Now that summer is here, I have had a yearning for salad, and for that one needs fresh vegetables, and fruits. The fresher the better. Quite frankly, the supermarkets “fresh” food section is at times a joke, with wilted lettuce, browning fruit and potatoes rotting from the inside out.
My solution: Grow my own Salad
Also a great way to save money. A packet or seeds/seedlings is around $5.00 and the produce you get from that would be multiplied by a factor of 10! This method can be used in a raised garden bed, pot or garden soil.
Step 1. In the garden: Dig a garden bed and enrich with decomposed compost if you have it, otherwise buy some manure from the garden shop and let sit for a few days. Turn over once a day to encourage nutrient release into the soil. If using a pot, choose a good quality potting mix. Raised bed can be made with newspapers and straw.
Step 2. Purchase some seeds of the salad ingredients. I chose beans, capsicum ( peppers ), Cos lettuce and tomatoes and parsley/basil/mint. These are the easiest to grow and are reasonably insect resistant. I also bought some whole green onions or shallots, with root intact. They can be planted straight in the garden and can be harvested within a few days to one week! Instant food, and renewable as one just cuts the tops off and leave them to keep growing.
Step 3. Drill a row into the soil about 5- 10 cm deep depending whether you have a seedling or a seed to plant. I like order in my garden, so that I can distinguish between week and newly erupted seedling, so I put all the same type of plants together. I do consider companion planting to help keep the pests at bay. Basil is great with tomatoes and nasturtiums can add colour, nutrients to the soil and deter pests. Place seedlings, or 2 -3 seeds in each hole/allocated spot allowing for a gap of about 20 cm between each.
Step 4. Cover roots with soil and press gently around the stem of the seedlings. Lightly mist with hose, or water moderately well. Don’t soak with water at this stage. Watering in the cool of the evening or early morning is preferable. Watering in the heat of the day sometimes results in burnt foliage (not a good look in the salad).
Step 5. With a good watering on a daily basis, you should start to see growth within days, and perhaps the eruption of the bean seeds. It is amazingly quick! You may have the odd death, but this is the reason why you put 2 or 3 seeds in each hole, so you can weed out the sickly plants and keep the stronger ones ( survival of the fittest!)
Step 6. Three weeks later, the Cos lettuce seedling will be thriving and can be harvested taking leaves from the outside first – then they will continue to grow from the centre and replenish themselves quickly after harvest.
It takes but a minute to harvest the cos lettuce (and tomatoes when they ripen) from the garden to make a simple side salad, add some parsley / basil / beans and you have a light lunch.
Tabouli is another salad I will look forward to making with mint ( which grows itself it is so hardy!) * tomatoes, parsley and onions.
* It is a good idea to put the mint in a separate large pot or garden as it has invasive roots and does tend to take over if you let it!
I will ponder about other potential plants to grow and eat whilst watering the garden tonight.