Growing A Salad Bowl Garden
By Melissa Wynn
Salad bowl gardening is a great way to enjoy fresh leafy greens all year-round. Generally easy to grow, salad greens come in many varieties and flavor profiles. The most colorful tend to be the most flavorful and nutrient rich so mix it up and try new new varieties as they become available. In just a few short weeks you will be harvesting and enjoying the first small tender leaves, younger than you could buy in any store. With one planting you can often harvest these micro-greens multiple times buy simply leaving enough in the pot for the plant to continue to grow. Lettuce can be picked leaf by leaf almost from the time the first one emerges. If the lettuce starts to “bolt” (sends up a stalk and goes to seed) the leaves tend to be bitter. Remove any plants that start to bolt to enjoy the best flavors that your garden can provide.
Little is required to grow a salad bowl garden. A gardening tray, a few clay pots, or a window box with good drainage, 6 to 12 inches deep, provides plenty of room to grow a good mix. Deeper containers retain water better and provide for healthier root systems. Greens grow quickly so it is just as easy to start from seeds rather than seedlings or transplants. In addition to being more economical, growing from seeds offers the opportunity to choose from a wider variety of different types of leafy greens than your local nursery will offer. Starting from seeds also allows you to control what your greens are exposed to from the seed to your salad plate, no wondering about pesticides or preservatives. Since the plants are not meant to fully mature they can be planted closer together or in smaller containers. Choose a good quality potting mix for heartier plants and apply small amounts of fertilizer when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall and every two weeks or so after that to keep them robust.
Arugula, endive, radicchio, spinach, red and green leaf lettuce, red coral lettuce, kale, swiss chard in a rainbow of colors, mustard greens, garden cress, escarole, bean and alfalfa sprouts, parsley and a wide variety of herbs like chives and basil are some common favorites, but just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is available. Shop around and choose the things you know you love and leave room to try a few new as you discover them. Plant and harvest often to see how many flavors and colors you can try. Looking online and anywhere you wander that sells seeds will offer a treasure trove of choices.
Grandma always says to eat your greens so why not grow them right in the kitchen where you can pick a salad whenever the mood strikes? Plant a salad bowl garden that fits your style and caters to your tastes. You will soon be enjoying an easy and tasty harvest.