The Kitchen Garden: Salad Leaf
It is definitely a time for salads, certainly in the UK. Salad leaf with the right conditions can be extended through much of the year. From growing out-doors in the ground, a polytunnel or green house, to growing micro-greens on a window ledge. There are also cloches and weather protective fleece, tunnels and equipment one can purchase to lengthen cropping time. Salad leaf is also excellent to grow in containers and can be grown as Cut & Come Again crops.
Many leafy vegetables will produce young growth as you pick them, especially when picked on a regular basis. The more you pick the quicker many re-grow. With this method one also gets lots of baby, fine and tender leaf to eat. A salad bowl with baby leaf always looks good. As salads are often a combination of various, sometime quite diverse leaf the baby leaf is more tender with a quieter flavor. Whereas certain leaf such as rocket or oriental greens can be extremely hot and over powering.
Salad leaf are very easy to grow, certain ones are more susceptible to attack by slugs and snail. Some coarser leaf or hot tasting leaf they leave alone.
Spinach Baby, Spinach Tirza, Perpetual Spinach & Winter Purslane with flowerhead
Where to Grow List:
- Window sill in plastic trays or any light space
- In sprouting trays
- In a conservatory or even a loft room which has a window
- In a mini polytunnel or mini greenhouse which is installed against an outside wall or boundary. These are often quite slim to fit in a small space or garden and generally covered with plastic over a metal frame. One often sees them for sale as suitable for tomatoes, yet you can also grow other crops in them too
- Containers on the patio, balcony, roof terrace, window sill
- Window boxes
- Vertical growing systems
- In a moisture rich, raised bed, where you can protect from slugs around the structure
- In the green house or polytunnel, ideal to extend the season into cooler months
- A vegetable patch you create in your garden amongst the existing planting
- At school, college or community centre or your local church garden
- Within communal gardens, creating a designated space for food crops
- In almost any type of container, timber box that creatively comes to mind
- A neighbor’s garden. Perhaps you have no access to a garden yet a neighbor needs some help to maintain their garden. May be you could trade some space. This may even be someone elderly who in the past did grow vegetables!
- On an allotment such as I do
Many salad and leaf crop like a moisture retentive soil, compost or mix of medium. Watering ill have an effect on the cropping length of many, as certain leafy plants will bolt (go to seed) in dry conditions. Especially when the temperature heats up. I presently have a lettuce patch and all of them are ready to harvest now, otherwise they will all bolt. With this in mind sowing small rows and identifiable patches or areas is a great element to plan into your leaf growing. A small row which can be extended in a few weeks. So every 2 weeks you are sowing fresh seed. This takes a little practice and can be greatly affected by temperature yet it is worth implementing into your scheme.
Make sure your growing space is easily accessed to water and that it is not surrounded to closely by dense shrubbery or planting. You want to be able to access larger areas within the garden. And you also want to protect the crops from slugs and snails. Which are very good a hiding in shrubbery. A good practice is to check your leafy salads for slugs and snail. Of course you can also use environmentally slug deterrents.
The location is best in an open location, this does not need to be in full sun as many leaf would actually prefer some light shade. Make sure the soil is weed free. Sow seed lightly in rows, patches or broadcast in specific areas which you have identified. So that when seedlings emerge you will know what they are. Label each if you like to be organized. This is also a good way to log what is successful and what less so. What you enjoyed eating in your salads and what may be was not so tasty.
Read the seed packet to check on growing and sowing conditions, sowing, harvest times and ideal windows of opportunity for all.
Cover the seeds with a light layer of fine soil or compost, water with a fine rose and maintain watering as they germinate until harvest.
Loose Leaf Lettuce, Lettuce, Basil, Parsley, Spinach
Salad Leaf to grow:
Lettuce Types: Cos, cabbage head, loose leaf, stem lettuce
These cover anything from; Little gem, webs wonder & iceberg, butterhead lettuce, lollo varieties, salad bowl varieties. The list of varieties is extensive for you choose from. Varieties for spring through to winter can be found to sow
- Chicory; Red & green varieties
- Brassica: Kales & cabbages. For the young leaf & also matured plants
- Oriental Leaf & Brassicas; Such as the Chinese cabbages including the solid head & loose head varieties
- Leafy mustard
- Spinaches, swiss chard, sorrel, herb patience, good king henry, orach, Leaf amaranthus.
- Mild leaf taste; Alfalfa, cornsalad, iceplant, purslane, claytonia, sunflower greens
- Sharper leaf; Winter cress, coriander, fenugreek, shungiku, dandelion, watercress, mustard cress,
- Rocket, parsley, micro-greens
This list is not exhaustive and seed companies are creating new mixes and varieties, so I am sure you will find many seeds not listed here.
Yet it is a good place to start.
Enjoy your salad leaf gardening.
All Photographs © Laara Copley-Smith at Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design. All rights reserved.
Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.
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