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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 the Jump Start Grow Light System 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 the 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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