Would you like a constant supply of fresh, spray-free and packaging-free salad leaves? Well if the answer is yes, have a go at growing your own! It’s easier than you think, and you don’t even need a veggie patch!
To get started you will need fertile, well-drained soil. Always add plenty of compost to the soil before planting. If you don’t have a veggie patch a large pot or grow bag filled with quality potting mix will do just fine. Don’t scrimp when buying potting mix, you get what you pay for — cheap potting mix is false economy.
During wetter months it is easy to start your salad crops from seed, or alternatively get a head start and buy some seedling punnets.
Variety is the spice of life — rather than growing a big crop of all the same thing, plant a few different varieties of salad leaves.
Plant cut-and-come-again salad greens that can be harvested repeatedly to give multiple pickings. Harvest little and often by using a sharp knife or scissors to cut away the outside largest leaves every few days.
Loose-leaf lettuce varieties such as salad bowl and oakleaf will give multiple pickings if the conditions are right. Mustard greens such as mizuna, mibuna, and mustard wasabi are well worth growing. Just a couple of plants will provide you with a constant supply of nutritious tasty salad leaves for months. They generally are not bothered by too many pests either.
Beetroot also are a great year-round salad crop. You can harvest the odd tender leaf for salads as the crop is growing, as well as using the beetroot itself. Bullsblood is my favourite variety as not only does it produce wonderful, deep-red tasty beets, but the leaves are a deep red and look great in salads.
Hot conditions in summer can cause lettuce to bolt (produce flower heads) and it becomes tough and bitter. Make sure your salad crops get plenty of water. I grow leafy greens under 50% horticultural shadecloth in summer months. Another cause of bitter lettuce that bolts early is insufficient nutrients.
When it comes to salad crops, I always leave one healthy plant to go to flower and go to seed naturally. That way I get a never-ending supply of yummy free salad!
If you would like to try your hand a growing salad visit Thrive Sustainability, 48 Citron way, Lower Chittering. We have plenty of seedlings and seeds to choose from. Please note we will be closed on Wednesday 10 and 17 July and Friday 12 July.