Salad days

how to grow salad greens in small spaces

Mix your own seeds, soil and water and watch salad greens spring from even the tiniest of outdoor spaces.

Growing salad greens and vegetables in containers is the easiest way to produce your own food – and avoid supermarket queues. Imagine, instead of buying plastic-wrapped transported lettuce from the supermarket, having an abundant supply of fresh, organic salad leaves right at your back door.

There’s no need to wait until you have a large garden before you try growing your own ingredients. Salad vegetables are easily cultivated in tubs of rich, composted soil with plenty of water-saving crystals.

Growing edible greens on a balcony or window sill is a cinch in climates that aren’t too hot or humid. Most lettuce varieties grow well in rich soils that aren’t acidic, with red leaf varieties tolerating the heat better than iceberg, which tends to wilt in harsh sun. Salad greens need around six hours of not-too-strong sun each day to grow well.

Snails and slugs love munching on baby lettuces, so it’s worth laying beer traps in among the salad greens if you want to grow them to adulthood. You can also go out at night and play ‘stomp on snails’ if you like your pest control to be brutal.

Cultivating lettuce from seed isn’t as hard as most non-gardening types imagine. A devoted gardener would grow the seeds in a greenhouse or seedling box and then plant them out in neatly spaced rows, 10 cm apart. But simply sprinkling a pot of rich soil with lettuce seeds, covering the pot with plastic wrap and watering well until germination should also work.

You can harvest lettuce leaf-by-leaf as you need it, or chop it from the base to consume the entire head at once. Fast-growing varieties like rocket should be picked often to encourage new, young growth. The leaves are best picked young, when they are tender.

Salad varieties to try planting from seed

Rocket, romaine or cos, iceberg, oakleaf, butterhead, mignonette, chicory, endive, English spinach, mesclun mix.

Top tip for growing your own greens:

Container gardening lowers food miles and prevents transport emissions from entering the atmosphere.


This article was first published in G magazine.