Growing your own greens for Summer Salads
Romaine, buttercrunch and iceberg lettuce, arugula, baby spinach leaves, or even a robust and crunchy bunch of baby kale leaves – all of these delectable greens provide a delicious base for a nutritious summer salad. Salad greens are easy to grow and are all staples of a healthy diet. They are easy to grow and do well in raised beds, an in-ground garden, and containers. Interested in growing your own salad greens this year? Here are some tips for growing your best salad garden ever!
Selecting Salad Greens to Grow
When it comes to choosing salad greens to grow in your garden, there are hundreds to choose from and most can be grown just about anywhere as long as they have enough nutrient rich soil. Here is a look at some of the most popular salad greens to include in your garden:
Romaine – Romaine lettuce is a robust leafy green that is popular among salad lovers due to its crunchy texture and light flavor. Romaine is heat tolerant so it can be grown easily in many different climates.
Butter Lettuce – Noted as one of the most delectable varieties of leafy greens, butter lettuce has a light and soft texture that is sweet on the palette. It is nutritionally dense and is favored among those who want to a light and luxurious salad.
Mustard Greens – Mustard greens pack a punch when it comes to flavor. They are slightly bitter and offer peppery undertones to any salad. Mustard greens can be served up in warm or cold salads and are among the healthiest salad greens you can eat.
Arugula – Arugula is a deceptively dainty leafy green that also has a peppery taste when eaten. Arugula is part of the kale family and offers many health benefits that include preventing diabetes and some forms of cancer. Use arugula sparingly in your salads as it is a tangy.
Napa Cabbage – Napa cabbage originates in eastern Asia but can be successfully grown in cooler climates just about anywhere. It is a popular ingredient in Asian stir-fries, but it can also be chopped up and added to a cold salad.
Iceberg Lettuce – A classic salad favorite, iceberg lettuce is also known simply as head lettuce and it features a light and sweet flavor. Iceberg lettuce grows well in cool climates and can be served up as a wedge salad or shredded up and mixed in with other salad greens.
Kale – Regarded as the most nutritious of all salad greens, kale is a true superstar when it comes to superfoods! The leaves are dark and dense, which makes it a perfect component of salad for those who want a salad green that is hardy. Kale also holds up well when heated, so you can add it to soups to take advantage of its nutrients even more.
Spinach – Spinach is also considered to be a nutrient rich superfood and grows very fast in home gardens. You can start harvesting spinach leaves from your plants when they are young (baby spinach) or wait until they mature and become dense. Spinach can be grown throughout most of the year so it is a must for any salad garden.
Preventing Leggy Greens
Have you ever started seedlings only for them to grow into a long leggy mess? This happens when your greens do not receive enough sunlight when they sprout. Plants need sunlight as part of the photosynthesis process so they can make the food they need to grow. When your seeds emerge from the soil and do not have enough sunlight, they will reach up further in an effort to get it. Avoid this by waiting until it is warm enough to plant them outside or start them inside a greenhouse that gets plenty of light. If your green house is a little dark and dreary, you can install grow lights to give your plants a boost.
Leggy seedlings have weak center stems and will not flourish like they would if they had proper sunlight from the start. The easiest way to test for sufficient light is to plant a couple of seeds in your garden or in starter pots and see what happens when they emerge. If leaves form low near the base of the soil, then you can feel confident that they are getting adequate sunlight and you can proceed to plant the rest of your salad garden.
Grow in Containers or Raised Beds
To best protect your salad garden, grow your veggies in a raised bed or in containers, as opposed to straight in the ground, so you can better protect your greens from insects and wildlife who love salad as much as you do. Slugs also love eating through salad greens so you can protect against them by spreading OMRI approved slug bait, such as Sluggo, around your garden. You can also put a dish of beer near your garden to draw slugs’ attention to that instead of your garden.
Don’t have a greenhouse and want to prolong the growing season of your salad greens? No problem! Invest in row covers or raised bed covers to protect your salad greens and provide them with a climate-controlled environment. Garden covers come in an assortment of shapes and sizes and are usually constructed of plastic sheeting and metal or PVC frames. Depending on the weather situation you are dealing with, you can purchase covers that protect from excessive heat, cold, or both.
Salad Greens Can Be Grown Together
Is your garden a little low on space or are you doing some patio gardening? The great thing about salad greens is that they grow well together in the same space. Feel free to plant your leafy greens in the same container or same raised bed. Be careful not to overcrowd your garden space though because the bottom leaves can become soggy and rot if they aren’t able to air out after being watered.
Salad greens can be harvested as you need them as opposed to being pulled from the garden all at once. Leafy greens are always at their peak of freshness at the moment you pull them from the plant, so harvesting only what you need when you need it ensures your salads are always fresh, nutrient rich, and delicious. Harvesting your salad greens on an as-needed basis also prolongs your growing season and prevents waste.
Eat Your Microgreens while thinning your garden
Many gardeners will tell you to plant a few seeds in the same spot as some seeds will never start. This means that you will need to eventually do some thinning once your plants sprout from the soil. When it comes to plant thinning, think survival of the fittest! Keep the bigger and healthier seedlings and pull the weaker ones from the ground. Microgreens are just sprouted baby plants and they are packed with nutrients. While thinning your salad green plant, snack on the microgreens you pull out of the ground…and enjoy!