Weedy Cinderella and Queen of the Salad Plants – these are just some of the words that have been used in the past to refer to lettuce. It is one of the vegetables that will complete almost any salad. In ancient Egypt, the seeds undergo extraction to become cooking oil, which was one of its first applications. The scientific name of lettuce is Lactuca sativa. In English, lactuca means milk-forming, while sativa means common. Its relatives include chrysanthemum, sunflower, and aster.
When planting lettuce, one of the first considerations would be the specific variety to grow. In this case, you can choose from the four types that are currently available. Loose leaf varieties are amongst the best. In this plant, there will be no solid single head. Rather, the long leaves will be loose and separate from each other. Another type that you might want to take into consideration is a Romaine lettuce, which may be tall and thick, but still, they will be able to survive indoors. As much as possible, step away from planting Crisp Head and Loose Head lettuce as they are not suitable for an indoor environment.
Planting and Growing Conditions
The first thing that you have to do is to purchase healthy seeds, making sure that they are disease-free. More than thinking about what seed to purchase, you also have to give careful thought to the plant that you will grow. Loose-leaf variety is the best. Look for specific plants with little or baby in their name, which means that they are suitable for an indoor garden.
Look for a container with a medium size. It should have a minimum soil capacity of ½ inch. It can be made from any material. Ideally, it should be light enough so that you can easily move it from one position to another depending on the amount of sunlight that it needs. The container also needs to have drainage holes to let water pass through rather than remaining in the soil. If you will be recycling an old container, disinfection is necessary to prevent infestation.
The soil should be loamy and well-draining. Mixing organic matter is also necessary to improve the nutrients that are present in the soil. The good news with loose leaf lettuce varieties is that they are not too demanding in terms of their soil requirements. Nonetheless, if you will add organic matter to enhance the nutrients in the soil, avoid using garden litter as the latter can be a method for transferring infection. Make sure to leave about an inch or two of a clearance between the rim of the pot and the top of the soil.
Pour the seeds in your non-dominant hand. Pick the seed using your dominant hand and sprinkle it on the soil. The seeds may be too small, but make sure that you retain space between them to avoid overcrowding when they grow. Spray the top of the soil with water, making sure that you only lightly spritz the surface.
Looking for more reasons to be convinced to plant lettuce? Here are some of the benefits that you might want to consider:
- Helps in Weight Loss: If you are looking for the best diet food, lettuce will be a good choice, especially for healthy sandwiches and salads. One cup of lettuce shreds contains only 12 calories, which is why you can indulge in as much as you want without worrying that you will gain more weight.
- Improves Heart Health: For a stronger heart, you need to consume more lettuce. It will lessen the likelihood that you will suffer from heart attack and stroke. One of the reasons for this is the high content of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Treats Insomnia: This is one of the surprising benefits of the regular consumption of lettuce. This can be attributed to the presence of lactucarium, a white fluid that the leaves excrete when it breaks. This will be helpful in triggering relaxation, and hence, inducing sleep.
- Protects Brain Cells: Lettuce also has the reputation of being an excellent vegetable for boosting the memory, which will especially be helpful for people who are aging. It will help in the prevention of the degeneration of brain cells and memory loss.
- Prevents Cancer: Leaf extracts of lettuce are also known as being good sources of compounds that can hinder the growth of cancer cells. Similar to other leafy greens, it has cancer-fighting properties.
Pests and Diseases
Even in an indoor environment, lettuce is not free from the infestation of pests and diseases. Some of the most common threats to its overall health include verticillium wilt, lettuce drop, lettuce mosaic, downy mildew, bacterial leaf spot, and powdery mildew. When it comes to pests, on the other hand, some of the most common include armyworm, bulb mites, lettuce aphid, leafminers, and thrips, among others.
Care and Maintenance
To be sure that the lettuce will not show any problem in an indoor environment, here are some of the most useful tips to keep in mind:
- Position the pot in the right place. This will allow it to receive abundant light, which will be vital in its photosynthetic activity. The sunniest spot inside the house is the perfect place for the container. For the leaves to be bushy, it needs long exposure to sunlight.
- Regulating the temperature is another good way to improve the health of the plant. The right temperature is anywhere from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, on the other hand, you need to keep the temperature at about 50 to 60 degrees Celsius.
- To make the environment more favorable for the lettuce, you might want to invest in an artificial light. This will make it easier to provide the light requirements of the plant even when they are indoors. Keep the seedlings under the artificial light for about 14 hours in a day.
- When the second set of leaves become apparent, pinch these leaves. You can plant them in a separate container. If you do not take it away, the pot will be too crowded and they may be unable to get the nutrients that they need.
- While it is not necessary to apply fertilizer, this may help to retain the vigor of the plant and to encourage better leaves to form. A mild fertilizer will be more than enough to increase the yield.
With the right choice of the variety to plant and a favorable external environment, it will be possible to grow lettuce even indoors. In fact, this may be better than planting outdoors. Lettuce has delicate leaves and there is a lower chance of compromising its health if it is in a sheltered location that will offer protection from frost and extreme weather disturbances.