Can You Compost Lettuce and Salad Leaves?
We have, without a doubt, destroyed our home planet, with our continued reliance on fossil fuels, overfishing, depleting non-renewable resources, deforestation, and, surprisingly, consuming meat and dairy products. Our practices and lifestyle have and continue to destroy the environment. This is why we should go vegan and reduce our carbon footprints.
Research from the University of Oxford suggests that eating a vegan diet is the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on the earth. Some of these vegan diets include consuming lettuce and salad leaves. However, since they are organic products, can we achieve more than just feeding on them? This article looks into growing and composting lettuce.
- Can Lettuce Go in The Compost?
- Can You Put Rotten Lettuce in The Compost?
- Can Lettuce Be Grown Indoors?
- Does Lettuce Need Full Sun?
- Does Lettuce Grow in Summer?
Can Lettuce Go in The Compost?
Of course, you can compost lettuce and other salad leaves. They make up what most composters refer to as vegetable food scraps, and are amazing green materials to add to compost. That also includes coffee grounds, potato peels, banana peels and avocado skins among many others.
Lettuce and other salad leaves contain a high water content and are not too woody or tough since they do not grow for too long. They, therefore, compost incredibly quickly. If you want to confirm this, leave a leaf in your crisper drawer for some time and you will find it rotting.
Although they do not add a lot of bulk to your compost heap, they will help add extra moisture to the composting process. If you have a lot of lettuce to get rid of, stir them in alongside some dry browns, like newspaper, egg boxes or sawdust, to stop the heap from turning into a sludgy mess.
However, be careful not to add lettuce and salad leaves that are covered in lots of dressing or the like. The oils and fats in the dressing can attract rats and other pests to the compost heap which will be a whole different kind of problem. The same applies to cooked lettuce, especially if it is cooked in fats.
Composting cooked vegetables is slightly more complicated than composting them uncooked. Once cooked, they break down even more quickly, but they present unpleasant odors.
The odors might be unappealing to humans, but they are very inviting to pests like rodents and flies. You, therefore, need to take extra precautions with lettuce that has had contact with oils and fats.
Can You Put Rotten Lettuce in The Compost?
Of course, you can compost rotten lettuce. The objective of composting is to have your waste rot in a controlled place so that the end product can be used to improve and amend the soil. If the lettuce is rotting or rotten, then you are halfway there. You only need to add it to the composting bin and have the job completed in there.
Vegetables such as lettuce and salad leaves rot quite easily and quickly and if they have started getting moldy, they will rot even more quickly once composted. It is actually the best time to compost such vegetables when you see them getting moldy.
Unfortunately, since it getting rotten, the lettuce will be smelling awful. They will also be very soft and as such, be careful when picking them up not to have them tearing and falling along the way to the composting bin.
There is, however, the question of how safe rotten vegetables are to handle and compost. There are stories that the rotting vegetables may contain dangerous bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and listeria.
Well, these vegetables are being used at home and you do not have the time to study them or be freaked out about the same. As such, be sure to handle the rotting and rotten pieces carefully, and then wash your hands straight after. You should also understand the reason for the rotting before composting rotten vegetables.
If the rotting is a result of natural causes, meaning the lettuce was never eaten and started rotting away, they are safe to compost. However, if the rotting is a result of a disease that plagued the plant while it was in the garden, or is as a result of chemical sprays that harmed them, do not compost such lettuce.
The disease and chemicals may survive the composting process and end up in the garden again, affecting other plants growing there.
Can Lettuce Be Grown Indoors?
Of course, lettuce can be grown indoors. In case you have run out of space in your garden, or simply do not have one, you can choose to grow lettuce indoors quickly and easily.
Luckily for you, lettuce thrives in room temperature conditions with direct sunlight and therefore it adapts well to indoor conditions. All you need is standard potting soil, water fertilizer and a grow light or sunny window to help the plant grow strong.
You will be ready to harvest your lettuce in about a month. also, although most lettuce plants can grow healthy indoors, you will have better success with some varieties over others.
Fill the pot with a seed starting soil mix and plant your seeds approximately 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Limit your pot to four seeds per pot to avoid overcrowding the lettuce as it grows. If you, however, want to plant more than 4 seeds, prepare several pots ahead of time. then, sprinkle your seeds lightly with potting soil and water over the newly planted seeds.
Fill a spray bottle with water and gently mist the seeds to avoid washing them away. When the seedlings sprout, give them at least 1 inch of water weekly. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged. Grow them under room temperature conditions, so no need to turn on the air conditioner or heater unless needed.
You should also grow them near a sunny window or a fluorescent grow light. Be sure to fertilize your lettuce three weeks after planting them. Spray a liquid fertilizer on the plant and avoid spraying the leaves so as not to burn them.
Does Lettuce Need Full Sun?
Of course, lettuce needs direct sunlight to grow properly. Even for those who grow their lettuce indoors, it is recommended to place the pot containing the growing vegetables near a sunny window. The alternative is to place the pot under a fluorescent grow light, a strategy that works best for those who live in climates with very little sun.
Grow lights for such purposes are available everywhere and should be placed about 12 inches (30cm) overhead the growing plant. Growing lettuce in full sunlight encourages them to grow faster, although they can also tolerate some shade. Most lettuce varieties, such as the Crisphead lettuce, are suitable for milder environments.
Extended periods of high temperatures can be harmful even though the full sun encourages their growth. The leaves of lettuce will get bitter if the temperature exceeds the optimum level for too long.
You should therefore grow your lettuce in an area where it will also get some shade. This means you can grow them in the shade of taller plants like corn, tomatoes, or even vining crops like squash and cucumbers. You can also grow them beneath a canopy or tree to receive sunlight only in the form of patches.
This keeps the lettuce cool even during the hottest part of the day. Lettuce needs more sun in the cool spring than it does in summer. Positioning lettuce plants around taller plants, such as tomatoes, will provide full sun in spring while the tomatoes are still short but will offer relief from the intense summer sun.
Growing lettuce indoors under a light can also work. Keep the plant under fluorescent lights of 15 watts, positioned about 1-3 inches above the lettuce. If you have a larger budget, invest in high-output T5 fluorescent lighting.
Does Lettuce Grow in Summer?
Yes, lettuce grows in the summer although it requires extra attention.
Grow lettuce under a shade
Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable and requires a temperature of at most 75°F (23.9°C). If you are in a region where the summer temperatures can go ridiculously higher than this, be sure to plant the lettuce beneath the canopy of a tree or companion crops like corn and tomatoes. You can also suspend summer cloths above the lettuce plants, to help provide some shade
Grow them in the spring
You can also try and grow the lettuce in the spring so that you harvest them in the late spring or early summer before the temperatures get too crazy. Some gardeners may replant a second crop of lettuce as the days grow cooler in the fall, but most do not grow lettuce at all in the midsummer period, focusing instead on warm-season vegetables.
Growing lettuce in the summer can therefore be challenging although nothing says you cannot grow them then. Remember, in weather hotter than 75°F (23.9°C), the leaves will begin to get bitter to the taste.
Grow them indoors
You can also choose to grow the vegetable indoors. This ensures they do not get attacked by the heated temperatures and therefore do not get bitter. To successfully grow lettuce indoors, have them in pots that can be placed near the window for some bit of light. You can also grow them under a fluorescent grow light.
Water the lettuce daily
Watering the lettuce daily helps them develop faster and guarantees high-quality lettuce. However, be sure not to overwater them as it can lead to numerous plant diseases and leaf burning or scalding. Watering the lettuce is very essential especially during seed germination and the initial planting of seedlings.
Choose the lettuce variety
Not all lettuce varieties can do well during the hot summer months. Choose the one that is adaptable and easy to grow. It is also advisable to choose a very leafy variety. Unlike head-forming lettuces, leaf lettuces are not sensitive to heat and rain.
It also grows quickly and matures in six to seven weeks from seeding, while the head-forming variety matures in ten to twelve weeks, and encounters many more disease problems
Harvesting frequently ensures the lettuce leaves stay short. As an example, you can crop your romaine lettuce leaves when they reach around four to six inches in height. This is the cut-and-come-again harvesting technique.
The technique helps the plant grow new leaves faster during the summer and keeping them short prevents the plant from thinking it has already matured and will therefore grow more leaves. However, if you see seed stalks appearing in the center of your lettuce, harvest them immediately
Replant where necessary
If everything else fails, and you think your romaine lettuce is ready for harvest, start replanting them. Like the cut-and-come-again technique, replanting will also give a shock to the lettuce’s system. This will make the lettuce focus on growing new roots again, and delay setting its seeds.