Lettuce On My Lanai

August 30, 2008 at 11:09 pm 1 comment

I’ve demonstrated this several times and people always have more questions. So here is a picture tour of how to recycle lettuce containers into edible salad mix. It is so easy so try different variations. This technique can be used for starting many seedlings but for spring mix you can plant and harvest all in the container. It is a great project for those with limited land and/or limited time. It is a great project for kids!

Note: I live in Kihei on the beautiful island of Maui. Typically lettuce can only be grown during our winter periods and often gets so infested with bugs that it is not edible. This is a method I developed to grow it year round. Here on Maui, these types of containers are not recyclable. I kept a stack thinking I would find a use for them and I did! For people who live in colder climates, if you have a south-facing window, you may be able to grow lettuce year round while it is snowing outside.

What you need:

  • Location where you get some sun. My lanai gets a few hours of direct sun but lots of indirect light.
  • 3 recycled containers that you buy 1 lb. of salad mix in. You don’t need the lids. 1 is the water retaining tray, 1 contains the potting mix and one is the lid.
  • Potting soil; enough to fill one container.
  • Mesclun seeds. Mesclun is just a mix of baby greens. Seeds can be purchased at most Home and Garden centers or Long’s drugstore.
  • Water – I just use a watering can!
  • Some other recycled material to add space in bottom of retaining tray and keep soil from sitting in water. I’ve used bubble wrap, wine corks or as in the pictures recycled plastic from apples I bought.
  • A large 1″ paper binder clip

Step 1) Place recycled material into the retaining tray.

Make sure it raises you get at least 3/4″ height.

Step 2) Poke 6-8 holes in bottom of soil container for drainage. I use a scissors or garden clipper and poke and turn for about a 1/4″ hole.

Step 3) Add potting mix to soil container. Although it doesn’t need to be “filled” to work, I’ve found that clipping is easier if you fill mix to the brim. Some settling will occur.

Step 4) Add mesclun seeds. I use about a nickel’s worth of seeds and just sprinkle on surface of the soil.

Step 5) Tap seeds into soil. I just use a mini trowel but a fork would work. Tap – tap – tap until you don’t see most the seeds. Or you could dust more potting soil over the top. You just want to make sure that the seeds are well-adhered to soil. They do not need to be completely covered.

Step 6) Water well. Make sure that some water drains through and is captured in your retaining tray. You don’t want the potting mix to be sitting in standing water though.

Step 7) Cover. I use a large office clip to secure the lids on one side. I then line up my containers so that the clip from one secures the other. Having a clip on only one side makes it easier for future waterings because you don’t have to remove the clip to open the lid. The intent is not to create a “perfect seal” but to create a nice warm, moist and bug-free environment for your salad to grow.

That’s it. Now you just let the greens grow. The seeds will sprout within 2 days. I check to see if they need water almost daily but they usually go about 4 days between waterings. To check for water I just tip the container and see if there is any water in the bottom retaining container. I’ve found that if there is water in the retaining container and the lid is on, the soil stays moist. If water is needed, I flip the lid up and water from top using my watering can. An occasional addition of compost tea or kelp emulsifier will create make plants grow stronger and faster.

In about 5-6 weeks, you’ll be ready to clip and enjoy.

When clipping, clip to height of 1″ being careful not to disturb roots. They will grow back about 3 times!

Warning: Although, I’ve had no problems with bugs, my cat Widgit loves this stuff. She’ll ignore her catnip and work very hard to remove the cover and chow down!


Entry filed under: Home Gardens. Tags: , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Kathy Becklin  |  December 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    I’ve now found that I can stack the containers 3 high. When I stack them, they seal better and need a lot less water!


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