Growing salad greens is a satisfying short-term project that nearly any gardener can fit into their space and schedule. Most greens mature quickly and can be eaten at any stage, from microgreens to full-grown leaves. Buying plastic clamshells of prepared greens is expensive, especially given the environmental cost of shipping, storing, and packaging them. Growing fresh greens at home is a great way to make your garden space pay for itself.
When you grow your own salad, you can harvest what you need and eat it fresh. A patch of greens fits any garden space, from container plantings to an open spot in an ornamental bed. I’ve been growing my own salads for years. Here are some tips I’ve learned.
Choose your perfect mix
Turn to the “greens” section of any seed catalog, and you will find a wealth of options. A ready-made mix like the Salanova® lettuce collection (above)—designed to provide an appealing combination of colors, textures, and flavors—is an easy place to start. However, it’s not hard to put together your own delicious assortment. Experiment with the salad ingredients that sound good to you, and adjust the mix each year until you achieve your own perfect balance of flavors. When placing a seed order, get enough to keep you going all season; by planting something new every two to three weeks, you can keep the salad coming for many months.
Growing greens isn’t hard. Most varieties germinate easily, mature quickly, and don’t take much garden space. So pick your favorites and get growing! You can start seeds in trays or sow directly into garden beds—each method has its advantages. Carol says:
In the unsettled weather of early spring or the intense heat of summer, starting seeds indoors under lights may be the easiest way to give your greens a good start. When the weather is milder, you can also start seedlings outdoors in a sheltered location. Planting in cells helps to conserve seed—if you only get 25 or 50 seeds in a packet, you can give every one of them a chance to grow. . . .
Direct sowing is straightforward. Any open garden bed can become a salad factory with a little simple prep. Level the soil surface, add a sprinkle of organic fertilizer, and you are most of the way there. For a densely planted bed, broadcast seed onto prepared soil. Or for easy weeding and harvesting, sow in rows or narrow bands, mulching in between.