Grow Your Own Salad Greens

Dawne Howard
Frederick County Master Gardener

As space and time become more valuable for us, we turn to the quick, easy and productive ways to garden. One of those ways is by growing edible plants in containers. The advantages of such gardening are:

  • Perfect for all types of people - children, folks with physical limitations, tenants, novices, and gardeners who want to cut back, downsize, and save time.
  • It is inexpensive to begin and few tools are needed since it requires no tillage or digging.
  • You can easily keep the container weed free, control insect damage, adjust the sunlight as necessary, and provide adequate water and nutrients.

Now that I have somewhat familiarized you with container gardening, let's focus on a container called a "Salad Box". Salad boxes are containers made from untreated lumber, hardware cloth and window screening.

The first step is to select the kind of plants you will put in your salad box garden. You can select from such plants as lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, land cress, endive, Chinese leaves, chives, garlic, and many varieties of herbs. It is necessary to select plants that will thrive and produce in small spaces. One crop to select will be lettuce, which is easy, fun, and colorful to grow. Lettuce dates back to 4500 BC and originated in Egypt. The Latin name is Lactuca Sativa. Lettuce is an annual and is planted from seed.

The next step will be to fill your salad box garden with a growing meduim. The soil-less mixture in which you grow your salad greens is very important. There are three functions of the rowing medium: First, it supplies the roots of the plants with water, air, and nutrients. Second, it allows the roots to grow quickly and third, it supplies the plants with physical support. Fill the salad box garden with 100% soil-less growing mediumn of half Pro-Mix and half Leafgro or compost. It will take approximately ten quarts of soil-less misture to fill the container. Do not use plain garden soil as it is too dense and contains weed seeds.

There are really no hard and fast rules about growing salad plants in containers except, they need plenty of water and nutrients. Fertilize the plants after the first two leaves appear and regularly there after to keep the plants growing and producing. Follow the directions on the label of the liquid fertilizer or use a slow release granular material.

The third step in our container garden will be planting the seeds. You can broadcast the seeds or sow in shallow furrows. Seed should germinate in 2-4 days. Lettuce seed requires cool temperatures to germinate and may become dormant when temps go above 68 degrees F. AS the weather gets really hot, avoid planting lettuce as it will bolt and become strong in taste. Instead, try other quick and shallow crops like radishes, kale, beets, and some herbs. So for the lettuce crop, you would want a planting schedule to be early March until early June, then a summer crop of something edible, and then again in September through November another crop of lettuce and other salad greens.

There are a few pests that are more plentiful in the summer and attack the salad greens. Examples include slugs, aphids, and cutworms. To eradicate these pests, you should simply remove them by hand or flush then away with water.

Salad boxes can provide a cyclical garden, continually planting and harvesting as time passes. Just think of how much fun it will be to clip a dish of fresh greens for your lunch ro dinner salad, especially from your own Salad Box garden located on your deck, balcony, porch, patio, or stoop.

Salad box gardening was introduced to the Frederick County Master Gardeners through a continuing education course led by Jon Traunfeld, Regional Specialist/Master Gardener Coordinator. For further information and detailed instructions about "Salad Box Gardens", visit the Home and Garden web site at at the University of Maryland. Refer to Fact Sheets HG #600 and HG #601.

Read other recipes from the garden

Read other articles by Dawne Howard

Disclaimer: Mention of specific products and companies does not constitute an endorsement
 by the University of MD or the Frederick County Master Gardeners.