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Part 1 | Part 2 - The Hydroponic Alternative | Part 3 - Onward Growing

Growing Food Indoors

...growing in your home, shed or greenhouse...

Part 1 - Salad leaves/Mesclun in soil

Nobody is suggesting that you move your entire garden indoors. However there are many compelling reasons for growing certain food plants in the house or in outbuildings:

  • The capability to grow all year round.
  • Constant supply of fresh produce in perfect condition.
  • Total freedom from pests such as slug and snails.
  • Grow it where you use it - i.e. fresh herbs in the kitchen.
  • Many people do not have gardens anyway.
  • Involve children in the processes of growing plants.
  • Keep produce clean and free of pesticides.

There is quite a range of food that can be grown indoors, especially if you have a horticultural lighting unit like the amazing Lightwave T5.

Mesclun

Mesclun is a classic green salad originating from the South of France. The name 'Mesclun' comes from the French word mescla, which means "to mix". It is usually made up of a combination of very young leaves and shoots of various wild and domesticated plants. There is a huge range of potential ingredients including sorrel, dandelion, lamb's lettuce, cutting lettuce, corn salad, various cresses, chicories and endives, oak leaf lettuce, mache, radicchio, arugula, chervil, frissee, purslane and others.

Fortunately the seed is available in a ready mixed format so you wonít need to worry about the individual items once you have found a mix that suits you. Most decent seed catalogues feature a Mesclun assortment these days.

To grow Mesclun indoors or in the greenhouse, you will need:

  • Mesclun seed
  • Plastic trays
  • Soil - All Mix or similar
  • Seaweed concentrate, such as Nitrozme
  • Lightwave T5 lighting or similar

Growing mesclun indoors is very easy and very rewarding. You will need to consider light first. For much of the year a sunny windowsill, or a shelf in the greenhouse, will suffice. In the winter months the best option is fluorescent light indoors as temperatures are adequate and you will be completely free of slugs and other pests.

All you need is one (or more) of the large plastic propagation trays they sell in Garden Centres. If you buy three you should be able to maintain a continuous supply of tasty young leaves. Choose the trays that do NOT have holes in the bottom, this makes them ideal for growing indoors.

  1. Fill trays with a friable soil mix. All-Mix is our personal favourite because of its light open texture. Fill tray to about 50mm from the top and smooth the soil down. Water the soil until it is moist all through. It is good to add a little seaweed extract to the water - e.g. Nitrozyme at 5ml per litre - to aid in seed germination.

  2. Take the Mesclun seed and scatter across the surface - be very sparing, it is almost impossible not to overdo it. Mixing the seed with fine dry sand will help to distribute it evenly. Add a sprinkle of soil mix - just enough to cover the seed and then water the tray again.

    The objective now is to maintain soil moisture without allowing the tray to become water logged. If you make a hole with your finger - right down to the bottom of the tray - you will easily see if there is standing water down there. If there is then hold off watering for a day or two until the tray a bit drier. Donít let the surface dry out - especially when the plants are very small.

    TIP: You can get a feel of how much the tray weighs when it has just been watered, if you check the weight regularly, by just lifting one end. After a while you will be able to easily judge if the tray needs water.

  3. Now place the tray in a suitable place. It does not need bottom heat - normal room temperatures are usually fine. It does not need light until the tiny seedlings first appear but then it will need light immediately.

  4. Keep the soil moist and the young seedlings will grow very quickly.

Lighting Mesclun

So where to place the tray? A sunny windowsill should be okay for the winter. Check that plants are not getting too hot though. Plants will have a tendency to grow towards the light but this can be solved by simply turning the tray around on a daily basis.

In summer, of course, a sheltered spot in the garden or greenhouse will be fine (slugs will be your worst enemy out there of course).

By far the most rewarding option is to grow the Mesclun right in your kitchen - right where you need it - on a windowsill for example. Best of all is the use of a horticultural light - like the stunning T5 Lighting - that allows continuous cropping of Mesclun and many other things, on a year round basis.

Lightwave T5
Things to watch out for:
  • Drying out - never let this happen. Check weight of tray regularly - look for paler, drying, soil on the surface.
  • Lights too close - leaves will be pale and look stressed.
  • Light inadequate - slow spindly growth - add more light or relocate.

Part 1 | Part 2 - The Hydroponic Alternative | Part 3 - Onward Growing