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Grow Your Own Salad Bowl, Part 1

Fresh vegetarian salad with tomato, basil, onion and cheese

Fresh vegetarian salad with tomato, basil, onion and cheese

3 Reasons To Grow Your Own Salad

Salads make great summer meals and are a tasty addition to your lunchbox or dinner table any time of the year. They make the perfect light meal and you know you should be getting more leafy greens in your diet. Why not start growing your own lettuce, have a steady fresh supply of greens at your fingertips, and make your own salad bowl. It’s a lot easier than you think and there are some very good reasons why you should grow your own salad.

It Tastes Better

Let’s start with the obvious one first. Homegrown salad just plain tastes better. It is fresh, it has been grown in good soil, and it hasn’t been washed, sprayed, and processed days before it makes it on your plate.

If you haven’t had fresh, homegrown lettuce before, you’re in for a treat. If you need a little more convincing get your hands on some fresh lettuce from a gardening friend or your local farmers market. You’ll be ready to grow your own after the first bite.

You Control The Quality And Variety

One of the best parts of growing your own produce is that you control what goes in the soil and the plants. And you get to pick what varieties you want to grow. That means you have a lot more options than what your local grocer offers.

Grocery store produce varieties are grown for easy and uniform growth and longer shelf-life. Flavor and nutrition aren’t the main concerns. The opposite is true when you grow your own. You can pick varieties that taste amazing, but may not last more than a few hours in the fridge after you harvest them.

It’s Healthier

Last but not least, your home-grown salad will be a lot healthier. Nutrients quickly start to deteriorate after produce is harvested. When you grow your own, you can go from soil to table in less than an hour. It doesn’t get any fresher than that, which means you get more of the vitamins in your food.

Plus since you control the soil, the additives, and anything that happens to the plans while they grow, you can limit your exposure to pesticides, insecticides and the likes. When you grow organic, you know it actually is organic.

No Room For A Garden? Grow Your Salad Indoors

So you’re interested in giving this salad gardening a try. But maybe you don’t have a lot of space outside for a garden, or you’re just not that interested in digging up a big chunk of your lawn. The good news is you don’t have to. It doesn’t take a lot of space or soil to grow your own lettuce and you can do it inside, on your kitchen counter or in a sunny window.

The nice thing about lettuce is that most varieties don’t need a lot of space or soil to grow and they grow fairly fast. Lettuce also tends to grow well in temperatures that we’re most comfortable at in the house. As long as you find a nice sunny spot for your lettuce it will do well.

One of the simplest ways to start if you just want to try this out is to cut of the ends of your romaine lettuce from the store and sit them in a cup or container with a little water. Leave it in there for about a week or until you start to see new green growth coming from the cut end, and roots forming at the bottom. Once those roots are about an inch or two long, plant your new lettuce plant into a bowl or small pot filled with potting soil. Keep it watered and in a sunny window and watch your lettuce grow. You can cut and regrow more lettuce several times.

Another fun option is to get lettuce seedlings at your local home and garden center. They will usually keep them stocked in the spring and depending on your local growing season again in late summer or early fall. Again, just grab a pot or an old bowl, fill it with good potting soil and plant your lettuce. It won’t take long before it grows enough that you can start to harvest.

Last but not least, you can grow any lettuce variety from seed. Take a look at the seed packets your local garden center has available year round, or order them online. Pay attention to germination time (and temperature), and how long it will take your lettuce to grow to maturity.

It is also helpful to know if you can continually harvest your lettuce varieties or if you should let it grow to maturity, harvest, and then replant. Start with something that’s easy to grow and take care of, then branch out from there.

Once you see those first few harvests and get a chance to eat your own salad, you’ll be ready to expand your lettuce bowl collection.

The Salad Bowl Explained

Grow Your Own Salad Bowl Young Greens

Let’s talk about salad bowls. No, I’m not talking about the glass or wooden bowl sitting in your kitchen cabinet that you serve lettuce in. I’m talking about bowls or pots that you can grow your own lettuce in.

You can repurpose an old traditional salad bowl to grow your lettuce in. Glass bowls don’t work as well since it’s impossible to add drainage holes in the bottom. Your wooden bowls should work well though as do ceramic planter bowls or even pots you’re no longer using for potted plants.

Some other ideas for containers are disposable plastic containers, plastic milk jug cut in half, an old colander, or that plastic box your last salad (or grapes or strawberries) came in from the store.

The basic idea is simple. You get a bowl or pot, fill it with potting soil, and plant your salad and salad fixings. A salad or lettuce bowl can include several different varieties of lettuce and a few of your favorite herbs. Or you can divide everything up in several different containers and grow a small tomato plant and a few green onions as well. Mix and match as you see fit, depending on what you like to eat.

That’s the fun of growing your own food. You can try different varieties and combinations until you come up with the one that works best for you. Along the way, you get to sample and try different varieties of lettuce your local market doesn’t offer. There’s so much more than iceberg lettuce and spinach out there.

Salad bowls are small and compact way to give gardening a try. They are also an excellent tool to help teach your children about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Get the little ones involved in planting and caring for the lettuce plants. Not only is it a great learning experience, it’s also a wonderful way to get them to eat more greens. After all, they’ve grown this lettuce.

Lettuce plants don’t have very deep roots, which is why shallow bowls work perfectly for planting them indoors. And since it won’t get super-hot – even in a sunny window- you don’t need a large amount of soil to retain moisture. In other words, shallow bowls are a great way to grow a large amount of lettuce in little space or soil.

To get started, get a nice shallow planting bowl and a bag of quality potting soil that includes a slow release fertilizer appropriate for vegetables. Or if you’re composting already, well-aged compost would make a rich organic way to fertilize your lettuce. Get them started, watch them grow and harvest once they grow to maturity. Last but not least, eat and enjoy!

 

Grow Your Own Salad Bowl, Part 2 – Coming Soon.  What kinds of greens to grow and how to create a never-ending supply of salad for your bowl!

You’re probably a visual person like I am. Check out my short review for this easy-to-follow reference book  “Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening”.