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Indoor gardens, Part one: Summer salad

Vegetable Salad
Vegetable Salad
Photo by Neilson Barnard

Summer is in full swing now, and with temperatures reaching near one hundred degrees, no one wants to stand over a hot stove or oven to prepare meals. Summer is a time to eat easy and light. Everyone has a favorite summer salad, but did you know that you can make a summer salad with ingredients grown inside the house?

Every gardening website will tell you that you do not need a country home or big yard to grow your own food. It is true. To grow indoors, or in a small space, the trick is to choose plants or herbs that you know how to cook or use in preparing meals.

Microgreens or baby greens, such as lettuce or spinach, make great salad starters. Microgreens and baby greens are the same as fully-grown greens except they are harvested before the plant matures. The only difference between the two is when they are harvested. Otherwise, they are grown the same way. Microgreens will be ready for harvest in two weeks. Baby greens will be ready in about a month.

Lettuce, spinach, chard, radish, peas and basil can all be grown this way. Lightly cover the seeds in soil and mist them daily. They must be kept moist and warm. When they begin to sprout, move them to a sunny windowsill. The sprouts will need eight to twelve hours of light per day. Some experts will suggest using a grow lamp, which will work, but is not a necessity. As long as the sprouts remain warm and placed where they will receive plenty of sun ( a sunny windowsill), they will grow well.

If you want edibles quickly, you need to wait only about fourteen days. Cut microgreens close to the soil. If you prefer more green, let them grow another two weeks. Cut baby greens close to the soil working from the outside of the planter to the inside. After a quick rinse, the greens are salad ready.

Try this quick tip to keep your salad light and healthy. Instead of using a salad dressing, try citrus juice to add moisture and summer flavor to your salad.

Luckily, lemons and limes can be grown inside as well. Meyer lemons and Bearss limes produce a variety made for indoor growth. They produce fruit year round.

When growing these varieties, place the planter in, by or near a bright window, preferably one facing south or west because they do not need to be kept as warm as the greens. They do not need direct heat. Soak the soil once a week and use a nitrogen-based fertilizer as needed.

Here is a good fertilizer. A slow-release fertilizer is good for citrus trees. Make sure to pick one made for citrus.

To make a summer salad, begin with the baby and microgreens. If needed, add mature lettuce, spinach or cabbage. Next, add a few sliced cucumbers and cherry or grape tomatoes. Mix in boiled shrimp. Salt and pepper to taste. Try red pepper for an interesting flavor. Sprinkle in finely-chopped basil, parsley and dill weed. Lastly, squeeze in juice from half a lemon and juice from half a lime. Toss and enjoy.

Of course, you can use your greens to make any kind of salad you like. With a little practice and not too much effort, you can grow your salad indoors. Part two will explain how to grow other edibles inside.

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