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Do you enjoy a leafy green salad filled with tasty vegetables? Learning how to grow your own salad garden will let you keep enjoying your big, delicious salads while knowing your food is safe and saving you money! It’s a great reason to learn to grow a garden for beginners.
Recently, salad eaters have been put on alert by reports of e-coli in commercially grown spinach, lettuce, and green onions. If anything could discourage people from eating salads, the threat of illness and possible death was certainly at the top of the list.
Growing your own salad will also protect you against crazy hikes in produce prices as well as ensure you get the freshest produce possible.
How to grow lettuce at home
Nothing tastes as good as food from your very own garden. You don’t need a lot of space to grow a salad garden; a small garden plot or containers work just fine. With a little planning and subsequent plantings, you can plan your salad garden so it produces from early spring to well into the fall.
Whether you plant in containers, a raised bed, or in the ground, prepare the soil by removing weeds and raking through the soil to aerate it. If the soil is hard and compacted, you may need to use a shovel or spade to turn the soil over before raking. The better your soil is prepared, the better results you can expect to have from your garden. Here are the dirty secrets to success with soil.
Lettuce and spinach do best in cooler temperatures. Wait to plant the seeds until after the danger of frost has passed. We plant around February or early March. Check out this Month by Month Vegetable Garden Planting Guide for an idea.
Lettuce does well in an area that will receive part to full sun, however, once the weather warms, lettuce will “bolt.” This means the plant will grow very quickly and start to go to seed. The lettuce leaves will start to taste bitter and will no longer be desirable. You can delay bolting by keeping your lettuce shaded during the hot part of the day. Containers work great for this!
If you plant a patch or planter with lots of lettuce seeds, you can harvest and eat the baby greens as they begin to grow. Continue to thin your plants until you have several plants spaced 6-8 inches apart. If you make successive plantings, you can extend your harvest and keep a fresh crop of lettuce just a few steps away.
Harvest your lettuce first thing in the morning because it will be most plump and full of water at that time. It will have a little sweeter flavor then as well.
Companion plants for lettuce
Some plants grow well together and support each other with symbiotic relationships. Lettuce grows well with many things, click here to see the best companion plants for lettuce.
Don’t try and grow green onions from seed because they will take too long. However, you can purchase onion sets which can be purchased at your local home store or nursery. Onion sets are one of the easiest ways to grow onions because they establish quickly.
Onions are a cool weather plant and can be started as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Or you can grow Egyptian Walking Onions that will continue to regrow themselves for years. Click on the link above to see how.
Radishes are certainly not everyone’s favorite as they can be quite strong, especially when grown at home. Store varieties are generally pretty mild compared to homegrown radishes. But if you love radishes, they make a great addition to your salad! They are crispy, flavorful and so pretty.
Radishes also grow very quickly. Some varieties will be ready for eating a month after planting. Lots of watering will dilute the heat of radishes, while more stress will make them hotter.
You can plant radish seeds as soon as the ground is warm enough to work with. If you want a long crop of radishes, continue planting radishes every two weeks. Each radish seed produces a single radish, so make sure you space each seed accordingly.
How to grow Nasturtium
Often found in gourmet grocery stores, nasturtiums make an excellent addition to salads. The whole nasturtium plant is edible, but the blossoms dress up a salad. Additionally, nasturtiums will lure aphids away from other plants.
Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed and should be kept well watered throughout the growing season. If the soil is rich in nutrients, nasturtiums will grow more foliage than flowers, so don’t plant them in the best part of your garden as they can tolerate less than perfect soil. Nasturtium seeds were once dried, ground, and used like pepper during World War II. The seeds can also be pickled and used as a substitute for capers.
Growing peas can sometimes be a little tricky. People like to start them indoors ahead of time. I have had the most success directly sowing the seeds in the ground. Peas grow early, so plant them as early as your weather allows. Many varieties require support. You can use poles or tomato cages. Other varieties grow bushier and can stand on their own.
Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They start easily both directly in the ground or ahead of time in starter packs. It is recommended to plant a new round every two to three weeks to keep harvesting fresh beans all season long.
Check out the article on growing bush and pole bean varieties if you want beans in your salad garden.
Nothing compares to vine-ripened tomatoes and sliced tomatoes make a wonderful addition to any salad. However, tomatoes grow during the hottest part of the summer and may not be harvested until late summer and even early fall.
This creates a timing problem since all of the other salad ingredients are cool weather plants and will be done growing by the time the tomatoes are ready. But they are still worth growing. They are so yummy, can make a salad on their own AND they are good for a ton of other things! So check out my secrets for growing great tomatoes here.
You can feel good knowing exactly where and how your vegetables were grown and that they are as healthy as you can grow them! I can’t wait to hear how your salad garden grows!