You know you should eat leafy greens, which is why you routinely add a bag o' salad to your shopping cart. But really, nothing beats fresh salad greens. Fortunately, growing your own lettuce, spinach or radishes is easy to do, even if you live in a small space. It’s also a great project for children to teach them how plants grow and where food comes from.
Where to plant
To start, you’ll need a bright sunny window. Usually an east or south-facing window will give you the good six or more hours of sun needed for most greens. Think about where your heating vents are placed. Most plants prefer to be away from vents as they blow drying air on their pots, which can dry out tender roots and foliage.
What to plant
Pick out your seeds or transplants. I prefer to grow salad greens from seed as they germinate within about a week and I can get more bang for my buck. As you are choosing types of plants, remember what your family prefers to eat. I like to do a mix of peppery varieties, sweet lettuce and a few with red leaves to add color. Radishes go in a separate pot for easy snacking. Radish greens can add a wonderful zing to salads, too.
Pick a container
Crops do best when their roots have plenty of room, so a deeper container is usually best. Be creative! A square of burlap over a colander makes a great salad bowl that can be featured as a centerpiece. Use new potting soil to fill your containers. A soil with slow release fertilizer ensures your plants will have the nutrients they need.
Grow plants, grow!
It's time to plant! Read the directions on the package of seeds for planting depth and spacing. You can crowd your pot if you plan on using the plants as micro-greens. Space out a bit more if you plan to let them mature. Thin out seedlings to provide enough room for roots.
Keep the pot evenly moist, but not sopping wet. As your plants grow, you may choose to use the whole plant or harvest just a few leaves. Pick leaves from the base, leaving a few to keep the plant going. You may also pinch back the first or second set of leaves of leggy lettuce to keep it more compact.
Reaping the rewards
As you harvest your greens, you can keep adding seed to stretch out your crop. Lettuce and spinach are cool-weather crops, so they may bolt or become bitter when temperatures rise. The good news is you can start a fresh batch around Labor Day for fall salads.