, mostly unused room in the basement! All it needed was a grow light. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. We are in VT, so same situation: never enough light in winter! I use to try to start seeds in my sunny front room; nothing compares to the grow light. A worthy investment! I paid $50 for mine.

    1. Well, the farmers’ market needs patrons too ๐Ÿ™‚ but it’s amazing how far a little windowsill pot of herbs will go to flavor a dish! Thanks for reading.

    1. Indeed, that’s how it feels sometimes. We’ve had subzero weather for days now…which makes me extra glad for those basement salad greens ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  6. Great tips! Thankfully our growing season here in FL is long, but some winters we can lose crops, depending on how we manage them and how low the temps get! Your pictures make me want to go eat a yummy salad right now!

    1. I envy you your Florida growing season! Up north we go to lengths to extend it; we’re enjoying a balmy -14F high today, so I’m glad to have that laundry room garden ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  7. These are such great tips! There are so many of these I LOVE…kale, cilantro, spinach. Thanks for the information, I may have to try this!

    1. I hope you do try it! Start with just a little pot on the windowsill with a few cilantro seeds; honestly, herbs are the easiest. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

    1. Truly, the trick is finding the space, and devoting that space to growing ๐Ÿ™‚ It was easy to commit an empty laundry room table; good luck with yours! Thanks for reading.

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