Growing salad in containers is a form of gardening most people can use in the city. The “cut and come again” system of growing a mix of salad leaves and picking the leaves while immature works indoors and outside. Growing in containers also protects the crop from slugs and snails and allows for moving crops into sunlight when necessary.
Starting salad outside is straightforward. Fill the container with heavier compost to the bottom (if available) and then an inch or two of good quality seedling compost on top. Drop seeds evenly across the surface and then cover with a light covering of compost. Mist spray the surface. The key to getting seeds started is to keep the surface damp (not wet) so spray regularly.
At this time of year it is useful to plant out salad in pots that will later be used for tomatoes and herbs (summer crops). These will produce results over the next 2 months and can be removed when the tomato plants are ready for planting. Some salad crops can remain with the tomatoes but it is important to ensure they do not compete over limited moisture.
Radish are the starter crop for every gardener. They are a good way to test out a growing area as they grow easily without any fuss. There are many varieties and produce good crisp additions to salads. Anyone new to gardening should start with a packet of radish seed.
Once the seeds have sprouted and the small plants emerged it is time to think about thinning out. There is no set rule for this and especially with “cut and come again” salad, the plants can be more closely planted as they do not grow to full maturity. In the picture above, about 25% can be removed. If done carefully they can be replanted elsewhere.
Growing salad in Brussels is a spring and autumn activity. The summer heat makes the plants bolt and go to seed and the leaves become tough. There are some heat tolerant varieties but generally the best results come from following nature’s rhythms and accepting these off-season food crops.