Grow Your Own Leafy Salads
Bags of mixed baby-leaf salads are a familiar sight in the supermarkets. But it’s easy to grow your own too, giving you a regular supply of fresh, succulent salad leaves. All you need is a pot, a packet of seed and a sunny or partially shaded spot on the patio.
You can buy mixed seeds of baby-leaf salad at most garden centres; some mixes are hot or spicy so ensure you choose a mix that suits your family. An alternative is to make your own mix from individual salad ingredients, or to grow several different ingredients in separate pots and mix when you harvest.
Try using a Cos lettuce (e.g. ‘Little Gem’) to provide the bulk, then add different colours and flavours such as the following:
Salad rocket – pungent and peppery, the more so the larger the leaves grow.
Mustards – hot and spicy, but mizuna and pak choi are milder versions.
Red lettuce (e.g. ‘Lollo Rossa’), red beet (‘Bull’s Blood’) or chard (e.g. ‘Bright Lights’). Red leaves add colour and contrast.
Endive or raddiccio – bitter, but much less so as baby leaves.
Coriander, chervil or sorrel – small quantities add an exotic finish.
Try to cut about 2.5cm above the compost surface, leaving the centre of the plant unscathed. Soon a new flush of young leaves will appear and you can repeat the process at least once and often twice. When the plants run out steam, remove half of the compost, replace the fresh compost and start all over again. Two pots sown a couple of weeks apart should provide a constant supply of fresh leaves.
How to Grow
Add a generous pinch of salad leaf seeds. Spread the seeds evenly and thinly. Cover with a sprinkle of compost and water well.
Stand outside in a semi-shaded spot until the seedlings start to appear. stand in full sun in spring or autumn, otherwise keep in semi-shade. Keep the compost moist but not too wet; water daily if necessary. when the leaves are 5cm-10cm hig, use scissors to cut as much as you need for a meal. Wash, drain and serve straight away.