How to Grow Salad Leaves


These days, salad means so much more than just lettuce and cucumber. Continental salad leaves, hot oriental leaves, herbs – in fact, almost any edible leaf is now acceptable as a salad ingredient. And because you can harvest the leaves of all these plants as soon as they are large enough to pick, you can grow them in the smallest of spaces — even without a garden. Cut-and-come-again salad leaves are ideal for a window box, patio container or the smallest raised bed.

By following the instructions given here, you can have a constant supply of fresh salad leaves to rival those you can buy in the supermarket. They will not only be fresher but can be grown organically, too. Apart from lettuce, you can grow a whole range of leafy plants to vary the mix each time you pick an instant salad.

Cut-and-come-again salad

This technique relies on the fact that many leafy salad plants will regrow from the stump left when the leaves are cut. You could opt for a packet of mixed leaf salad seeds or create your own mix.

The aim is to harvest small quantities of leaves, either as whole immature plants or as individual leaves over a period of a couple of weeks. You should get at least two pickings and possibly up to four from one sowing.

Sow the seed in bands or in single rows, 10cm apart. In both cases, aim for roughly l-2cm between seeds.

When the seedlings reach an average height of about 10cm, cut the whole lot with a pair of scissors about 2cm above the compost or soil, leaving the cut stump.

Apply a high-nitrogen liquid feed and keep the plants well watered. Within three or four weeks, a flush of new leaves will grow from the cut stumps. These can be cut as before, and so on.

Watch out for weeds, such as nettles, growing alongside the salad plants.

Calendar

To grow salad leaves in a container, choose one with a diameter of at least 30cm. Scatter the seed thinly and cover with about 1cm of compost. In the garden you could create a dedicated ‘salad bar’ or earmark a section of a raised vegetable bed for salad leaves. In this case, each time you sow you have the choice of sowing either short rows 10- 15cm apart or small patches of individual ingredients. If you opt for a mixture, sow thinly in bands 10cm wide or broadcast in patches. Leave about l-2cm between seedlings.

February

The first batch of salad leaves in containers can be started off under cover. Start the seed in small pots or modules in the greenhouse or on a windowsill for planting outside when conditions are more favourable.

Outside, use cloches to cover seed sown directly in the ground or sow in containers and cover them with garden fleece. You will need a site in full sun for early sowings, although a semi-shaded site will be better in mid-summer. If you grow them in the ground, the soil should be fertile and moisture-retentive. To improve the soil, work in plenty of organic matter at the start of the season. Add a scattering of balanced fertilizer. The ideal site should be free of annual weeds. If this is impossible, sow in straight rows, so that you can identify the crop easily when you weed. In containers, use multipurpose compost.

March-July

Sow small amounts at regular intervals. Either sow at two- or three-week intervals and accept that the later sowings will start to catch up with the earlier ones, or wait until one sowing has germinated or reached a certain stage before sowing the next batch. This should help to spread them out over the season.

Whether they are growing in garden soil or in containers, water regularly to keep the seedlings growing strongly without a check to their growth. Watch for slugs, snails and aphids.

August

It is worth making a final sowing of hardy salad plants, such as winter lettuce, Chinese cabbage and other oriental greens, chicory, corn salad, endive, kale and rocket to harvest in the autumn. Mix and match ingredients

Harvesting

For really fresh salad, pick it at the last minute, wash thoroughly and shake dry. Pick immature plants or individual leaves as required. Always pick the larger leaves from the outside to keep the plants small and encourage young, tender leaves in the centres.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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