There are so many reasons to grow your own vegetables from seed, and having a variety of wonderful salad greens to choose from in your own back yard is one of the main reasons I grow my own.
The basis for any decent salad is a handful of decent greens. A pile of white, tasteless iceberg lettuce just isn’t going to cut it, especially when there are so many amazing, flavourful and more healthy options available. The best part of growing your own salad greens is that you can choose from the many varieties available from seed companies and provide your friends and your family members with delicious, unique salads they’ll be talking about all summer long. Many companies sell packets of seed blends so what you’re sowing isn’t one type of salad green, but a mix of several different plants that go great together in a salad. This year I’m growing Renee’s Garden’s “Wine Country Mesclun.”
In my own garden, I’ve grown several different kinds of leaf lettuce, spinach, cabbage, mustard greens and arugula. You can also throw other herbs and leaves from plants like baby beets into salads. Beet tops are one of my all-time favourite greens to throw into a salad. Young leaves from swiss chard or kale are also excellent in salads. I like to grow plants that have different textured and coloured leaves to make my salads more interesting and beautiful to look at and eat.
Lettuce is considered a cool weather crop, so if you live in a hot area, you may already be beyond the timeframe for keeping lettuce growing outdoors. You could, however, grow it indoors with the help of an indoor seed-starting system. I live in Southern Ontario, and this is the perfect time to start growing greens right outdoors in a traditional vegetable garden or in a container.
Simply follow the directions on the seed packet for sowing. Harvest leaves from the plants when they look, well, good enough to eat!
The seed packet will tell you approximately how long it will be before the plants are mature enough for harvesting, as well as some basic care information.
Some lettuce types are called “cut and come again”, which means you can continually harvest individual leaves from the plant and new leaves will continue to grow in their place.
Some varieties I recommend for beginner and experienced gardeners alike are:
- A nutty-flavoured green such as Arugula, Eruca species.
- A beautiful red-leaf lettuce, such as Rouge d’Hiver Leaf lettuce
- An heirloom green-leaf lettuce such as Black Seeded Simpson lettuce
The leaves of arugula are wonderful tucked into a sandwich or wrap as well as tossed in a salad. You can also make an arugula pesto!
Arugula growing under the cover of a floating greenhouse I use sometimes.
Rouge d’Hiver lettuce growing in my garden.
Black-seeded Simpson lettuce growing in my garden.
The next post in this series will focus on growing root vegetables such as radishes, beets and carrots.
Feeling a little bit like you’ve missed a step somewhere?
Take a look at the two posts leading up to this series: