Offered to those living in amiskwaciywâskahikan (Edmonton), in Treaty 6 territory.
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How to grow LETTUCE (aka WTF is going on with these seasons).
I’ve been thinking a lot about lettuce lately.
I’ve even made this small handmade book about it.
Lettuce isn’t exactly a food that I’d say I love more than any other.
Don’t get me wrong: I like a good salad.
I’ve been thinking a lot about lettuce these days, mainly because of the weather.
Lettuce is a cold season crop.
(And our cold season isn’t like what it used to be).
The weather has changed (and is changing)
so much these days:
it doesn’t give lettuce long to thrive in the garden.
Lettuce goes to seed much quicker than I’d like it to.
I do love watching the flowers bloom
(often only opening up in the cool of the morning);
and, I do love when the plants go to seed;
(the flowers turn to fluff as they're sent out into the wind).
but, with such a short season, lettuce greens quickly become bitter (and not ideal for eating).
So, I’ve been experimenting & growing lettuce
indoors under lights.
Last winter, I had a lot of lettuce.
Indoors, my seeds gained almost a full season on those planted outdoors over the summer.
It was amazing.
How to grow your own lettuce indoors:
What you need:
One small pot – any kind will do!
(I use 6 inch square pots - make sure they have holes underneath for easy watering)
One tray – to put that pot on top of (and to help with bottom watering)
Lettuce seeds (as many as you like!!)
(*ask me for some – I have lots to share*)
Light – I use LED bar and clamp lights but this could be a bright, south-facing window.
(My lights are generally on a 16 hour cycle: 16 hours light / 8 hours dark)
Growing medium – I use cocoa coir (see here) indoors because I like how it retains water (and has less bugs than soil can often encourage! It's an inert substrate though, so you need to add nutrients)
Nutrients – I use a liquid grow mix like this.
s c a t t e r
seeds atop the growing medium;
thin as needed to make space for your developing seeds.
w a t e r
lettuce daily from the bottom of the pot;
I often alternate between 1 day water / 1 day nutrient mix;
add your water mix to the tray and the developing roots will soak up all
the water + nutrients they need.
(thanks to a tenuous we for the non-stop inspiration! and especially this recent piece by Joni Cheung).
Instructions for It's All About Lettuce:
Lettuce is a cold season crop that thrives between 15-21°C. These days, here in Edmonton (amiskwaciywâskahikan), that means an ideal growing season of around 16 weeks (112 days): from March thru June. With spring turning to the heat of summer so rapidly these days, lettuce is prone to bolt (goto seed) quite quickly. When lettuce goes to seed, it puts the bulk of its resources toward flowers and seed development: the leaves can become tough and bitter tasting. The optimal soil temperature for lettuce seed germination is 10-22°C. Seeds should sprout in 7-15 days, depending on conditions.
When planting your seeds: scatter along the top layer of soil and cover with a thin dusting of soil. You don’t have to worry about spacing seeds out as much with leaf-lettuce as you do with head lettuce. You can thin lettuce plants as they begin to grow to make space for larger plants. Typical lettuce seed life is 3 years. The mix of seeds within the It's All About Lettuce seed pack are a blend of leaf lettuces saved from plants across the summer of 2020 & 2021.
With these warmer springs and summers, the window for growing lettuce is shrinking. I’ve found it useful to grow lettuce indoors where it tends to be cooler. Indoors, I’m finding an extended crop for my lettuce seed: the last batch I planted didn’t start going to seed until 254 days from planting. That’s a significant increase from the typical 112 days outdoors.
When growing indoors, pick a location that has either a lot of direct sunlight or add additional lights to support your growing plants (Try LED bulbs along with a clamp light, or, if you have space for a shelving unit, mount an LED strip light to support multiple pots. Leaf lettuce doesn’t need much room: one 6×6” pot will support a number of lettuce plants.
Make sure to use a pot with holes in it. Place your lettuce pots on top of a tray and bottom water (the roots of your growing plants will soak up the moisture they need from the tray via the soil).
Although not necessary, supplementing your plants with nutrients will support healthy plants. I alternate between water one day and a nutrient mix the next.
Trim your lettuce leaves frequently, and the plants will continue to produce.