How much do you like to eat salad – and not just iceberg lettuce, but fancy kinds like romaine, endive, butterhead and mustard greens? How much do you hate buying expensive bags of salad at the store? And how often does the bag start to get wilty before you can eat all of it? It’s time to consider growing your own!
Lettuce is an easy crop to grow. The main factors, especially in a climate like ours, are shade and moisture. If you grow it in a spot that gets 3-6 hours of sun a day, it should do pretty well. If you want to grow it in a full sun area, it will require lots of water. The first year I grew lettuce, I grew it right next to my tomatoes and cucumbers in my garden bed that gets 8+ hours of sun. It did really well (and got very big) since it got watered along with our lawn, and eventually bolted (went to seed)!
Any container deeper than 6 inches is great for growing salad greens. Last year, we built this salad table to grow ours in and its doing very well sitting in partial shade. Since the soil is shallow, I water everyday by hand. Get creative! I’ve seen pictures of a little red wagon with salad in it! Wine boxes, plastic pots, just about anything will do.
The variety available is overwhelming. Generally, they can be categorized into two types: head and looseleaf. Head lettuce includes things like butter crunch and radiccio; looseleaf includes romaine, mizuna and oakleaf. I recommend trying both kinds. If you buy seeds or small starter plants at a store, you may see what is called “mesclun” which means that several kinds of looseleaf lettuces are mixed together.
As head lettuces grow, their outer leaves can be trimmed and used for salads. Eventually the head will start to form and once its the size you want, dig it up! Looseleaf varieties continuously sprout new leaves and can be cut regularly to make a tasty meal or used in sandwiches.
Yet more variety can be had if you try other greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and bok choi! Go get some seeds and get started. I think you’ll be glad you gave salad greens a try.