How to Grow Salad Leaves at Any Time of the Year!
Salad leaves are something really easy to grow at pretty much any time of the year! How to grow salad leaves? Well you can use a pot or a trough…..grow them direct in the soil…or use your greenhouse to give them extra protection. Just a few weeks after sowing you will be able to start harvesting the leaves and adding them to fresh salad. Salad leaves area a “cut and come again” crop since you snip off individual leaves rather than pulling up the whole plant. This means that the leaves will just carry on growing over a period of several months so even a small patch ends up delivering a very high yield. Read on to discover how to grow salad leaves at home….
How to Grow Salad Leaves – Checklist:
If you don’t already know how to grow salad leaves then here is a simple checklist to get you started. You really don’t need green fingers (or green toes for that matter!) since this crop is really easy to grow….
- Find a Container: If you have the space then of course you can grow salad leaves direct in the soil just like any other vegetable….but one of the great things about this crop is that if you only have a small garden or balcony then you can still grow them. Any pot or trough can be put to use and you can even let your imagination run riot and find an old tin bath or other container to use instead. The only criteria is that is should be at least 4″ or 10cm deep. Really deep containers are not so good since you will need loads of compost to fill them up…unless you cheat!
- Soil or Compost: You need to fill the container with soil or compost. You can just buy a sack of “universal” potting compost from the store or make your own. For sowings in the Autumn or Fall then old potting soil from your summer geraniums can be recycled and used….just mix it up with a bit of garden soil.
- Drainage Material: To prevent the container getting waterlogged in wet weather put some gravel, broken clay pots (crocks) or bits of polystyrene packing int he bottom of the container. This is also the “cheat” if you have a trough that is too deep…just half fill it with bits of broken polystyrene packing (the stuff that TV sets are packed in) and then spread the compost on top.
- Seeds: Look for special seed mixtures of “salad leaves” since these contain a variety of different leaves that will crop over a long period. Alternatively just use up all the odds and ends from your old seed packets….lettuce, endive, rocket, corn salad, beetroot and peas. Beetroot and peas? Yes….beetroot leaves are both colorful and tasty while pea leaves are crunchy and sweet.
How to Grow Salad Leaves – Care and Maintenance:
Getting started really is just a five minute job, and after that all you need to do is a bit of watering!
- Prepare the Container: Put the drainage material in the bottom of the container making sure that the drainage holes in the bottom are not blocked up. If you are using a recycled container you may need to drill drainage holes first.
- Add the Compost: Just fill the container up to within half an inch (1cm) of the top. Don’t compact the soil but instead gently lift the container up and put it back down again firmly…this will settle the soil.
- Sow the Seeds: Sow the seeds evenly over the surface of the compost, but not too thickly. Aim for three or four seeds per square inch. Next just sprinkle a little bit more compost on top of the seeds to give them a light covering. Don’t worry if you can still see some seeds on the surface since seeds like lettuce need light to germinate and don’t appreciate being buried too deep!
- Keep Moist: After you have sowed the seeds just water them really well with a watering can…ideally one with fine rose on the end. Check the color of the compost every day and as soon as you see that it is drying out and turning paler you know it is time to water again.
- Find a Sheltered Spot: Salad leaves will appreciate a sheltered spot out of scorching sun. They need light to grow but pots dry out very quickly in full sun. A shady corner is good for germination and then once the little shoot appear move the pot somewhere to get more light
Apart from regular watering the salad leaves should mostly look after themselves until you need to start harvesting them. In the winter it is good to move the pot to a place where it will be protected from snow…a greenhouse or cold frame is great if you have one. Once the leaves are around 3 to 4 inches (up to 10cm) then you can start using them. Take a bowl and just pinch off the individual leaves that you want to use and leave the rest to grow. You can also snip away with scissors cutting one section down at a time. If you use scissors just make sure that you don’t cut the plants down too much…leave a “stump” of around an inch so that new leaves can grow again. The fresh salad leaves are very tender and tasty…but due to this they will wilt very quickly so either use them immediately or wash them and store in the bottom of the fridge for later.