This summer, wouldn't it be wonderful to pick fresh salad ingredients out of your backyard? By growing your own salad garden, you can do just that!
Promote healthy eating in your home, enjoy the outdoors and bypass the produce department by planting a good-for-you salad garden of great greens and vibrant vegetables.
But before you grab your spade and start turning over the soil, you'll need to decide what to plant and where to plant it.
- Think small when it comes to choosing a spot to raise your radishes and cultivate your carrots, especially if this is your first attempt. Remember that the more manageable your garden is, the more fun you'll have spending time there.
- Look for an area that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight and has good soil drainage. If the only available section of your yard leaves puddles after a rain, build a raised bed over it by mounding up topsoil, compost, manure and other organic material.
- The traditional salad garden is rectangular with vegetables grown in rows. While this design makes the garden easy to weed, the layout isn't mandatory. A tiny area can be just as efficient when smaller seeds are planted in groups. And remember that large pots with drainage holes make terrific homes for tomato and pepper plants when space is scarce.
Plan What to Plant
A bit of planning goes a long way when choosing which veggies to grow. What would you like to plant? What does your family look for in a salad? How will things fit in your garden? Consider these questions, then head over to your local garden center.
Read various seed packages to see which seeds, if any, have the same soil and water requirements. Carrots and radishes, for instance, have similar soil needs, so they can be planted side by side.
As you pick the bounty from your garden, you'll want to replenish it so you'll continue to have fresh salad ingredients all summer. Plan to sow fast-growing cool-weather plants, such as leaf lettuce and radishes, early in spring, then reseed again later on to harvest a second crop.
You might want to plant several different kinds of lettuce in the same row or bed—that way you can easily serve a salad of "mixed greens."
To save some space, sow fast-growing items (lettuce or spinach) in between the slow-growers, such as tomatoes or peppers. You'll be able to harvest them well before the slow-growers start spreading out and maturing. Refer to the seed packages to help you plan accordingly and reseed as needed.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your salad garden:
Go for the greens. Spinach and lettuce are ideal additions to any salad garden. And you can plant these seeds early in spring, as both germinate well in cool weather.
Swiss chard is also a good choice. Able to withstand summer's high temperatures, it provides leafy greens long after spring spinach is gone. Plus, chard will usually continue to produce leaves if its center is kept intact.
Other key ingredients. Peppers and tomatoes are a natural choice for a salad garden. While you can start these plants indoors from seed (plan ahead, though, they take weeks to reach transplant size), you're likely to have better luck if you purchase young pepper and tomato plants from your garden center. Choose those with straight, sturdy stems. They should have several leaves but no blossoms.
Don't transplant them outside until the temperature remains at a minimum of 55°F and the threat of frost has passed in your area.
- Consider the classics. Carrots, onions and radishes are old favorites that can turn greens into sensational salads. And there are tasty twists on each of those standbys, so shop around for a fun new-to-you variety or two.