The Onion Flower

Writer and Horticulturist

Scratching the Itch

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Homegrown Lettuce & Sprout Salad

It is possible to grow food in the winter.

I’m not talking about state-of-the-art greenhouses or potted herbs on the windowsill but actual lettuce and sprouts for my sandwiches and even enough for an occasional bowl of salad. Aside from scratching the gardening itch in the middle of January, growing lettuce indoors allows me to test varieties that I might want to sow outside in the spring. For instance, from this last batch of Buttercrunch, Cornetto di Bordeaux, Super Fiorentina, Grand Rapids and Prizehead; I now know that the last two are slower to germinate and overall not as appealing as the others. My garden is small and I have to discriminate as to which varieties will make the cut.

Since I’m growing these as cut-and-come-again lettuces I sowed the seed thickly across the surface of the soil. The trick with this type of growing is to sow a few trays at regular intervals so there are always some baby lettuce leaves to snip off, making for a decent handful without stripping each plant bare. This also keeps them in check from growing too big and crowding their neighbours. Lettuce germinates quickly and is happy in cooler conditions with less direct sunlight than most other vegetables, making it a perfect candidate for growing indoors when the weather turns nasty outside.

Although you’ll have a more bountiful crop if you use grow lights and a seed starting heat mat under your seedlings, I managed just fine without any of this. My trays sit on a desk near a south-facing window, with an ordinary light fixture above for a little extra heat and a plastic dome to keep the warmth from escaping.

With sprouts growing on my kitchen counter and homegrown lettuce to grace my tomato sandwiches I’m not feeling nearly so deprived this winter.

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