Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening( Stage I)




Introduction: Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening( Stage I)

About: Like to solve everyday life little problems. I'm curious about things I don't know much. Like to do things that require and allow creativity.

In the early summer of 2015, I finally had a few minutes, I went outside, dumped the bin of compost that was in making since we moved to the house 8 years ago, and stuck a dozen of seeds of zucchini, cucumber, tomato and eggplant each, in the soil of a corner at my backyard. (I usually plant two or three seeds in one spot).

Boy! It must be because of the rich compost made in several years of time. The zucchini and cucumber were crazy productive. I kept harvesting several of them each every a few days. There was no way my family of four could consume them all fresh even though we were having them everyday one way or another. I gave the extra to my daughter's teachers, our friends, neighbours, or whoever came to our door. I got a kick out of the receivers' look when they saw how big the zucchini were. I'm sure they were more surprised when they ate them because they were super tender, juicy, sweet, and tasty. Not only I had a great feeling because I had something to give. I also found our grocery bill was noticeably reduced during the summer. When the fridge was running low, instead of going to store to buy grocery, I picked zucchini and cucumber from the backyard corner. Now which made me ambitious. I want to significantly reduce my grocery bill. I want to grow more vegetables next season; I want to grow more variety of vegetables next season. I thought about vertical gardening or raised bed gardening. Unfortunately, living in Wisconsin means I just want to stay inside all day and dream about seeing and eating greens until next April, May, even June.

Perhaps I should start winter indoor gardening I thought. I started to search in that direction...

The search is complete when I stumped upon Peter Burke's Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days. When I read the 10 things on his wish list they sound exactly what I'm looking for, I knew I may try it. In the end of his book, he also wrote that his salad farming makes close to $40,000 a year without making changes to his house. So by the end of the book, I know I'm trying it.

In this Instructable, I'll present Peter's wish list, provide supplies reference to get ready for this gardening approach, steps for one-round of gardening, my findings of first round indoor salad gardening, and my thoughts on furthering and making this indoor salad gardening my own.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links as references for the same or similar products used in this project. If you click on the links and make purchases I could receive a small percentage of commission from the advertising company with no extra cost to you.

Step 1: 10 Things That Sound Good on Any Gardener's Wish List

This is the 10 things that are on Peter's wish list which made me first want to check out Peter's book and try his approach.

Step 2: 6 Things to Get Ready for Indoor Salad Gardening

Here are the six necessary things to do indoor salad gardening Peter Burke's way:

1. Soil mix 2. Compost 3. Sea Kelp 4. Seeds 5. Mini loaf bread pans (3" by 6" by 2") 6. Newspapers (folded) (4" by 7")

I made two trips to stores, got all 6 things and spent $55.45.

If you are new to soil sprouting indoor salad gardening like me and you don't have Peter's book in hand, Here are the detailed notes for each item:

1. The soil mix isn't the outdoor backyard soil, it's standard germination mix, usually peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and lime. In his book, he discussed in detail what's to use, what's not to, and how to make your own soil mix.

2. Compost can be commercial or homemade. It's the cheapest item on the shopping list, I suggest you buy commercial compost. In his book he discussed in detail what's to use, what's not to, and how to make your own compost.

3. Liquid sea kelp or dry kelp meal are both okay as fertilizer. I bought the first 3 things in a garden store.

4. Seeds are the most expensive items. He recommended 5 varieties of sunflower, pea, radish, buckwheat, and broccoli for a salad of great color, texture and taste. I bought seeds from an organic food store. It doesn't have buckwheat seeds. So I bought some organic buckwheat and mung bean from the bulk food section. As soon as I got home I had a concern because the buckwheat kernels have been processed and don't have hulls already, I have a feeling they might not work for sprouting, the mung beans should work I think. I plan to plant buckwheat and mung beanto see if they work. The good thing is it takes only 7-10 days to know the results.

Bottom line: As far as the seeds are concerned, the best option I think is to buy a 5 part salad sprouting mix for now and grow variety of seeds in your outdoor garden as the planting season is approaching for your indoor salad gardening afterward the harvest. I found some seeds are a few times cheaper on Amazon than in my local store. I think I'm returning some seeds I bought from the local store. Oh well, what a hassle!

5. Aluminum bread loaf pans are in almost any grocery store, and you can reuse them to certain times of planting according to Peter.

6. In Perter's book, he placed a stack of wet newspaper on top of the trays to keep the sprouts moistened during the 4 days of "do nothing" time. Although he mentioned that today's newspapers are printed with ink made from soybean oil, still it's ink and I'm not a fan of it touching my food. So I opted to use fabric scraps from my sewing projects. They are new, washed, and 100% cotton. I cut 4" by 7" rectangles and stitched 4 layers together with 3" by 6" area in the center. Again we'll know in 7-10 days if this is a great success or just a nice try.

If you are interested in how this turned out, head to the next step.

Step 3: 4 Steps and 6 Findings of Indoor Salad Gardening

I followed almost exactly the steps Peter laid out in detail in his book: soak the seeds, moisten soil mix; plant the seeds; incubate in the dark for 4 days; water daily and green the sprouts indoor for 3-5 days.

Photos 1-6 in this step are snapshots of the above steps. Nothing too hard to do here.

Below are findings of this experiment:

1. This gardening approach works but not without any modifications/improvements.

2. Do not use the aluminum bread loaf pans as containers. Peter mentioned in his book they were his preferred containers and he could reuse them for up to a few times. This was not true for me. Mine started to leak at the end of the 4-day incubation period. Choose ceramic (if you don't have small children or pets) or plastic indoor window planter to use instead.

3. Use of seeds that can actually sprout is key to success. (I have returned 4 out of the five sprouting seeds I bought from a local store because they are too expensive to buy them for less from Amazon and I'm waiting for the packages right now) I used organic mung beans, hulled buckwheat from bulk section of a grocery store, cilantro seeds from my last year's garden, cilantro seeds from a grocery store as a spice for cooking, and green peas for sprouting. Even before start, I knew the hulled buckwheat probably wouldn't work since they have been damaged and I was confirmed right. The mung beans did sprout but became rotten. Both cilantro seeds sprouted but they grow slowly. They have been growing for more than 5 days and are still growing on my window sill (the second before last picture). Sprouting cilantro I think was only mentioned but not used in Peter's book. Green pea was the only sprouts that delivered potential.

4. Soil mix and seeds especially the later are cost limiting factors of this gardening practice. If you know how to make the mix yourself or grow the seeds yourself, then you make it a few times more money friendly. In Peter's book, he discussed on such topics.

5. My first adaptation to use new and washed fabric wet with water instead of newspaper proved to be good. Not only I don't need to worry about eating ink, they are also reusable to almost unlimited times I think. And I have a lot such fabric scraps from my sewing projects. So this is a small but win win win situation for me.

6. Thanks thanks thanks for the one loaf of green pea sprouts! I used it in a salad. Absolutely great!

Step 4: What's Next?

I'm definitely doing a few things differently from the author to make Peter Burke's year-round indoor salad gardening my way.

For example, he uses mini aluminum bread pans(3" by 6" by 2") which not only leaked on me, they just felt falling off my hand or breaking at any moment. He places the pans in a dark cabinet for the 4-day incubation period. At this stage, I'm experimenting with window planter box which is equivalent to 9 of the mini pans in surface area, which seems to improve efficiency a lot because I do each step once instead of 9 times. These boxes are also much deeper, I just fill soil to the 2" height and stack them up (stacking make the seeds stay in the dark and eliminates the need for a dark cabinet), cover the top with a bottom saucer and leave them any where in the house for the 4-day incubation period. These window planter boxes are available in any stores or online in many sizes, shapes, colors, and plastic or ceramic. They also have matching bottom saucer (you'll need two, one for collecting water at bottom, one for covering top when they are stacked during the 4-day incubation period).

I'll share my findings of further indoor salad gardening here or somewhere, so check back in.

Meanwhile I'm new in this and unstoppable. Anyone has done more in this kind of gardening? Or anyone who has more gardening experience in general please feel free to weigh in in comments and reign me.

Please vote this Instructable for Urban Farming Contest. Thanks a lot.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links as references for the same or similar products used in this project. If you click on the links and make purchases I could receive a small percentage of commission from the advertising company with no extra cost to you.

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    30 Discussions

    Great article! The same like you I am not
    crazy about the idea of using newspapers. Can you tell me some more about the
    fabric you are using on top of your seeds please. I was planning to use a
    towel. Would it work? I am not sure what thickness though. Maybe a face towel?
    Does your fabric keep moisture for the 4 days?

    Do you wash the fabric with detergent after
    each sprouting?

    Thank you in advance.

    1 reply

    Great questions. I sew and sell clothes, so I have a lot 100% cotton microbrushed twill fabric scraps, a little bit denser but softer than regular cotton cloth, I used 2-3 layers. A cotton towel should work if it's not too thick when folded or too heavy when wet. The fabric gradually becomes drier and lighter, drier than clothes done washing I think. No, I did not wash the fabric with anything but hang it outside to sun dry them after each use. It became discolored but no visible mold.

    nice explanations

    After day 4, there was white, mildewy things around the roots and soil. Still edible?

    1 reply

    Mostly yes if it doesn't smell moldy and the sprouts look healthy otherwise. A lot small seeds have that after sprouting. I'm exclusively sprouting sunflower, pees, buckwheat and radish. They all don't have that white thing. On what seed do you see it?

    This is what is called sprouting . They make "sprouting" chambers that stack on top of one another. You could try broccoli in this manner and they will perform for you as well. Another seed to try would be arugula it is a spicy and tasty herb also a pepper cress. I would also recommend that using burlap under the seeds helps keep it moist and the vegetation away from the soil but allows the roots to sink into the soil. The burlap needs to be soaked in water before using it. The difference between what you are doing and what I do (I am a commercial Microgreen grower ) is that you grow to a sprout stage I grow till the greens are ready to start their full growth and cut them from their roots. It takes about 2 weeks for the micro stage and up to seven days for sprouts. Happy growing.

    10 replies

    I am sorry for some price error. We get broccoli in 25 lbs orders @ $10 a pound and that is certified organic seed. Arugula is @ $9 per lbs in all weight increments . I had to look at our last price list for 2015 to see what the real costs were. So you see that sometimes you can find seed for cheaper at other places. We stick for the most part where we go because we get consistent results. If you wanted to try something a little different try growing instead of in soil try a wet mat of paper towels. If you keep them moist the seeds will still grow and you could eliminate having to clean them from the dirt.

    Thank you for your information. It is cheaper than what I bought so far. I'll try the seed company when my stock gets low. The seeds initially cost a bit, I found they do last okay. Your suggestions of using burlap cloth under seeds and using paper towel to sprout are very important. I found the tiny seeds are a challenge to soil sprout, especially the ones that became sticky when wet. So I started to water sprout the tiny ones in jars which seems to work fine.

    Best wishes to your business!

    If you are using 10 x 20 trays and you keep the burlap moist you would not need soil for growing. That would make the mess of cleaning for you very easy. I would put plastic over the tray until you see the first leaves showing and then take it off and allow to open air grow but you would have to keep the burlap moist (not flooded). I would keep an end of the tray visible for about an inch and water the tray up to the ribs that the burlap is sitting on and the water would wick up into the burlap keeping the canopy dry .But you could water threw the canopy if you wish.

    Where do you get burlap, fabric stores? Where do you get the appropriate trays? My window sill is 7.5" wide. I currently use 6.5" wide planter box but they are too deep (about 8" deep), I fill them with soil up to 1.5", harvesting is tricky down several inches.

    Happy long weekend!

    I just got an order today shipped by freight line. We buy burlap from dayton burlap and bag . Here is there web site

    You mentioned broccoli, arugula, and pepper cress. But the seeds are so expensive especially broccoli. I'm curious, as a business, do you grow your own seeds to manage the cost to make profit or do you have a cheap seeds supplier? Of course, I understand, as a business you're under no pressure to answer such questions or you may choose to send me a private message.

    In most cases if you look for seeds in larger quantity you will find it is less expensive. We buy most of our seeds from a commercial seed grower. But there have been times that we have gotten seeds from other sources. I guess you have to see what is expensive to you. An example if we buy broccoli seeds we buy 25 pounds which will last us for at least 6 months and we get the seeds at about $18 a pound.
    Arugala = at a pound here it is $7 a pound
    cress seeds = they have some varieties. here
    Broccoli seeds = they go for $9 a pound here

    So what it really comes down to is what do you think is expensive. A pound of seed will last for a while the way you are growing and is stores well so if you look at the economics of it over the weeks that you grow it does come down in price. Good luck and these seeds do not soak spread them out and then water them. The cress and arugula get sticky once they are wet, and yes this is normal. Good luck and happy growing

    I so appreciate your suggestions and photo. I feel what I did and got in the first round of experiment is a combination of sprout and micro green. The incubation time with wet covering make the seeds shoot up, the greening days (I left it in sun longer than the book suggested just to see what happens) make the sprouts have green leaves. Peas are okay. I can see burlap under seeds for smaller seeds helps later harvesting and washing. Just curious, the plants are so micro, is harvesting a labor intensive part of your job? Is there any machine to help to do it?

    LOL, yes this is labor intensive. We harvest with a scissor and sort threw our mat worth of harvested produce to pick out things like immature plants with their roots still attached ,plants that are not good looking , and bits of burlap that may fall into our harvest bin as we cut . We use only burlap in a modified NFT system that feeds the channel for a 30 to 45 second feeding ever 90 minutes. The timing is decided by the weather conditions in the greenhouse . The micros in the photo that you see here are Broccoli at about the 7 day period. We would wait another week for them to get larger but before they start to grow secondary leaves and start their run into their reproductive cycle. We have a website with some more photos on it .

    Thanks for the info. I'm glad you already have several outlets for your produce.


    2 years ago

    Nice Job. Looking like you are growing and eating sprouts using soil. If that's the case I've found using mason jars without soil to be easy and effective. I found this site to be very friendly, complete, and a good starting point.

    3 replies

    Sprouting without soil isn't completely new to me. My mom did a lot, I ate it a lot when I was young. I agree sprouting with water didn't seem to be hard. What I just experimented seems to be a combination of sprouting with water (a wet cover in a warm dark place for a few days) and traditional outdoor gardening (soil, sun environment). As a result, the harvest is half sprout and half greens. So far I'm still very interested in doing it further.

    Actually what we do is wash the mung beans in room temperature water and like hang them in cotton bag keeping it moist. They sprout practically overnight. One way to do it would be to put them in a largish piece of square cloth, knot the opposite corners turning it into a sort of bag and hang it on the kitchen faucet. Open the faucet so that it just drips a drop ot water every few seconds.

    That's tippy. So it doesn't need to be in a dark place? I don't remember my mom placed it in a dark place but she always used a ceramic container covered with wet cloth. Bean sprouts in stores here sometimes have yellow leaves or some roots which aren't attracting.