20 tips for a top salad gar­den

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

Let­tuces and other salad greens are quick and easy to grow and, com­pared to other vegetables, they don’t take a lot of space.


Choose a warm shel­tered spot. Sun is im­por­tant but dur­ing sum­mer your let­tuces will thank you for a lit­tle af­ter­noon shade.


Avoid wet soil. This is eas­ily over­come by plant­ing in raised beds or con­tain­ers.


If plant­ing in con­tain­ers, choose the best qual­ity plant­ing mix you can af­ford and re­sist the temp­ta­tion to re­cy­cle last years pot­ting mix. Al­ter­na­tively, fill large con­tain­ers or raised gar­den beds with top qual­ity com­post.


If plant­ing in gar­den beds, dig in plenty of com­post to im­prove soil drainage and nu­tri­ent hold­ing ca­pac­ity.


A con­stant even sup­ply of mois­ture is needed for rapid healthy growth. If wa­ter is lim­it­ing, slow or er­ratic growth can re­sult in bit­ter tast­ing leaves or plants that bolt to seed.


Mulch with straw to con­serve mois­ture and block weed growth.


Wa­ter in the early morn­ing to avoid damp con­di­tions overnight (which can in­vite dis­ease). Wa­ter­ing in the hottest part of the day isn’t ideal as much of the wa­ter is lost to evap­o­ra­tion.


Let­tuces thrive with a fer­tiliser high in ni­tro­gen but they need

other nu­tri­ents too. Ap­ply gen­eral gar­den fer­tiliser two weeks af­ter plant­ing, or feed once a week with liq­uid fer­tiliser. For let­tuces in pots, com­bine slow re­lease fer­tiliser with liq­uid feed­ing. Be in to win Phostro­gen plant food (page 38).


When grow­ing let­tuces in gar­den soil, es­pe­cially where vegetables have been grown for many years, mix­ing gar­den lime into the soil prior to plant­ing helps cor­rect the soil pH and im­prove your plants’ abil­ity to ab­sorb nu­tri­ents.


Grow a wide range of va­ri­eties and try out some­thing new each sea­son so your sal­ads are never be bor­ing. The greener the leaf, the more vi­ta­mins and min­er­als it will con­tain! Plant a va­ri­ety of colours for ex­tra nu­tri­tional value. In­clude red let­tuce va­ri­eties, young beetroot leaves with bright red veins and ed­i­ble flow­ers such as yel­low cal­en­dula, blue bor­age and bright orange nas­tur­tium. Be in to win new Yates seed va­ri­eties (page 38).


For quick greens that are ready to pick in three to four weeks plant loose-leaf (‘cut and come again’) va­ri­eties, so you can take the outer leaves as plants grow. Plant some of the solid heart type of let­tuce (such as ‘Ice­berg’) to en­joy the sat­is­fac­tion of har­vest­ing a whole plant six to eight weeks af­ter plant­ing.


Mediter­ranean ‘Cos’ or ‘Ro­maine’ let­tuces com­bine the crunchy juici­ness of an ice­berg let­tuce with the nu­tri­tional value of a dark green let­tuce. Plus they are tol­er­ant of hot sum­mer con­di­tions. ‘Lit­tle Gem’ is a com­pact form of ‘Cos’ ideal for con­tainer grow­ing.


Grow­ing your let­tuces from seed ex­pands choice of in­ter­est­ing va­ri­eties. On the other hand, ready grown seedlings are a god­send this close to Christ­mas.


For a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply all sum­mer and au­tumn plant a fresh pun­net of salad greens every week­end or two. Or sow some seed the day you plant your seedlings.


Don’t for­get to ap­ply slug bait, es­pe­cially in rainy weather con­di­tions.


Reg­u­lar har­vest­ing of young leaves pro­motes con­tin­u­ous growth of loose-leaf let­tuces. The heart­ing va­ri­eties should be cut as soon as the hearts are firm, ideally in the morn­ing when plants are most crisp.


For best nu­tri­tion and flavour pick leaves fresh for each meal rather than stor­ing them in the fridge.


Don’t de­spair if your plants turn to seed in hot weather. En­joy their in­ter­est­ing shapes and the flow­ers that at­tract ben­e­fi­cial in­sects. Or col­lect your own seed to sow next sea­son.


Sow seed di­rectly into warm crumbly gar­den soil, or in trays of seed rais­ing mix for plant­ing out later (this is a good way to keep tiny seedlings free of weeds). Sprin­kle a fine layer of finely sieved soil or seed rais­ing mix be­fore wa­ter­ing gen­tly with the wa­ter­ing can. Keep the soil just moist un­til seeds have ger­mi­nated (7 to 10 days). Thin out seedlings to leave the strong­est.


Feed seedlings with liq­uid seaweed to re­duce trans­plant­ing shock and pro­mote strong root growth. Be in to win Tui Or­ganic Seaweed Tonic

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