Sprouting on the ‘Sill: Growing Salad in Windowsill Gardens
Because lettuce and other salad greens germinate so quickly, it’s easy to grow a salad garden inside on a sunny windowsill. What I like to do is grow a mix of “baby greens,” which means I harvest the leaves before the plant matures. I mix these baby greens in with store bought lettuce for a flavorful salad or snip off a few leaves to top off sandwiches.
Growing baby salad greens and micro greens couldn’t be easier. Simply sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover them with a dusting of soil and keep the seeds moist by lightly misting them with water daily. Keep the pots in a warm location until they begin to sprout and then move them to a sunny window. If the plants look spindly or anemic, they need more light. The baby salad greens may require as much as 12 hours of light for healthy growth. A grow light is an easy remedy for this problem. Hang the lights about 6 to 12 inches above the plants.
Baby Lettuce Greens Micro greens are ready to harvest in about 14 days. Clip the seedlings off close to the soil. Baby salad greens will be ready in about 3 to 4 weeks. Trim them off at the base, starting with the outside leaves first.
“My students live in a community with little access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables,” explains Gioya Fennelly, a teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt IS 143(M) in New York City. “100 percent of our population qualifies for free lunch. I developed the windowsill salad garden project to teach students how to grow their own gourmet-quality microgreens with minimal effort and at a fraction of the cost of purchased produce.”
Using recycled containers such as gallon milk jugs, soilless potting mix, compost from a classroom worm bin, and a few packets of seeds, her class begins its exploration into the world of agricultural production. They start plants in an ingenious indoor ‘greenhouse’ – a discarded doughnut display case — that’s large enough to hold 10 to 15 containers of seedlings. It gets the plants off to a good start by providing light and a steady 75° to 80°F temperature. Once the seedlings are mature enough to leave the ‘greenhouse’ they’re moved to a classroom windowsill, or given to students with a sunny window at home. By the end of the project, every family has enjoyed a share of the harvest.
“My students love trying new things. Most have lived in a city all their lives, and have had no opportunity to experience gardening.” Gioya’s windowsill salad garden is an 8- to 10-week unit. “With a little planning, you can harvest the tops in about 3 weeks when the plants are 2″ tall, and continue harvesting every 2 to 3 weeks thereafter. I recommend staggering plantings to lengthen harvest time.”