If you aren’t already seeing it, just wait. Lettuce prices have been rising to 4 times the average. This quick rise is causing many large and small chain restaurants to remove it from their offerings. Why is this happening? Because more and more crops are failing or seeing diminished results due to torrential rains, viruses, diseases, or heat waves that are causing damage and premature bolting.
Because most of the domestically grown lettuce is produced in California’s Salinas Valley, it is quite easy for disease and weather to wipe out entire crops. Not only does the excessively warm weather we have experienced this year reduce crop yields, it in part does so by increasing the favorable conditions for spreading Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus and Pythium wilt.
Did you know 99% of US lettuce is supplied by growers in California and Arizona? Or that the US ranks 2nd in world lettuce exports? We play a key role in lettuce growth and supply for people around the world. Unfortunately, that supply is diminishing and causing the purchase price to go up locally and for countries around the world. Restaurants Canada has reported this supply shortage is affecting menu prices by over 5%.
While some may opt to forego including lettuce in their meals until prices drop down, lettuce and other leafy greens are highly valued in a healthy, balanced diet. To stay ahead of the lettuce crisis and prevent these shortages from affecting you, your family, or your community, try growing them yourself.
Grow Lettuce Indoors
Lettuce is extremely easy to grow inside and out. While growing outdoors in the soil is currently the most popular way to do it, it is not the only way. You can successfully grow it indoors all year long. Set up a lettuce station in your home to harvest as needed. Lettuce leaves can be pulled off as you want to use them, allowing the plant to continue growing for several weeks or even months.
Grow Lettuce Microgreens
In addition to indoor gardens, lettuce can also be grown as a microgreen. Microgreens are extremely easy to grow and are ready in only 8-20 days. At that rate you could have fresh cut lettuce microgreens ready for your Holiday meals. To get started, check out the directions in the how to section below.
If you are interested in bringing better quality, fresh lettuce to your community, consider starting a modular farm. These are designed to bring fresh produce to your community as a local grower while reducing food waste associated with large-scale farming.
Becoming a local produce supplier doesn’t have to require a lot of space. Many urban producers use spaces as small as shipping containers to grow microgreens, or mature plants hydroponically. This method is perfect for controlling the growth factors that are usually limited by changing seasons and weather. While greenhouses allow for the assistance of natural light, non-transparent structures will require plenty of additional lighting.
How to Grow Lettuce Indoors
- Choose a sunny place to grow your leafy greens, ideally by a south-facing window.
- Next, prepare a well-draining container with soil, Minute Soil+, or your preferred hydroponic grow medium. If growing to maturity we recommend using Minute Soil+ or potting soil.
- Plant your lettuce seeds. For a variety try our Leafy Greens 7 Pack
- Maintain moist, but not wel soil if using a soil-based growing medium. If growing with a hydroponic system, make sure the water is circulating (not still) and a hydroponic fertilizer is being used.
- Harvest at the baby leaf stage (about 4 inches tall)
How to Grow Lettuce Microgreens
- Unlike some other microgreen seeds, lettuce does not like to be soaked before planting. Start by preparing a container with moist soil, Minute Soil coco coir, or your preferred hydroponic medium. We recommend beginner microgreen growers start with a soil-based medium.
- Spread about 1 oz of lettuce seed over a prepared 10x20 tray. Cover for 1-2 days. Check daily to make sure your soil is moist and there isn’t mold developing. If you start to see signs of potential mold growth, spray with a mix of 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide and 2 cups of water. This will kill the growing mold.
- Once you start to see germination occurring, cover with a blackout dome that will allow enough room for the seedlings to continue growing. Continue to water with a mister or spray bottle.
- On day four, uncover the microgreens and place them in a well-lit location. The light will cause the yellowish leaves to turn green.
- Harvest when your microgreens have about 2-4 leaves, or allow them to mature to the baby leaf stage.
About the Author
I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.
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This is something I definitely need to revisit and start doing. I use SO much lettuce that at his point it seems like a no-brainer that I should grow it at home instead of every time I go grocery shopping.
Devin - GreenGold Marketing Co.
I LOVE variety packs! I like to mix things up and the variety packs allow me to have a little of everything. And the microgreens are GREAT on a tuna salad pita – the texture of lettuce but with more nutrients. Can’t beat that!
The lettuce shortage and price hikes are definitely scary. Microgreens and hydroponics are a great way to inexpensively keeps your family eating greens. That is exactly what we are planning and also to help keep our community supplied with fresh affordable greens. Great read!
Thanks for this practical and inspiring content. Happy to break out my lettuce seeds early and start growing!
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