Get growing your own salad leaves

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Weather too cold for gardening? Itching to get the growing season underway? Then starting your seasonal salads nowis the answer.

Homegrown Salad Leaves

Last week, I attended Sarah’s fascinating  Grow, Cook, Eat day at Yeo Valley in aid of Horatio’s Garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit in Salisbury. I soon realised we had a favourite crop in common: plenty of different salad leaves, grown year-round. We’re approaching our favourites from slightly different angles.

During her talk Sarah showed how growing leaves like mizuna and red mustard provide the best return from a square metre of plot. Salads are simply the food my husband and I most like to eat – for us their productivity is a huge bonus. The weather so far this year hasn’t been encouraging and the days for eating salads may seem remote. However, now is the perfect time to start sowing salad leaves indoors. The days are nicely lengthening into summer, and seeds sown now will crop a couple of months ahead of those sown outdoors when the soil’s warmer. They don’t need much space either. I’m using part of a south facing windowsill and cell trays with 2 or 3 seeds per variety sown in each cell. I’ve sown lettuces (Black Seeded Simpson, Freckles and Merveille de Quatre Saisons), kale (Red Russian), land cress, corn salad (Vit) and spinach (Red Cardinal – for baby leaves only).

Once they’re putting on new leaves, then I’ll prick them out into individual pots. Don’t worry if the seedlings are a little leggy at this time of the year, the stems can be buried up to their leaves when pricking out. If you have a greenhouse, polytunnel or a quiet corner in a conservatory, then sowing beetroot, radishes, dill and coriander into gutter pipes filled with good quality compost is the way forward.  Mixed salad leaves can be given the gutter pipe or large pot treatment and I also sow a huge pot each of rocket (I prefer wild) and flat-leaved parsley.

Growing Salad Leaves Indoors

In the meantime, there are even earlier possibilities for your plate. A thick layer of peas sown in a tray of good compost will provide plenty of sweet tasting pea shoots in around 4 weeks.  If using a propagator, then the cover should be removed once the first shoot reaches the vent. Use last year’s left over pea or mangetout seed, or store cupboard marrowfat peas.

Alternatively, add a couple of handfuls of mung beans, chick peas or whole lentils to a jar, cover and soak them overnight, then wash and drain them well each morning and evening and they’ll provide a good portion in just a few days.

Easter is the traditional time to get growing. So why not start your salad this week, whatever the weather?

This post came from Michelle, who hosts The 52 Week Salad Challenge on her blog, Veg Plotting.

Thanks for reading!