Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Microgreens


There are those of us who have never grown anything in our lives! Then there are those of us who are experienced gardeners with large plots of land and a greenhouse. Oh...and let's not forget everyone in between!

No matter your level of gardening know-how, growing your own winter lettuce and/or microgreens can be a gratifying, empowering, and pleasurable pursuit during the cold months of winter. Not to mention the added benefit of being able to provide superb nutrition for your family through homegrown, fresh winter greens.

Benefits of Growing Your Own

Besides the extreme enjoyment I receive from growing herbs, growing lettuces and microgreens come in a very close second. They are:
  • Easy to grow
  • Produce well indoors
  • Require very little care
  • A nutritional powerhouse
Although it is very tempting and not to mention convenient, to simply go to the store and buy a plastic bag of spinach, mixed greens, or arugula; by growing your own you are saving yourself and your family from ingesting countless toxins. Did you know: Bagged greens are washed and treated in a water solution containing 50 to 200 ppm of chlorine. Interestingly enough, swimming pools only require an average chlorine level of 2 ppm and many sources warn of using levels higher than 10ppm.

Growing your own is sounding better and better! At least you know exactly what is in and on you food.

What To Grow



During the winter months, we love to grow:
  • Sorrel
  • Tatsoi
  • Chinese Pak Choy
  • Oriental Mustard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Mizona
  • Arugula
However, any ole package of mesclun seeds or microgreen seeds will do. In the past I've even scattered my seeds for sprouting on a seed tray a top potting soil; and they've grown into lovely microgreens. Don't stress about getting the perfect seed from a specific seed company. Just find something locally and don't be afraid to ask the employee at your favorite nursery for help. They are gardeners at heart, and they love to give advice!

Where To Grow



Plant seed in an organic rich potting soil or compost. The major issue you have growing indoors is moisture level. Potting soil is good because it is designed to regulate moisture. I'm just to cheap to buy it and I've always had good luck growing in my own compost. Tip: Use a spray bottle or mister to keep top layer of soil moist until seedlings emerge.

Re-purpose waste by using trash to grow your greens! There's something so special about seeing the life of a plant being nurtured in something that most consider to be useless. Plus, growing indoors leaves me with very little growing space. I am able to grow and harvest big lettuce plants on windowsills, without supplement light, throughout the house by using:
  • Tins Cans
  • Small pots
  • Egg cartons
  • The cardboard toilet paper rolls
  • Yogurt containers
  • Plastic juice bottles
The sky's the limit...get creative!

When To Harvest

Within 3-5 days you will begin to see the seedlings emerging. As the plants begin to grow and get bigger, begin harvesting the outer leaves whenever you need them for use in meals. The plant will continue to grow from the inside out, giving you a continuous harvest all winter long.

Resources

-If you can't find what you're looking for locally or choose to order seed online, I recommend to buying from Seed Savers Exchange, The Sprout PeopleJohnny's Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, or Gardener's Supply Company. They're all great companies and I've ordered from each without difficulty.

-Interested in learning how to grow during the brutal winter? I highly recommend Eliot Coleman's book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. Great tips and information especially for those living in zones 4 and 5!

Share with us your winter growing methods! What are your favorite veggies to grow this time of year?

See this post and a host of others like it here: Nifty Thrify Things, Sunday School, The More The Merrier, Homestead Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Made By You Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Savvy HomeMade Monday, Everything Under The Moon, Mad Skills, Fat Tuesday, New Nostalgia, Tip Junkie, Hope Studios, Ladybug Blessings, Teach Me Tuesday, Under 10 Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Friday Favorites, Fight Back Friday, Living Well, SNS 109

Inspirational Sources:
-The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
-Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why

14 Comments:

At November 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM , Anonymous Wendy @HerBallistic Garden said...

Excellent & informative...people just don't realize how much they can garden with the dreary winter weather!

 
At November 20, 2011 at 4:39 PM , OpenID forgottenskills said...

i've got the exact same baker creek seed arugula packet hanging on my fridge, reminding me I need to stop by the Seed Bank and get more!

I just found your blog and love it!

 
At November 21, 2011 at 1:30 AM , Blogger Tracey Davis said...

I am big on seasonal cooking, but I never considered growing this stuff indoors during the winter. I've been missing my summer spinach and lettuce...I'm so trying this immediately. Thanks so much!

 
At November 21, 2011 at 3:44 AM , Blogger Heather said...

What a great idea! I would love to have fresh greens in the winter. I'm not sure the window will be enough light, but I might give it a try anyways :-)

 
At November 21, 2011 at 8:12 AM , Blogger Pam - diy Design Fanatic said...

Great idea! We planted a raised bed garden this past Spring for the first time and I am hooked! I was desperate to grow something now that the garden has been cleared, so I am sprouting broccoli and chia seeds! I think I'll try some greens now! Thanks!

 
At November 21, 2011 at 10:58 AM , Blogger Jacinda @ Growing Home said...

I had no idea how chlorinated "washed" greens are! That's terrible! Thanks for all the excellent information, as usual. I learn SO much from your site!

 
At November 21, 2011 at 10:00 PM , Blogger Katie said...

Great to know! I had been wondering if there were good indoor vegetables to grow during the winter.

Going to have to try this!
--Katie
www.blah2beautiful.blogspot.com
Creatively Living Outside the Box

 
At November 22, 2011 at 8:21 AM , Anonymous judee @ gluten Free A-Z said...

What a great idea. That chlorination process is not publisized. I heard they do it to baby carrots too and that's why they turn whiteish after opening. Great post.

 
At November 23, 2011 at 1:46 AM , Anonymous Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I picked up "Making Supper Safe" at the library last week (which is a good read BTW), and I've been newly inspired to clean up our diet which is pretty good.

I have a window in the dining room that would be perfect for growing greens since it gets lots of light and has a radiator underneath. I just would need to keep an eye on the hydration as you mentioned.

I also like that you include books to read which I'm adding to my library list!

 
At November 23, 2011 at 10:33 AM , Anonymous how to grow microgreens said...

It's scary what they are putting in our foods today. Going green and growing your own food is the only way to go to ensure your health!

 
At November 24, 2011 at 7:46 PM , Blogger Sam(antha) Burns said...

Do you have much difficulty growing these cool-weather loving crops in your heated home?

 
At November 25, 2011 at 1:45 AM , Anonymous Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable said...

@Sam(antha) Great question! We keep our home pretty cool in the winter:) Usually set in the sixties and they grow great. Some days when the sun is out, I place them outside for some fresh air.

 
At November 25, 2011 at 5:06 PM , Anonymous Jill@ RealFoodForager.com said...

Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

http://realfoodforager.com/2011/11/fat-tuesday-novermber-22-2011/

 
At November 26, 2011 at 7:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I am so spoiled here in California (Zone 9) to be growing the things you mentioned outdoors from September to April. After that though, it is too hot to grow lettuces and such, and we have to get them from 3 hours away from the cool coastal farms. But now that I'm thinking about it, I may try some herbs indoors, just so they are closer to where I can nip them off and not have to go outside. Thanks for the idea!

 

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