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If you itch to start growing things weeks before it’s time to start most of your seedlings, use the space under lights (or your sunniest south-facing window) to grow quick crops of lettuce.
There is a happy symmetry to the fact that translucent clamshell boxes used to package gourmet salad greens also make ideal containers for growing lettuce indoors. To get the boxes ready for duty, use the tip of a stout knife to make 8 or 9 gashes in the bottom of each one. Then add 2 inches of moist potting soil before planting a pinch (about 25) lettuce seeds, barely covering them with soil. After generously spritzing the surface with water from a pump-spray bottle, pop on the tops and slip the boxes under your grow light, or in any warm, bright spot.
Five days later, when the seeds are up and growing, remove the tops and place them under the boxes, so they become watering trays. The soil usually stays nicely moist if you fill the trays with water every day. By the way, don’t try to remove the labels from the lids. Hot water will warp them, especially if they’re made from cornstarch.