Spring has traditionally been the best time of year for salads, driven by the human craving for something fresh and green after a long winter’s dreariness. But you don’t have to wait until the warm days of spring to enjoy lettuce on your plate. It’s not much of a challenge to grow lettuce indoors during the coldest months, and extra early spring crops are the easiest of all.
In the photo you can see two plantings, the oldest plants in the background were seeded on January 29th and have been harvested since March 12th. Their final harvest is today, April 27th, after which the next planting, in the foreground, will be taking its turn on the table. These plants were seeded on March 1st and spent the first few weeks in the house, moving out to the sun porch when the temps were staying above the mid 20’s F. A cold frame would do as well in early spring or late fall – a greenhouse or sun porch isn’t essential to success. Each plant takes about one quart of soil to reach full size at maturity, but some varieties need more space than that to sprawl. The current crop is in plastic, but our favorite planters are clay window boxes that are 17″ long, each holding three plants. To improve their functionality for lettuce we coated the insides with wax by rubbing paraffin into the surface and setting the planters on the wood stove to melt the wax into the clay’s pores. Then we also “whitewashed” the exteriors with some watered-down exterior latex paint. This helps keep the planters from overheating in the sun, making the lettuce happier. We also “mulched” the soil surface between the plants with some white ceramic wall tiles to conserve moisture. Recycled planters can also work well and creative scroungers can probably plant a salad crop in most anything that will hold some soil. So get yourself a bit of earth and celebrate Earth Day with some green, or even red!
Italienischer in foreground, Cracoviensis, our favorite for all year round adapability, is behind.
Red Eared Butterheart in foreground, New Red Fire, our second most versatile variety, is behind. New Red Fire gets more red when grown in direct sunlight outdoors.