Growing salad is something that not only makes economic sense but is actually easier than many non-gardeners would think. The cost of a bag of salad leaves is nearly £2 and when feeding a family over the following summer months the maths tells you how expensive it can be. However for a relatively small outlay you can be growing your own salads and harvesting them right up to October and through the winter with the right choice of lettuce and salad leaves.
Salad seed is sold with hundreds of seed so you can keep sowing and harvesting, picking when you want and enjoying the undoubtedly improved taste of growing your own. You do not need a huge amount of ground either as salad can be grown in a huge variety of containers, anything really that you have around as long as there is adequate drainage. Even one raised can bed can go a long way to providing all the salad for a family for the year.
WHAT TO SOW
There are a huge amount of varieties to choose from when you start looking at seed in the Garden Centre. A good start is to buy a pack of salad leaves, rocket, any “cut and come” lettuce, some spinach so you can harvest the young leaves and maybe “Little Gem” lettuce that can be grown in a small space. Add to this some coriander and flat leafed parsley for a lovely taste to your mix. Look for packets that contain lots of seeds so that you can continue to sow through the summer. By spending just £10 you will definitely be able to purchase at least five to six varieties that will keep you going throughout the summer.
SOWING YOUR SEED
The whole point of using the following method is to sow salad at intervals over the summer, hence ensuring a steady succession of harvesting. The same principle can be applied to growing anything such as radish, salad onions, pak choi, mizuna etc. Little but often being the name of the game!
Prepare as many containers as you have packets of seed. Use whatever plastic and terracotta pots or troughs that you have around the garden. If you have to buy new pots don’t invest in expensive pots for salad, plastic will do. Salad can even be grown in plastic crates, as long as there are some drainage holes. Make sure they are all cleaned out and add some broken crocks are added to the bottom. Fill with compost to the top and water.
Week 1: Sow in one pot the fastest growing salad leaves making some thin drills in the soil. Sow thinly along the drills and then cover with a thin layer of compost. In a second pot sow the slowest growing lettuce in the same way. Put pots in a sunny disposition and in an accessible place so that watering is made easier.
Week 2: Sow up another two pots in the same way with the varieties you have chosen.
Week 3: Sow the last one or two pots with your choices. By now you should have growth in the pots sown in week 1 and should be able to start harvesting some small leaves from the salad leaves. Now you have 5 or 6 pots sown. As you have staggered the sowing of the leaves the subsequent growth will be staggered. This method can equally be applied to a raised bed or by sowing direct into a well prepared bed.
Week 4: Continue to harvest salad leaves by taking the outside leaves of the lettuce which will continue to grow.
Weeks 5 and 6: When the harvest is depleted in the first pot that was sown, remove the salad leave roots, refresh with a little compost and re-sow the pot again.
Subsequent Weeks: As above re-sow each pot in succession as necessary . This way you will continually have fresh salad throughout the summer, as opposed to sowing them all at once and having a glut. You can use this method all the way into September, while the warm weather allows it. Come the colder months you will need to use the hardier salad that will tolerate lower temperatures.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
POSITION your pots in a nice sunny place and in an accessible place for harvesting and watering. Check that the pots do not dry out.
Watch out for SLUGS AND SNAILS lurking around the rim.
HARVEST little and often. This encourages new growth ready for your next harvest.
REFRESH the compost when you are ready to sow a new crop.
SUCCESSIVE SOWING can be applied to the growing of all salads and any vegetables grown in raised beds or the vegetable garden. It ensures a constant cropping of your harvest over a longer period.