We’re two weeks away from the beginning of spring! Now is the perfect time to start thinking about what seeds you plan to sow outdoors for the spring garden. A firm staple in our garden are salad greens. They are incredibly easy to grow and are simply bursting with freshness and flavour. You can also harvest them as you need them, avoiding the waste that occurs when you purchase bagged salad greens from the supermarket and are unable to get through the whole packet before they are past their best before date. The salad greens which I will cover in this blog post can all conveniently be grown in containers, making them easy to care for and more accessible to the kitchen, if grown outdoors in the patio as we do. All we need to do is open the kitchen ranchslider door and voila, there are our salad greens! For each type of salad green, I’ll include some growing tips to help you out.
These are the fastest growing of all types of salad greens, making them perfect for new gardeners and children who can be impatient to see results. In three to four weeks, you should be harvesting your own fresh microgreens, which you can add to salads and other dishes.
I like to sow microgreens in foil roasting trays which can be purchased cheaply from the supermarket. Simply fill the tray with potting mix and sprinkle the seeds, then cover with a light layer of potting mix.
There is a huge range of greens which can be grown as a microgreen, but our favourites are cress and mizuna. As temperatures increase in late spring, you may find that your microgreens start going to seed, so enjoy them while they last.
Who hasn’t purchased baby spinach leaves in a bag from the supermarket at some point? The good news is that it’s possible to grow your own! The baby leaf variety isn’t common, but Egmont Seeds offer a variety called Teton (RRP $3) which is perfect for harvesting at a young stage. I’m trying this variety for the first time this year. Seeds can be sown directly into a container, then covered lightly with potting mix.
Try roasted veggies on a bed of baby spinach with some haloumi cheese. It’s delicious!
This slightly bitter, peppery green makes a great base for salads. One of our favourite salads is with rocket, pear, blue cheese and walnuts. Rocket can also be added on top of pizza for some greenery.
Rocket can be grown in the ground or in containers. Simply sow seeds directly where you want to grow them. There are many different types of rocket available. This year, I will be growing the variety Coltivata from Franchi seeds (RRP $7.50), which are distributed in New Zealand by the retailer Italian Seeds Pronto.
I only discovered this delicious, tasty salad green two years ago thanks to my gardening friend Minette Tonoli. Historically, miners lettuce was eaten by miners to prevent scurvy. I grow miners lettuce in the ground and sow seeds direct in spring. Mind you, I’ve only had to sow miners lettuce once, the first time I grew it, because it self-seeds freely and pops up by itself the following year. Be warned that it can be invasive, so make sure you grow it in an area where you don’t mind it reappearing in future seasons.
Like other salad greens, as the temperatures increase, miners lettuce will start going to seed.
Lambs lettuce is sometimes known as corn salad and makes a great green to have in the kitchen during spring. The leaves are very tender. The first time I grew lambs lettuce, I sowed the seeds in a seedling tray filled with potting mix and we harvested leaves directly from the tray!
This year, I’m growing two varieties of lambs lettuce from Franchi seeds: D' Olanda A Seme Grosso and Verte De Cambrai (RRP $7.50 each)
Mesclun is in fact a variety of different lettuces which can be harvested at a young stage. I usually sow mesclun in punnets with a little seed raising mix, then pot plants up into six-cell punnets or seedling trays filled with potting mix as the plants grow. Mesclun can be grown in containers or in garden beds. Simply harvest what you need and the plants should continue to grow.
This year, I’m sowing the variety Quattro Stagioni from Franchi seeds (RRP $7.50). I also recommend the variety Misticanza Di Lattughe, which I have grown successfully in previous years (RRP $7.50).
Cut and come again lettuce
These days, I only sow cut and come again lettuce, rather than single-headed varieties such as Iceberg, which require you to harvest the lettuce at once. We find that it’s hard to get through an entire lettuce before it starts to go bad, making it a waste. Sticking to cut and come varieties ensures that you harvest just what you need, allowing the plant to continue to grow. There is therefore no waste.
My favourite cut and come variety is called Degli Ortolani from Franchi seeds (RRP $7.50), which is a cos-type of lettuce. This can be grown both in the ground and in containers. I am also trying the variety Romana Bionda Lentissima a Montare, also from Franchi seeds, for the first time this year (RRP $7.50). This is another cos-type of lettuce, which is perfect for Caesar salads.
From Egmont Seeds, I am growing the variety Cut and Come Again (that is its name!) for the second year (RRP $3), as well as Drunken Woman (also its name, I kid you not!) (RRP $4). We enjoy red lettuce for some variety and as an alternative to its green counterpart, so I’m going to sow Red Fire as well, which I also grew last year ($3).