Indoor Grow Station

A winter salad grown in the laundry room!

This is my second winter growing salad freshies inside during the winter. My one little grow station can grow enough lettuce or spinach that we can have a couple salads each week. Since I have so much lettuce outside right now, I’m focusing on keeping us in a steady supply of radishes now. My grow station is set up on a section of counter in our basement that is out of the way and not convenient for any other use.

How to Do It
Here is a basic starting point if you want to try this yourself. With a little imagination (or an internet search), I’m sure you could come up with a more elaborate set up. Right now I’m trying to make space in our basement to expand on this operation so I can include vining veggies like cherry tomatoes, mini cucumbers, and peppers. But I digress.

To grow yourself enough salad greens for about 4 salads a week using no more space than a laundry room counter top, start here… 

- Plastic stroage bin that can hold at least a 6”-8” inch depth of soil. Deeper is better, but keep in mind how heavy it will be with soil it. Make it long enough that it will match the length of your light fixtures.
- 2 fluorecent shop light fixtures.
- 1 set (2 bulbs) of fluorescent bulbs in cool tones
- 1 set (2 bulbs) of fluorescent bulbs in warm tones
- reflective material like two long door mirrors or even some cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil
- shallow rooted cool weather seeds like lettuce, spring radishes, spinach, etc.
- power drill
- soil medium
- optional: heated grow mats
- recommended: fan

Okay, this is more like a “general idea” instead of detailed instructions…. But here you go…

1. Use a power drill to create drainage holes in the bottom of your Tupperware bin. You’ll use the lid of the bin as the water basin to catch any run off.

2. Place the bin on top of the bin’s lid wherever you want your grow station to be. It will be very challenging to move it once you have it filled with soil and water. You certainly have the option of using several smaller bins to make things easier to move, but the small scale of this operation makes losing even a couple inches of growing space significant.

3. Fill with your soil medium and water well. Commercial potting soils typically need time to soak up the water.

4. Hang your lights so that their height can be adjusted as the crops grow. You’ll want to keep the lights within a couple inches of the leaf tips. Arrange reflective materials along the entire set up to minimize light loss.

5. Plant your seeds according to their needs.

As your seedlings grow, you will need to raise the lights to keep the plants from touching the light bulbs.

Special Considerations

If your grow station is in a particularly cold location, consider using heated grow mats to provide ideal soil temps. If you are not sure, you can test your soil temperature using a meat thermometer, which is a handy tool for both the kitchen and the garden and often cheaper than a soil thermometer. A heat mat will also come in handy in the spring if you are starting your tomatoes and peppers inside – which is another great use for your grow station! 

This is the heat mat I've been using. The thermostat included keeps it from overheating the plants. 

Humidity and Mold
Protect your young plants from mold by giving them a regular breeze with a fan on its lowest setting. This gentle air flow will help the soil surface gently dry, and it will also help young seedlings develop strong stems rather than long spindly stems. If your grow station is doubling as a seed nursery in the spring, this artificial breeze will help seedlings be ready for the outdoors.

The grow station can double as a plant starting nursery
Thanks for reading! Do you have questions about this set up?