How to: grow salad greens for Christmas
I love ‘one ingredient from the garden’ in a meal. Whether it’s just herbs, or a salad, it feels as good as it tastes.
Christmas is the time to bring out the feel-good and the taste-good, so – what will the garden give me for Christmas?
Given it’s already November, what can I plant that’s fast?
Salad greens are the fastest food in the garden – and the baby leaves taste the best. Plant both seedlings and seeds, and you‘ll have salads not only for the Christmas table, but for Boxing Day ham sandwiches and January picnics too.
What to plant
The first question, when planning a garden, is ‘What do you like to eat?’
– Baby spinach is fast growing with a mild taste
– Red and green Mignonette is very Christmas
– Rocket picked young and fresh ( at 5-10 cm tall) tastes sweet and nutty, and gets ‘hot’ as it ages
– Cos lettuce needs time to form a ‘head’, it’s great over January/ February
– Rainbow chard makes a substantial salad. Pick young leaves or blanch them briefly.
– Radishes are fast, colourful and crunchy – a great surprise red root for kids to pull up!
Beautiful lettuce and basil seedlings at the market
Salad greens are the fastest food in the garden
Salad greens have large, soft leaves, so they taste best when grown fast with no time to get tough. To do this, they need water, rich soil and good sunshine.
Grow in pots or a bed near the house – a nice mild sunny spot you like to go so you’ll notice if they look floppy (a sure sign they need water.)
Soft leafy plants are also vulnerable to snails, so flick them off while you have your morning garden moment.
See also: Renaissance of the veggie garden
How to plant seedlings
Gently separate the seedlings, keeping as much soil on the roots as possible, and plant in a sunny spot with good soil. If you intend to eat them early, they can be just 10-15 cm apart, but ideally 20-30 cm is best.
I know it looks too spread out, but they do grow!
Water to settle the soil around the roots (add fertiliser or compost to the watering can if you’re feeling generous).
Then mulch, and mulch some more to keep the water in and the dirt off the leaves.
How to plant seeds
Generally, plant seeds as deep as their width. Salad green seeds are usually tiny, so just scatter them. (Rows are for things that’ll need a trellis or grow really big).
Scatter the seed and sprinkle with soil.
Water in gently – don’t wash the seeds away – and check the soil is damp until leaves sprout. Mulch will help prevent drying out.
Lots of crops
For a sustained harvest, plant some seedlings and seeds at the same time, then follow-up with another planting of seeds a few weeks later.
An app like The Garden Planner is great to track these kinds of tasks and reminders, look up what to plant when, and plan out a sustained harvest. It’s a great way to see when food will be ready (the thick bar) and ticking off the task reminders down the side help you get the garden habit.
Greens and herbs summer garden planting and task plan shown here in The Garden Planner iPad app
How to harvest
Many salad greens can harvest fresh leaves for weeks without killing the plant.
There’s an art, a feeling about picking enough leaves to eat, but not so many you kill the plant. It’s a kind of care. You can do it.
I take the soft small leaves from a medium sized plant, and leave a few big leaves around the outside to keep the plant growing.
Eventually cut the whole plant to make room for the next seedling coming through next to it.
Now you can search for salad recipes as well as me, but my favourite recipes just go with what’s fresh.
– Garden Greens, seafood and herbs is great.
– Apple, radish and almonds has crunch.
– Basil, tomatoes (maybe roasted?), asparagus with goats cheese is really substantial.
See www.thegardenplanner.net.au for more – and happy festive eating!
The Garden Planner tells you what to plant when in your area, and has smart task reminders connected to a beautiful weather service and plant database. It helps you sketch an accurate map of your garden, plan out your harvest over the seasons and offers great companion planting and crop rotation advice.
Article sourced from realestate.com by Leena Green: