If you’ve been reading Houseplant Central articles for a while, you’ll know that regrowing food scraps is a big thing here. So far we’ve been growing houseplants from these scraps, like baby avocado trees, mango trees and pineapple Bromeliads. However, there are also plenty of scraps that you can use to actually grow more food for free!
One of the easiest projects is regrowing lettuce. For a green kitchen windowsill and lots of sandwiches, keep reading to find out about regrowing lettuce and growing lettuce in water.
Regrowing lettuce: taking cuttings
To propagate anything, you’re gonna need some cuttings. You can grow lettuce from seed as well but this is a super easy method for those just looking for a few leaves here and there without any hassle!
Getting lettuce cuttings is easy enough, since you can get the cuttings from any lettuce you purchase from local grocery stores or farmers markets. All you need to do is cut the leaves an inch from the bottom and keep the remaining stem. Not all varieties do well with being regrown, but it’s worth trying since you’ve already paid for the food.
Note: keep in mind that regrowing lettuce is really done more for fun than sustainability; you’re not going to regrow as much as you originally had. You may get half a head in lucky cases. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it anyway. Regrowing lettuce is a perfect way to add extra greenery to the kitchen and top off a delicious sandwich or garnish a meal!
Growing lettuce in water
It’s really simple regrowing lettuce indoors using only a small bowl of water and a lettuce stem. Water propagation is our favorite way to regrow this leafy veggie as it’s quite set and forget apart from changing or topping off the water.
- When you’re done eating your head of lettuce, just cut off the leaves about an inch from the bottom, as mentioned before. Then take a shallow bowl of water (about a half inch of water is all you need) and put the stem in, standing it upright. You don’t even need a very large bowl – just one slightly bigger than the width of the stem will do.
- Once the lettuce is in the water, set the bowl on a sunny windowsill and let the regrowing begin!
- Growing lettuce in water doesn’t take very long. In fact, in about a week and a half to two weeks, your lettuce cutting will be ready to eat. All you need to do during this time is change the water every one to two days to make sure nothing fouls it and to top off any that was absorbed or evaporated.
Although it may be tempting to let the lettuce keep growing in water beyond two weeks, it may be less pleasant to eat. This is because the plant will likely try to seed, so it’ll have a more bitter taste to it. You may notice the leaves changing color or becoming less dense, which are signs that the plant is trying to seed.
Remember, growing lettuce in water won’t fill your fridge, so enjoy what little you produce. You may not save much on food bills, but you will have a newfound appreciation for growing your own organic food.
Regrowing lettuce in soil
If you want your lettuce to continue growing, you can take any cuttings you grow using the water method and move them into pots of soil. With this method you can keep your indoor garden going all year round. This is especially a plus if you have to deal with harsh winters that make growing produce outdoors a pain.
As with all plants, drainage is very important for the overall health of your lettuce, so be sure to use pots with drainage holes and trays. If you want to be crafty, you can reuse plastic cups around the house and make your own drainage holes using soldering irons, ice picks or just a drill. As the plants grow you might need to separate them or transplant them into larger pots. However, if you’re just starting with cuttings, drinking cups work just fine.
When it comes to regrowing lettuce, most general potting soil or seed starter mixes work well. As mentioned before, drainage is important, so you could make a “spacer” or “false bottom” on the bottom of the pot before filling it with soil. You can use gravel or rocks to create this spacer or false bottom, which will help prevent roots from sitting in still water. You can also choose to use two cups: one being the cup holding the soil and plant, and the second acting as the water tray.
You may be wondering to yourself why you’d have to go through all the extra effort with drainage when you just grew the lettuce using nothing but water alone. The thing to remember here is that when growing lettuce in water, very little water is used and it’s changed nearly every day. However, a plant left sitting in a pot of stagnant water is much more likely to experience rot due to the buildup of pathogens. That’s why you can grow houseplants in a water-filled vase or glass, but not in soggy soil!
Once you have your lettuce cuttings in their well-drained pots, you just need to put them in a sunny windowsill to finish growing out. If you don’t have access to natural sunlight, you can grow them using regular indoor lights as well.
You can use a regular 5000-6500K fluorescent bulb or tube, as this is the light temperature that simulates daylight. Or go for a simple LED clamp light if you want to save on the electricity bill! That being said, some people still report at least some success even in dim offices.
When it comes to watering while regrowing lettuce, you’ll need to water the lettuce once a day as leafy veggies like these are quite thirsty. Keep in mind that you’ll have to add more and more water each time as the plants grow. Don’t forget to let excess water drain! To help with growth, you can mix a little liquid fertilizer into the water.
Just like when growing lettuce in water, you should find that the leaves grow quickly. Every one or two weeks, or whenever you need an extra handful of greens, you can harvest the lettuce. As long as you keep taking care of the plant, you can harvest a single lettuce that’s grown in soil for four or five times. If you stagger the starting times for your regrowing project, you’ll have a steady stream of fresh greens whenever you need it.