One of the easiest crops to grow in the Kitchen Garden and perhaps the most satisfying to cut and eat straight from the plot, is mixed green salad - baby salads and cut and come again salad varieties are a great alternative to chlorine washed, gas packed bags of leaves from the supermarket and it's really easy to grow your own supply at home either in containers or in a small salad patch.
When To Plant
Mixed salad is easy and takes little time but it is a short lived crop that will need continuous watering throughout the season to keep up with demand - Sow successionally from late March to August outdoors and undercover from early March to September.
Try growing these individual salad leaves separately and mix to your own taste:
- Baby spinach leaves ( for spring and autumn)
- Beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’ (grown for red leaves for salad not for roots)
- Chinese cabbage
- Corn Salad or Lambs Lettuce
- Land Cress
- Oak Leaf Lettuce
- Pak Choi
- Rainbow Chard
- Red mustard
- Winter Purslane
Choose good fertile soil with plenty of organic matter and if growing in containers use a multi purpose compost or coir alternative.
Sow thinly where you want the plants to crop - in containers and more intensive salad beds where there is unlikely to be a problem with weeds you can scatter the seeds evenly over the surface of the area and just cover lightly with compost. Elsewhere sow in rows for easy weeding and thin seedlings out to 2.5 – 5cm apart.
Keep well watered and weeded so the plants grow without interruption and protect outdoor crops with a fleece tunnel in cold or windy weather and early in the season.
Start snipping individual leaves whole plants 5mm above their base as soon as they are big enough to use, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing - the same plants can usually be snipped several times before they start running out of steam or going to seed.
One Variety Might Take Over
Often one variety will take over in pre mixed salad blends and it's very common to find the strongest fastest growing variety comes up first and swamps anything else - thin seedlings out while they are young and weed out some of the strongest to maintain a better balance of varieties.
Bolting is usually caused by hot or dry conditions, poor soil with insufficient organic matter or growing plants too thickly – a Net Tunnel or growing out of full sun can help.