Indoor gardening 2013 - Lettuce edition
- Published: Sunday, 16 February 2014 14:07
- Written by David DeCiero
Over the years, I had tried growing different seedlings inside. This included starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and some other vegetables prior to the start of the season. There were myriad problems. The first was that the natural light never seemed to be enough. The seedlings grew, but not very vigorously. The best year we had, the cat ended up wanting the same view as the seedlingfs, and knocked them over. This mess caused us to swear off raising seedlings indoors. So, we ended up just buying our plants the next year.
When we redid our kitchen, I bought a solid, yet inexpensive adjustable rack from a store. We had to put all of our pots and pans there while the cabinets were being replaced. Once that project was finished, the rack went into the basement, holding odds and ends. I decided to repurpose it have my citrus trees in the racks under the lights. Since the shelving is adjustable, this was perfect for the height of the trees. I then decided to dig up our rosemary plant to save it from the harsh winter and put that on the shelf too. I did this in October, and everything was going very well with those plants. The rosemary is growing well and the citrus is also doing well. I then looked at the other racks and thought that they would make a perfect spot for seedlings. The only problem was that it was December, way too early to start seedlings here.
So, I decided to try lettuce. I had never been particularly good at growing lettuce (indoors or out), so I knew it would be a challenge. I bought some seeds and some potting mix from our local garden center. I had all the trays and domes I could possibly need. Now, on a recent visit to Drumlin farm, I looked at how they grew their lettuce. They used plastic trays with holes, lined them with newspaper, and filled them with soil. I assumed that the newspaper helped with moisture retention, so I decided to do something similar. I took some similar trays, lined then with newspaper, filled with potting soil and placed them in solid trays. This effectively allowed me to water from the bottom and have it get wicked up through the newspaper and into the soil. This allowed the roots to get all of the water they needed, without overwatering. I then hooked up a simple T8 fluorescent shop light and had it on for 12-15 hours per day. Lettuce prefers cool soil, so I did not heat the soil with any mats. This was at the ambient cellar temperature of 50-55 degrees F. (This was during the polar vortex, it’s usually around 58). After 40 days, here is what I have:
The plants are a Bibb lettuce called Jade Gem.
I also have some loose leaf lettuce here which I have already cut twice:
All in all, the experiment went extremely well. With this new setup, I’l be starting seedlings indoors again real soon.