Growing a Salad Garden
Though September is still hot, it is actually time to start planting the fall garden outdoors by seed. Cooler months are when leafy greens and root crops thrive. In other words, you can grow a salad garden! The great part about growing your own salad is that the produce may have a higher nutrient content since it can be eaten as it is harvested instead of sitting on shelves for a few days.
A salad garden can include a large variety of produce, and all can be grown from seed in September and October. The salad greens can include lettuce, cabbage, spinach, collard greens, kale, mustard greens and chard. Salad toppings that can be grown are onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, beets and turnips. If planting after October, it is recommended to use transplants for leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower. Root crops are always seeded outdoors, and many are ready in about a month! This means root crops can be continually reseeded after harvest for a continuous crop throughout fall and winter! Just follow the directions on the seed packets when planting and be sure to water in new seeds.
Many of the veggies that can be grown in the cooler months can actually be grown together in large containers, such as 5-gallon buckets. Experiment with combining a leafy green with a root vegetable, such as mustard greens or Romaine lettuce with radishes or turnips. One plant grows up while the other grows down, so there is much less competition for space.
Let’s talk about harvesting. For root vegetables, they can be pulled out and reseeded immediately. Grab the leaves near soil level and gently pull up the root to harvest. For leafy greens, there are a few ways to harvest. First, the greens can be harvested when the leaves are small and young, as microgreens. The leaves can be pulled off as needed, cut off at the base altogether, or pulled out of the ground completely. Second, as the leaves grow bigger, they can be harvested as needed starting with the outside leaves, leaving the inside ones to continue to grow. Lastly, the lettuce can be harvested as a whole head at maturity by cutting it off at the base to regrow. This allows for a second head of lettuce to grow later in the season.
Store harvested root vegetables in a bag in the refrigerator and only wash when ready to use. Leafy greens can be washed when harvested and stored in a sealed container with a damp paper towel to keep them crisp.
Enjoy growing your very own salad garden and happy planting!
Emily Anderson is the Garden Specialist for the North Texas Food Bank.