The cold weather may put a damper on outdoor gardening, but there’s no reason you can’t continue a fresh harvest indoors. Many leafy green vegetables can grow in small containers with a relatively quick turnaround time from planting to harvest.
Many leafy greens are shallow-rooted making them great candidates for growing in containers. Some options that will make a nice salad mix include: butterhead lettuce, leafy lettuce, arugula, mustard, flat Italian parsley and spinach. Check the days to maturity for each variety you select and time the plantings so all of the greens will be ready for harvest during the same time frame.
Use a shallow container for growing the salad garden for two reasons. First, less soil in the container reduces the risk of the roots becoming waterlogged and rotting. Second, the container will be lighter and easier to move as necessary. The soil should be a lightweight mix of peat moss and perlite. There are indoor growing mixes available. Avoid using garden soil which does not have proper aeration for container-grown plants. The container should have a drainage hole in the bottom and a saucer underneath to catch excess water.
Read the seed packet to determine the appropriate harvest time based on plant maturity. Harvest only a portion of the plant ensuring several lower leaves remain intact. This will encourage the plants to send out new growth and allow for multiple harvests.
While gardening indoors offers many perks including no weeding, there will always be obstacles with growing plants. Hungry pets can be one of the biggest problems for gardening indoors. One recommendation for keeping pets away from your salad garden is to use lemon juice diluted with water. Spray this mixture on the leaves of your plants and on the soil. Another option is growing your salad garden in an old fish tank or decorative bird cage. These will still allow enough light to get to the plants while creating a barrier for the pets. To prevent pets from digging in the potting mix you can put a layer of small decorative rocks on the surface of the soil as a barrier.
Most of the other problems that occur with gardening indoors can be prevented by ensuring the plants are receiving adequate water and light. Too much or too little of these necessities can be problematic. If you notice the stems becoming elongated and pale in color, supplemental light may be required. On the contrary, too much light can cause the leaf edges to become brown and crispy. This can be remedied by increasing the distance between the plants and the light source. Leaf drop and poor leaf formation could be an indicator that the plants are being watered improperly. Allow the soil to become partially dry between waterings. Low humidity is a common problem with gardening indoors and can be remedied by misting the leaves of the salad garden regularly.
As we seek ways to bridge the gardening gap between fall and spring, the minimal effort of a salad garden may be the solution. Indoor salad gardens can be put together as great gifts for the holidays as well. Gather all of the materials and provide the attached instruction sheet to share the gift of gardening with others this season.
This indoor salad garden was planted with half of the seeds grouped based on variety including pea shoots and radishes on the left. The other half of the seeds were mixed including broccoli, kale, kohlrabi and mustard.
- Shallow container with drainage hole
- Saucer for catching water
- Watering can
- Indoor potting soil
- Leafy green seeds (arugula, spinach, mustard, leafy lettuce varieties, kale)
Fill the container with potting soil to one-inch below the top edge of the container. Water the soil thoroughly until it begins to drain out of the bottom of the container. Sprinkle seeds on top of the soil. Either group seeds together based on variety or mix them as you plant. Gently sprinkle soil over the top of the seeds. Water lightly.
Place the salad garden in a sunny window. Check the soil daily for dryness. Water carefully as needed. Greens can be harvested when they are several inches tall and have multiple sets of leaves. Only harvest a portion of the leaves at a time in order to allow the plants to regrow.