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How to Grow Salad Greens

How to Grow Salad Greens
Perfect for easy gourmet meals, salad greens are a mixture of colorful, flavorful lettuces and leafy greens that combine to make an excellent addition to your garden. With the right method of sowing you can enjoy these nutritious side dishes and full meals all summer long. It may take some practice, but the harvest will be worth the work as your table is graced with mescluns, argula, curly cress and other salad greens.

Since salad greens are picked at an immature stage for their tender flavor, these plants are wonderful for growing in containers. They also work in the vegetable patch with a little protection from your neighborhood critters, who also love the taste of salad greens. For a salad like no other, sow these seeds in your backyard and look forward to a bountiful, beautiful harvest.

Best Soil for Growing Salad Greens

Salad greens like some shade and will wilt and become stunted in the heat of full sun. Pick a corner of the garden that gets part shade or place a pot at least 4Ē deep in a partially sunny spot on the patio. Salad greens need a well drained soil but donít appreciate being dried out. Mix a generous amount of coconut fiber into the bed or pot and add compost for nutrients.

When to Plant Salad Greens

These seeds can take some cold so start them directly in the garden (or in the pot outside) 4 to 5 weeks before the last frost date. Usually in March gardeners start turning over the soil, adding the compost and sowing the first batch of salad green seeds. Sow every three weeks in a staggered pattern. If youíre using a container, donít overfill it. This will cause the entire crop to suffocate and youíll end up with nothing. Itís best to use a rotation of pots. Three or four should get you through the summer, rotating the planting as you harvest each batch fully.

How to Plant Salad Greens

There are two distinct ways to plant salad greens. The blend and scatter method is done by combining the various seeds of this group and scattering them across a patch or pot. The problem with this method is that slower growing varieties become overshadowed by the quicker ones.

Alternatively, you can keep the various seeds separate and sow in rows. They can be close together for convenience, but with rows you allow all of the different varieties a fair chance to thrive.

However you choose to spread the seeds, sow them loosely. Usually seeds are only spread onto the surface and lightly covered with soil. Firm them in after sowing. Again, donít overcrowd the area as it will lead to disappointment. Be sure to leave about ĹĒ between each seed and be light with the first batch until you get a feel for how much your pot or garden can hold.

Proper Care of Salad Greens

Keep the pot or garden well watered. Daily morning watering is ideal and you should keep water off of the foliage as the greens mature. Fertilizer is also important for steady, healthy growth. Use an organic fertilizer and apply one dose for each planting. If the growth seems slow you can add another dose after harvesting to beef up the soil for the next round of growth.

When to Harvest Salad Greens

Salad greens are harvested before they are completely mature. This ensures that the leaves will be tender and full of sweetness or tart flavor,depending on the variety. Watch for them to reach the optimum size. That will be different for each type of greens, but you can harvest everything for the first time once it has grown to a height of 3 to 4 inches. Youíre bound to have more of the fast growing varieties in the harvest, like argula, but for the next harvest the balance of the plants will catch up. You can expect to harvest again in 2 to 3 weeks.

How to Harvest Salad Greens

Salad greens can be cut off just 1 to 2Ē above the soil with sharp hand pruners or gardening scissors. Try to harvest in the morning when they are at their sweetest flavor and eat within one day. If you only need a few leaves, simply pick what you prefer and the rest will wait.

Common Pests and Diseases for Salad Greens

Slugs are a natural, common enemy of salad greens. You may catch a few with slug traps and a few more with handpicking. They generally emerge at night and after wet weather. Some gardeners scatter broken egg shells around the greens to discourage slugs and others plant marigolds as a natural pest repellant.

Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Salad Greens

Growing salad greens for the first time can be tricky, so be forgiving. Donít overseed and keep the soil watered evenly. Have a close eye out for pests like the slug as they will do significant damage to your greens patch in a short time. Be patient and if the harvest isnít all you thought it should be, try again. These plants take practice.

Once you get the hang of it however, growing salad greens provides a delicious addition to your fresh food menu, not to mention a beautiful, colorful sight in the garden.