Lettuce enjoy fresh salad
MOST salad plants are among the easiest to grow. We can even grow a huge selection in pots and tubs on balconies, pathways, steps or patios.
All they need is reasonable soil, a bit of care, regular watering and plenty of sunlight.
These simple plants are best eaten raw and it is among the simple pleasures of life to be able to pop outdoors to harvest a suitable variety to prepare a fresh, crunchy salad in a matter of minutes.
Luckily, most popular salad vegetables not only grow fast but are easy to prepare and because they are eaten raw remain crammed with vitamins and minerals.
Lettuces are a dream to grow. We can raise them from directly- sown seed or buy punnets of sturdy seedlings.
Avoid big, floppy- leaved seedlings because they are more likely to collapse when planted out during warm, sunny weather.
There is usually a choice of red, purple or Italian Oakleaf varieties for cut- and- comeagain harvesting.
These useful lettuce plants take up little space and are ready for a first picking in six weeks, then continue to provide non- stop supplies of leaves for at least another month.
For big, crunchy lettuces, grow a selection of tight- hearted crispheads such as Great Lakes or Red Mignonette which are harvested entire with a single cut.
Lettuces love soil enriched with highnitrogen fertilisers such as chook manure or diluted fish emulsion.
Plant seedlings about 200mm apart, preferably in late afternoon and by morning, most will have settled in.
Keep well- watered and boost growth with diluted fish emulsion. When approaching maturity keep well supplied with water.
Japanese turnips are unbelievably prolific. They are best grown from seed directly where they are to be harvested.
Tokyo Cross is crisp and tasty and matures in weeks. The seedlings appear in a few days and usually need thinning. Within a few weeks the white tasty roots can be plucked from the ground for delicious eating, whole or sliced.
Radishes are ideal for introducing children into growing food plants.
Allow even the little ones to sow some seeds because rewards come quickly as the plants are up and growing in days.
In less than a month most radishes are ready for lifting, washing and eating.
I love the wonderful Japanese Daikon the giant white radish.
They can grow half a metre long yet remain gloriously tender and sweet. All they need is good drainage, lots of water and a weekly feed with liquid manure.
Cabbages make great salads and luckily there are now many space- saving varieties designed to grow fast.
Worth trying are some of the small, compact, red cabbage hybrids. They are quickly raised from seed and seedlings transplanted about one- third of a metre apart in a rich, fertile soil.
In about 10 weeks the solid, beautifully-flavoured and colourful heads are ready for harvesting.
Asian cabbages such as Wong Bok Hybrid are ready for munching in about 60 days.
Celery is easily grown from seed, the trick being to keep the seedling- raising mix quite wet. I sit prepared punnets in a little water and the young seedlings come up like grass, ready for transplanting, six to a punnet.
In the garden, celery plants thrive in well-limed, enriched soils with constant watering. In fact the plants are almost impossible to overwater when growing celery.
I add diluted seaweed concentrate and fish emulsion every week and the speed of growth is incredible. However, the soil around celery plants must never be allowed to dry out as it causes them to immediately bolt uselessly to seed.
Spring onions can be grown as easily as lawn grass, best of all from directly- sown seed.
There are several varieties available, but those with bright red stems look brilliant in a salad.
I sprinkle a double- handful of dolomite limestone over a wide strip of soil half a metre long and rake it in.
I also mix three packets of spring onion seed into a jar containing a cup of dolomite, shake to mix, then sprinkle the lot over the prepared strip.
A thin layer of fine soil is enough to cover and the bed is then deeply watered. Within 10 days the ground erupts with closely- packed, spring onion seedlings. And they are ready to harvest in six to eight weeks.
These quick- grown vegetables are perfect for summer salads. All can be available for harvesting within a few metres of the dining table. What more could anyone want?