Winter Indoor Salad Garden

Helena, MT

Since our winters are forever I decided to grow my salads indoors this winter, experimenting with tomatoes, lettuce and spinach. The lettuce (red salad bowl) and spinach plants were quite easy to grow in a 2.5 gallon pot under the florescent lights on my PVC seed starting stand. I planted three tomato plants (prairie fire-determinant) in a single pot with a mulch of black seeded simpson, leaf lettuce as well. I am harvesting several salads a week from just these three plantings. I would like to extend this operation next winter as well. I was wondering about growing fresh radishes but haven't decided if there was sufficient space to get a successive decent crop. Has anyone tried growing radishes indoors, and what other ideas pop into mind when making an indoor winter salad garden? I enjoy all sorts of fresh vegetables in my salads, so any suggestions would be appreciated.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

You could try arugula, which is kind of peppery, used in salad. But I don't know anything about indoor gardening, as I live in W Houston. Just thinking of what I grow outside in winter. I grow swiss chard, turnips (grow like weeds here), beets, kale, snow peas, leaf lettuces, radicchio. Good luck!

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

I grow cucumbers on a trellis inside using a bucket. They need lots of light, but if you are getting tomatoes, that should be plenty of light.

Helena, MT

I have some arugula seed bariolio and I think I will try seeding some in a 2.5 gallon pot today. I have been enjoying salads using just leaf lettuce, spinach and onion seedling tops lately. My tomato plant has five tomatoes ripening and I get to pick the first ripe one today.

cathy4, I have some mini-cucumber seed which I had planned on planting in a raised bed, however I like your idea much better. Indoor light space is limited at the moment but I could start indoors and move to the heated hoop house in a couple of weeks. I have lots of five gallon pails which might do the trick. Would like to hear or see how you construct your trellis and what you used for a growing media cathy. I have a free source of wood chips and plan to line the bottom of my pots with a layer of these for drainage as well as using a PVC pipe for bottom water in the larger containers.

The more I read about container gardening the more fascinated I become with indoor vegetable gardening. Although container gardening is mostly about flowering plants I have been getting some great ideas on indoor vegetable gardening.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

I happened to have several metal trellises that are sort of V-shaped from my rose garden at our old house. I just stick it down in the bucket as I fill it with potting soil. My SIL couldn't believe how many cukes I got from the one bucket/plant. It gets a little top heavy.

Helena, MT

cathy4, how large a bucket did you use?

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

5 gallon, the only size I had.

Helena, MT

Perfect cathy4, I have dozens of these buckets and will try planting some mini-cukes tomorrow. This will free up a raised bed which I had planned to use for this purpose. I am leaning towards leaving these inside buckets in my hoop house; however five gallon buckets are simple to move with a dolly if you are careful of the trellis. I don't particularly like drilling drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets, so I plan to obtain some Red Cedar Woodchips today from a local mill which could be used to line the bottom of the bucket. I thought about using a PVC pipe for bottom watering as well.

Since I'm using your idea on bucket planting Cathy, what are your thoughts on direct seeding with four or five seeds, and thinning down to a couple of plants per bucket?

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

If you buckets are inside, not drilling holes is probably okay because you can control the watering. If you take them outside, a drain hole would be needed I think, a heavy rain could drown your plant.

Two plants per bucket should be okay.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I am growing SWISS CHARD indoor

Thumbnail by drthor
Helena, MT

Cathy, by the time I would be moving the potted cucumbers outside of the hoop house there is little chance of rain, but point taken. It would be easy enough to drill some holes in the bottom sides of the bucket. The wood chips I picked up to day are just the right size for drainage purposes both in the containers and raised beds. I plan to start work on both projects in a few hours.

drthor interesting pic. That looks like one of those bakery stands. I had wanted to purchase several for the hoop house but couldn't find any. Instead I went to Growers Supply and purchased several 2' x 8í metal bench sections. Shipping turned out to be more than the items purchased. I did however purchase two types of Swiss Chard seed while in Bozeman today. Wife thought we should try planting some in both containers and the raised beds. Neither of us knew anything about the plant but she and I both like salads and the occasional stir fry. I will do some research tonight before potting some up.

As you can see from the attached pic I use both 2.5 gallon plastic pots and a lettuce crisper for the loose leaf lettuce and baby spinach plants. So far this experiment is working well. We are getting enough for two salads a week from just these two plantings. With new seed startings there isnít much room left for indoor salad gardening on my plant stands, but next fall I can devote the entire stand to this program. That should be more than adequate for the two of us.

Thumbnail by mraider3
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I bought my shelf at Home Depost. It was also on sale for $59.
It is 4' long and it has 5 adjustable shelfs.

Calgary, Canada

Just found this thread. I am interested in how the vegetables taste grown under lights, are they as good as those harvested out of doors? Do you think they have the same nutrients? I am growing greens now in a cold frame inside my unheated greenhouse. I am harvesting spinach, etc, and we are getting nighttime lows of minus 20 here in Calgary. But the growth has pretty much stopped because of the low light levels. I would like to try growing greens under lights.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I have grown greens in a disposible aluminum pan. They dont need a whole lot of root space. Mine were in a sunny window, so I cant answer your question violist.

Durham, NC(Zone 7b)

I grow lettuces and mixed greens indoors under lights. This is my first year doing it so I only have summer experience but it seems the lettuce isn't as crisp as outdoor grown.


-Vaughn

Thumbnail by rwaterspf1
Helena, MT

Vaughn, I see you have onc of the Lowe's stands which dthor mentioned. I really line mine. I grew red salad bowl last year which looks like one of the potted lettuce plants in your pic. I like my leaf lettuce cut very fine and in order to get it crisp enough to cut into very small strips, I would place the cut leaves in a pan of ice water, then place it in the frig until I got read to serve them up.

Durham, NC(Zone 7b)

mraider3, I do like the stand i got it from Amazon with free shipping! The red leaf lettuce in that pot is Blackhawk, and the empty pot is New Red Fire waiting to germinate. I will try the ice water to crisp my lettuce up. Thanks!

-Vaughn

Helena, MT

Vaughn, I was browsing the on line seed catalogs and saw a leafy cabbage which I thought I would try. My sister duplicated a garlic cole slaw recipe a number of years ago from one of our favorite restaurants in Wichita. The owner was famous for this particular cole slaw and everyone referred to it as Doc's cole slaw. He finely chopped the lettuce for his recipe, and that is when I started doing the same for my salads. The cabbage pieces were also soaked in ice water before blending. After draining the water from the cabbage the finely chopped lettuce and cabbage fines were mixed together. We also add fresh carrots which have been run through the food processor and finely grated. Mix in some mayo, sour cream, garlic (fresh or powder), and some paprika and you have a fantastic cole slaw. I add some ranch salad dressing and Season All salt to mine for a little extra kick.

I just finished welding and painting the PVC grow stand in an earlier pic in this thread, and I plan to start some lettuce, spinach and bok choi indoors in a couple of days. It has been extremely cold here but I thought I would try another idea I picked up on the other night here in DG. Setting up a cold frame in the hoop house for some of the above plants. I purchased some bails of hay yesterday and arranged them into a rectangle with a growing area of 4'l x 3'w x 18"d. I will use two of the old window panes from my collection as covers. I have several four bulb florescent light fixtures and a heat mat which I can throw into the mix. It is surprising how much can be grown in a 12 sq ft area.

morgan



Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I was thinking of lighting for tomatoes inside... I know that when my seedlings start getting taller, the top leaves start shading out the bottom leaves. Would a shop light on its side provide more light for an indoor tomato plant or two? Just stand it up on its end? Just wondering if anyone had tried that.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

I think growing lettuce indoors is a good idea, I just need 2 more 4' light ballasts and I'll be good to go. How do you guys hook up all these lights, btw? lots of 3-pronged extension cords?

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from JohnCrichton75 :
I think growing lettuce indoors is a good idea, I just need 2 more 4' light ballasts and I'll be good to go. How do you guys hook up all these lights, btw? lots of 3-pronged extension cords?



You're inspiring me to get my lights set back up. I haven't done it since I moved to my new house 2+ years ago. No excuse, just inertia.

When I had mine set up before, I used an outlet box designed for computer and electronics equipment. If you look around (home improvement stores, office supply stores, electronics stores) you can find them with minimal surge protection - just a resettable circuit breaker button without all the expensive electronic filtering you don't need keeps the price down. You can also find them with some or all of the sockets operating from a single on/off switch (if that's something you find convenient - I did). Be sure the unit is rated for the maximum wattage you'll be drawing; don't plan to run a bunch of quartz halogen lamps off a single box, or a single wall outlet for that matter! If you want to be sure you're not overheating the fixture, add up the wattage of all the bulbs and check that it is less than the rated watts of the outlet box.

You can of course opt for a more permanent installation, but I'd recommend an electrician for that. It might be worth it if you're planning to use the same setup for several years. You can buy "industrial" fixtures often for less than the ones designed for consumer use (because the ones designed for home use have exposed cords and need some additional safety features). All the cords will be out of the way in conduit running straight from the fixtures to the nearest wall supply, so getting wet won't be an issue. And you can arrange to have any arrangement of switches and timers you want without having to reach across trays of plants to reach a pull chain or toggle switch. The drawback, aside from paying someone to install it, is the limited flexibility in the arrangement of lights and shelves.

-Rich

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

I know what you mean, Rich. We moved into our new home earlier this year (February) and I am just now getting back into the gardening groove. Actually, I planted a hurried crop of vegetables this past spring in some makeshift raised beds as well as in pots, but the drought here in Texas wiped-out everything as I was ill-prepared from a watering standpoint. I think one of our big trees in the backyard is dead, too. Guess I'll find out in the spring. Basically, my year has been a complete disaster and that prompted me to sit-out the fall campaign as well, so I am just now beginning anew.

Also, thanks for all of the advice. I forgot about those surge-protector strips for some reason and that will be well worth the expense. I am planning to have two 4' long shelves, each with 2 light ballasts. So, I will have to plug 4 ballasts into one of my electrical outlets that is about 6' away. Hopefully I will have all of this sorted out by Saturday. This will be perfect, because I miss having fresh herbs for cooking plus I can get a head start on my vegetables as I prepare to make my triumphant return to gardening this upcoming spring.

Helena, MT

Speaking of lights, I purchased an expensive FLT24, 2-Foot, Four Tube T5 Fluorescent Light System from Hydro Farm which has been operating now for less than two months. The ends of the bulbs are already showing the dark signs of deterioration. I'm glad I purchased several cases of the soon to be obsolete bulbs for my inexpensive shop light fixtures from Lowes. These lights worked just fine for my last winter indoor growing projects. I for one am not sold on these so called energy efficient systems. The price of bulb replacement for these 22-inch bulbs was three times higher than the old 4-ft bulbs, and I purchased four, 4-ft, two bulb shop light fixtures from Lowes for less than the cost of the one 2-ft light system. I think I will stick with the shop light fixtures until I am convinced these new systems arenít a complete rip off.

I recently purchased several varieties of determinate cherry tomato plants (Micro Tom, Little Sun, Totem) from Totally Tomatoes, which I plan to give a try. Combined with some Lola Rossa, Black Seed Simpson Leaf Lettuce; some Dwarf Blue Curled Kale; and some Toy Pak Choi, all of which can be grown in two gallon pots, indoors under lights should produce some healthy, fresh salads for the winter months.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from mraider3 :
Speaking of lights, I purchased an expensive FLT24, 2-Foot, Four Tube T5 Fluorescent Light System from Hydro Farm which has been operating now for less than two months. < snip > The price of bulb replacement for these 22-inch bulbs was three times higher than the old 4-ft bulbs, and I purchased four, 4-ft, two bulb shop light fixtures from Lowes for less than the cost of the one 2-ft light system. I think I will stick with the shop light fixtures until I am convinced these new systems arenít a complete rip off.


I think you'll find that as more of the fixtures are sold and more bulbs (and bulb manufacturers) enter the market, the prices will drop accordingly. One of the reasons they're still so expensive is that the manufacturers have to recoup their expenses in marketing, producing and shipping the bulbs; and since the old bulbs are still around, wholesalers and retailers have to create space for the new ones IN ADDITION to their stocks of existing types. Of course, the price of the "full spectrum" and other specialty lights will still be higher, just as they have always been with the old "Grow-Lights", and for the same reason. They aren't really more expensive to produce if you just look at materials; but when you add in the factors associated with low volume, the price has to go up so the producers and retailers aren't losing money selling them.

I'm seeing the same thing happen with LED fixtures and lights. Six months ago, a 65-watt-equivalent floodlight to replace a recessed ceiling fixture cost $70 - if you could find one. Today the exact same fixture is around $35, and there are a LOT of new types hitting the shelves of the area Lowes' and Home Depot.

-Rich

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Quoting:
I'm glad I purchased several cases of the soon to be obsolete bulbs for my inexpensive shop light fixtures from Lowes.


You're referring to the T5 tubes, right, and not the regular old 4 ft. fluorescent shop lights?

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

I was wondering the same thing.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I have a flat of Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach under shop lights. They popped in about 3 days. Only about 3 seedlings up this morning, but, if my track record holds, I should have a whole flat of spinach seedlings up by tomorrow morning!

Just remembered -- I need to relocate them to the cool room! Oops!

Helena, MT

I purchased 30 each of the 6100K and soft white T12's bulbs which I use in my shop light fixtures. I use one 6100K and a soft white bulb in the two bulb, four foot light fixtures. Each shelf has two shop light fixtures.They have worked fine for me in the past, and as I mentioned much less expensive. The pic is of a PVC stand which I use for seed starting. The top two tiers have heat mats for seed starting and the bottom section can support up to eight 2 gallon pots.

This message was edited Dec 17, 2011 11:14 PM

Thumbnail by mraider3
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Here's my light setup. Concrete cinder blocks, boards, and the shop lights (four per shelf). All lights run through a serge protector strip, so I can turn 'em all on and off at once with the flip of the button.

Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Helena, MT

Nicely done Linda. I would like to steal this idea without lighting for hardening off plants in my hoop house this spring. I also use a surge protector for my lights and a timer to automatically turn them on and off. I operate the lights 17 hours on, and 7 off, for tomatoes, peppers and onions. Thanks.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Great setups, everyone.

Linda- I will be going to the $ store soon to buy cat litter boxes, what a great idea for a tray! I have plenty of 4" pots, too. Question for the group: will I be able to grow lettuce to maturity in 4" pots? I would like to grow calamar, red sails and another type I have on hand. I think this will work because the root systems are not deep.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

John,
I would pick up a couple of those deep aluminum roasting pans and sow each variety of your lettuce seeds in a community flat. The extra pan depth will work and, you'd end up with a "living" salad bowl. You could sow liberally, and use a "cut and come" approach to harvesting leaves as you need them, leaving the plants to continue growing. Or, if they grow too closely together, just thin them out by removing an entire plant.

I've sowed spinach seeds this way, and forgot to go with a deeper pan. Seems they have a deep tap root that needs 10-12" of depth. Good thing I only sowed one flat!

Think I'll run out to the $ store for some deep pans!

Linda

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks! As a matter of fact, I am heading to the grocery store right now. I was going to buy a roasting pan anyway, as chance would have it...funny how I did not think about that to begin with!!! @&*^! That really simplifies things. I should be up-and-running tonight!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Don't cha' just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the EZ button!!!!

I'll meet 'cha at the light stand!

Hugs!

And, post pics when you can!!!

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Dollar Tree has the deep aluminum roasting pans in several sizes- much cheaper than *real* stores!

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Basically, I sowed 4' of Burpee's "sweet salad" mesclun mix this evening. Should be enough for one person perhaps and I hear the greens grow back well. I bought 3 aluminum disposable trays from HEB today @ $0.97 apiece. Each pan is about 16" x 8.5" x 3".

I can put 3 more sets of lights on this shelve system so hopefully Santa has been listening to my pleas. Ideally, I will sow Red Sails and Calamar lettuce soon under lights.

Thumbnail by JohnCrichton75
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

humm why are you sowig salad indoor JohnCrichton75?
in my zone 8a I "THROW" lettuce seeds out from October to February and the lettuce grow ...weee
lettuce seeds need LIGHT to germinate and they like the cold weather of our fall and winter here in Dallas ...
so I was just wondering why bother to sow them indoor ... just curios ... I dunno much anyway .. but I can throw lettuce seeds and they grow !!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I agree with drthor. I just toss them here. I have never covered them even when it was 8*, some got burned but it grew right back. I can see doing it up N. and it wont hurt to do it here. Just not sure why you are doing it that way. Im doing it that way because ATM my garden isnt deer proof. I never cover ANY of my winter veggies and have never lost one.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

I don't really have anywhere to toss them, hence the lights.

My beds are not ready. I understand that this is a great time to sow lettuce outdoors.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Kind of like my situation. The beds are ready and the deer know it. LOL Next time you can grow it outside. At least when we get a hard rain we dont have to wash the dirt off.

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