Grow Fresh Salads Indoors All Winter

Growing Lettuce Indoors Under Lights

By Margaret Boyles
Nov 19, 2018
Growing Lettuce in Winter


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Enjoy free, tender salad greens indoors in recycled plastic containers under a couple of inexpensive fluorescent shop lights. Seriously, it’s not that hard to grow salads all winter long! Here’s how.

Growing Lettuce Under Lights

For starting my spring transplants, I’d already installed six two-bulb shop lights outfitted with full-spectrum grow lights and suspended by chains and S-hooks from the ceiling of my living-room alcove. I used a couple of them for my experiment growing winter greens.

You could hang your lights in an attic, basement, or even a large closet. As long as the space can maintain average temperatures of around 50°F and has an electrical outlet for the lights, you can grow delicious, nutritious greens.

For planting containers, I used some of the recycled polystyrene (both foam and transparent) containers I collect for starting my spring transplants, filling them with a mixture of half soilless potting mix and half compost.

Photo: Margaret Boyles

What Greens To Plant?

The simple answer: almost any type of salad or cooking greens—the faster-growing the better—and leafy herbs.

During my first experiments, I mixed together seeds left over from my spring–summer garden, dividing them into three categories with similar germination and growth habits:

I also planted a few seeds each of basil, parsley, and cilantro in smaller, separate containers.

If you’re buying new seeds for winter planting, I suggest one of the fast-growing mesclun or braising mixes (also called stir-fry mixes) sold by most seed companies.

I scattered the seeds thickly across the soil surface, covered them with a bit of compost, and watered them well with a small watering can.

Credit: Margaret Boyles

Care and Harvest

I turned the lights on when I got up each morning and shut them off around supper time. I watered them every couple of days, when the top of the planting medium felt dry. Every week to 10 days, I watered with a weak solution of seaweed and fish emulsion (available at garden stores).

I started thinning the plants as soon as they’d developed two or three sets of leaves, gently pulling them out by the roots, rinsing them, and tossing them into soups and cabbage salads.

As the plants grew bigger, I harvested the outer leaves and left the rest to grow. Alternatively, you can clip greens from throughout the whole container with fingernail scissors, making sure to leave the growing tips to produce another crop.

After 5 weeks of growth, six to eight containers of greens began producing robust, two-person salads three or four times a week for about 6 weeks, as well as quite a few handfuls of greens to toss into our frequent winter soups.

Photo: Margaret Boyles

By the way, producing winter salad greens under lights makes a wonderful project for children of any age. Great science project possibilities, too.

The alcove where I keep my containers is also home to my stationary bike, which I ride almost every day or evening all winter long. Good food and good exercise: What a combo!

See the Almanac’s Growing Guides for vegetables and herbs.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.


Reader Comments

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I have a 4ft Jump Start grow light and stand with a single bulb and the only place it fits in my apartment is my office. It's an open space and will be out the way but how would I maintain a 50 degree climate for my plants?

Don't worry!

Your salad greens should grow well at room temperature. They’d just slow way down at temps maintained below 50º. Have fun!

greens under lights

How deep should pots be as plants grow.

How deep?

Diane, recycled plastic containers between 2½ and 5 or 6 inches will work. The deeper pots will deliver more greens over a longer period, but your seeds will also thrive in the shallower containers. Fill each container nearly to the top before sowing your seeds.

Good luck

Growing greens in winter

I want to do this for so many reasons. How deep should the containers be? I don't want to crowd the roots.

I think you’d do best with

I think you’d do best with recycled transparent plastic containers that contain mesclun or kale mixes, baby spinach, other other greens. They’re 3 or 4 inches deep. Be sure to poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and set your planting container in another container or try with a solid bottom to allow drainage.

Good luck! 

Very int in articles re

Very int in articles re growing food indoors during winter. Esp salad greens etc. Tk you.


How many hours on and off. I dont want them to bolt.

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for sharing. We brought in our pepper plants, parsley, rosemary, basil, beets and onion plants before the first frost killed them off. We are hoping they will continue to grow under our sun lights inside the house. How awesome would that be to have our own fresh vegetables in the dead of winter? If it all works out well, I will share it on Facebook in hopes all my friends follow and start to do the same.
Thank you, Margaret.

What size containers do you

What size containers do you recommend?

Lettuce in winter

I'm going to try this, I have 2 shop lights that aren't being used so don't have to buy a thing!

Winter Gardening

Margaret, you never disappoint ... great idea AND full details too.

Sprouting has become a permanent habit -- sprouts add so much to dishes and salads -- but this would round out my meals really well.

Thank you!


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