Baby salad greens, sold at premium prices at
supermarkets, are among the easiest of all edibles to grow in
the home garden. And, harvested fresh from the garden, they hold
their quality in the refrigerator much longer than purchased
Outside Your Doorstep
Imagine having a garden of mixed greens just a few steps
from the kitchen. For weeks on end, you would have the
means to throw together beautiful and healthful
salads—effortlessly. There’s no question that homegrown
greens are far superior to anything that is harvested,
processed, and shipped from afar. Readily available
packaged seeds for “mesclun greens” (the French term for
salad mixes) make growing this type of salad garden a
simple matter. Some seed companies call their mixes
gourmet salad blends, or mixed greens. Buying packs of
pre-mixed seeds is one way to start a salad garden.
There are other options as well.
Once upon a time, everyone bought
iceberg lettuce. Summer and winter, this mild and
crunchy green was the main ingredient in salads. After a
time, leaf lettuces, and tall heads of dark green
romaine began challenging iceberg for space on
supermarket shelves. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that
packaged greens—triple-washed and salad-ready—appeared,
as if by magic. Suddenly, sales of bagged spring mixes,
baby spinach, arugula, and the rest grew exponentially.
Convenience had created a new market. Gardeners
everywhere smiled and thought, “We can grow our own.”
And so they did.
Packaged seed mixes are available for every taste preference:
mild, colorful all-lettuce blends; tangy mixes of mustards and
chicories; classic combinations of herbs and salad greens. You
can also choose warm or cool weather mixes, based on growing
conditions. Some gardeners prefer to grow their favorite
ingredients in separate patches (or pots), and mix them in the
salad bowl. Popular salad mix ingredients include:
Lettuces: Choose leaf rather than heading varieties.
Arugula: Tender baby leaves can be harvested in as little as
Mustard greens (including Mizuna): Leaves are fast growing,
heat-tolerant, and tasty. Some are frilly.
Kale: Baby kale leaves are sweet and tasty.
Swiss Chard: Leaves take several weeks to reach harvestable
size (longer than lettuce and arugula) but can be cut
repeatedly throughout the hot summer months. Fast-growing
mizuna adds texture to salads
Curly Cress: Peppery, textured leaves grow quickly.
Herbs: Cilantro and Chervil are two options.
How to Grow
Start with a well-prepared seedbed or use a half-barrel or a
15 to 18 inch planter filled with good potting soil. The
soil should be moist but not soggy.
Add compost to help maintain consistent soil moisture—which
will lead to better results.
Sprinkle your seed mix over the soil surface. Your aim is to
have the seeds fall about ½ to 1 inch apart. If you are
using a container, cover the entire surface with seed. In a
garden bed, sprinkle the seed in wide rows of about 8
inches. If you prefer to grow ingredients separately, plant
a short row of each selected seed type.
Cover the seedbed with no more than ¼ inch of soil, and
water with a gentle sprinkle. The water should fall like a
If you (like most gardeners) fear that rabbits, cats, birds,
or other animals might disturb your seedbed, cover it with a
lightweight floating row cover. The cover deters most pests,
and can remain in place until harvest time.
Keep the bed evenly moist by sprinkling every day or two, as
Harvest, and Harvest Again
In about four weeks, or in some cases sooner, greens will be
about 4 to 5 inches tall. It’s time to make your first cutting.
Hold a cluster of plant tops in one hand, while cutting the
leaves about ½ inch above the soil with a sharp knife or
scissors. Be sure to leave the growing tips intact. The plants
will begin to grow new leaves almost immediately, and reach
cutting height again in two weeks or less. You can expect to get
up to four cuttings from a single planting.
Repeat, and Repeat Again
Plant a new bed every two weeks, and you will have fresh baby
greens for as long as the weather remains relatively cool. When
the soil becomes too warm, germination will be spotty. This is
your cue to take a break until days become a little cooler.
Start the routine again in late summer for a few more weeks of
wonderful salads. In mild-weather regions, mixed greens can be
grown through the winter!
Garden Seed Association (HGSA) |
P.O. Box 93, Maxwell, CA 95955 |
Phone (530) 438-2126 |