If there’s any plant that will convince you that there’s no substitute for fresh-picked, it’s this. Even farmers market’s greens start to wilt and lose their crisp, sweet freshness in hours. From a gardening standpoint, leafy greens are the most rewarding plants to grow – they are fast, easy, and productive. In this intro, we’ll cover the different types of leafy greens suitable for indoor gardening, their lighting needs, and the planters we use to provide each type with perfect growing conditions.
What Leafy Greens Can I Grow Indoors?
Leafy greens grow well indoors – in fact most lettuce is already grown indoors. Outdoors they have a very short growing season and even during the “good” months they’re a target for bugs, so most growers opt for inside. We’ll cover the best varieties for indoor gardening and also highlight some leafy greens that you are better off getting at the store.
No matter what type of lettuce you like – there’s a good indoor option. You can grow head lettuce (like Romaine, Butterhead, & Summer Crisp), loose leaf lettuce (like Oak Leaf & Salad Bowl). However, we don’t recommend crisphead types (like iceberg), as they take a long time to grow and are quite big. Lettuces are a shorter lived crop, as they become bitter once the plant “bolts,” or sends up flowers, but there are some tricks to extend their harvest.
If you prefer heartier greens, you can grow flavorful Kale and Arugula, indoors. While it’s possible to grow spinach indoors, it needs brighter light and grows slower, so we don’t recommend it.
Indoor Lettuce & Leafy Greens: Setup and Supplies
How much light do you need to grow lettuce & leafy greens?
You need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight to grow leafy greens, though they’ll grow faster with more. While a bright window might work fine, we prefer using grow lights for a couple reasons. The plants thrive in their consistent light conditions and can be “tricked” into having longer harvest by keeping them in a sort of perpetual spring. They’re also an essential tool for the indoor edible gardener, and open up tons of options once you know how to use them. Whether you’re just starting out with a window, curious about grow lights, or unsure – our lighting for leafy greens section will guide you to an effective setup.
What type of planters & soil should you use?
Leafy greens love consistent moisture and nutrient dense soil, making a regularly fertilized, self-watering planter a fantastic option. However, if you can’t get enough lettuce in particular, you might consider trying out hydroponics – for whatever reason lettuces grow nearly twice as fast hydroponically.
Self Watering Planters
Self-watering planters are an excellent match for leafy greens. They have a separate reservoir that you fill about once a week that slowly delivers water to the soil – keeping it consistently moist. As leafy greens are producing a lot of foliage, the soil will need to be rejuvenated regularly. We provide recommendations for potting mix, watering, and fertilizer scheduling in our self watering planters for lettuce & leafy greens blog.
Hydroponics is when the roots grow in a mixture of air, water, and nutrients – and all leafy greens will grow well like this. It tends to be a bit more complicated and expensive, but there are a few reasons you might choose it, the most compelling is that it can grow lettuce twice as fast. If you’re unsure, we’ll help you understand if it makes sense for you and how to set up the simplest effective system.
Growing your Lettuce & Leafy Greens
Continual Harvests from your Leafy Greens
In the skills section for Leafy Greens you’ll learn about how to get a constant supply of fresh greens from a small garden. You’ll learn to thin your seedlings, maximize your plant through pruning, harvest the best tasting leaves, and strategies to keep your plants harvestable for longer. If you haven’t read the Sprouting skills section – you might want to brush up with that first!
Using Fresh Picked Greens in the Kitchen
You’ll find that leafy greens are so much more than salad! There’s something about having sweet, crisp leaves on hand that makes us want to add it to everything (or just snack on a leaf or two when we walk past). Burgers and sandwiches are clear winners – and our recipe section [coming soon] has loads more ideas in case you’ve got more greens than you know what to do with.