Grow Your Own Salad Bowl – Part 2
|July 1, 2016||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Gardening, Healthy, Sustainable Home||
If you missed Part 1 of the series, you can find it here:
What Types Of Greens To Grow In Your Salad Bowl
You can grow just about any type of lettuce in your salad bowl. That being said, there are some varieties that lend themselves to ongoing growing and harvesting. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. The size of your bowl and how many bowls you want to have sitting around determine what type and how much lettuce you can grow. Or flip that around and figure out how much lettuce you want per week and then figure out how many bowls it will take to keep you from heading to the grocery store.
Or you can keep it simple and start with one planting bowl. See how you like growing your own lettuce on your kitchen counter or your patio. If you find you’re eating the green leaves as fast as they can grow, consider adding another bowl or two.
Let’s go back to what you can grow in fairly small containers indoors. Loose leaf lettuce is often your best bet when you want to be able to continually harvest greens for your salads. You can pick up seedlings at your local garden center and plant a few different varieties in your bowl. Or pick up a few different pack of seeds, divide the bowl into sections and sprinkle seeds from each variety in a different area of the bowl. Not only will using different varieties make it look pretty, each plant grows at slightly different rates and has different nutrients, helping you make the most out of your salad bowl.
Of course you’re not limited to just loose leaf lettuce. You can also grow spinach, green onions and various herbs in containers inside. Mix and match them in your bowls, or set up separate little containers to grow your favorite salad herbs in. If you have enough room, you can even grow some radishes to cut up and add to your salad.
Start with a few different varieties of loose leaf lettuce like oak leaf, butter oak, red sails, or the aptly named red salad bowl. Romaine lettuces also work well and will regrow after you cut the leaves. If you like a slightly peppery taste, don’t forget about arugula.
Mix and match varieties until you find a combination that grows well for you and you like to eat. Water your plants, fertilize occasionally with an organic fertilizer and refresh the soil every few month. If you harvest and replant on an ongoing basis, you may never run out of fresh lettuce for your kitchen table.
How To Get A Never-ending Supply Of Greens from Your Salad Bowls
We’ve talked a lot about growing lettuce in shallow bowls on your kitchen counter or on the patio out back. Now let’s focus on what you can do to create a never ending supply of greens from your indoor or container gardening efforts.
If you eat a lot of lettuce, you’ll need more than one salad bowl. To make sure you don’t end up with everything all at once, start your first bowl, plant it and let it grow for about two weeks. Then set up your next bowl. This way you have new growth and fresh lettuce ready for eating about two weeks apart. If needed add a third bowl a few weeks later.
Plant your lettuce from seed, or start with small plants from your local nursery. If you’re using seedlings, go ahead and get seeds as well. The idea is to continually have more lettuce plants coming up as you’re harvesting.
Loose leaf lettuce also has the advantage of putting out more growth if you carefully harvest the leaves. To harvest the leaves, wait until the outer leaves reach a length of two to three inches. Use scissors to carefully cut the leaves, then rinse them in cool water and spin them dry. They will keep in the fridge for several days. Wait 2 to 3 days before you cut the same plant again.
Work your way around the lettuce bowl, harvesting every couple of days, then move on to the second bowl and give the first a little extra time to recover. Make sure your plants thrive with plenty of sunshine, just the right amount of watering, and the occasional bit of fertilizer if needed to keep the plants growing strong.
As your plants start to grow bigger and crowd each other out, it may be advantageous to thin them. Harvest entire loose leaf lettuce plants to give the remaining plants in your bowls room to spread out. As you do this, take the time to throw in some seeds, or start fresh lettuce seedlings in a new container. Your main plants will continue to grow and produce more greens for you and your family.
Eventually the lettuce will start to bolt. You’ll notice that the middle part will grow taller and it starts to form flowering stalks. At this point your lettuce leaves will start to get tough and bitter. It’s time to harvest and remove these plants. If you’ve planted seeds in the bowl previously, you should have plenty of little lettuce plants coming up to take the place of the old ones. If you’ve been growing seedlings in the different container, now is the time to plant them in your main salad bowls provided they are large enough.
With a little bit of experience, you’ll get the timing down perfectly for your particular types of lettuce, the rate they grow, and how much you’re harvesting for the kitchen. It won’t take you long to figure out a rhythm that allows you to have a never ending supply of greens to enjoy.