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Grow your own salad leaf mix

growing salad in boxes

Imagine being able to pick your own fresh salad - fresh, unchlorinated, tasty leaves - within 8 weeks. Without a garden, without masses of space, without great investment.

Salad leaves are one of the simplest things to grow, they are undemanding, expensive to buy and crop for ages - but like many simple things we seem to be put off by how easy it looks, as though there was a catch somewhere.

This is my 4 step process.

1. Find a suitable container/patch of ground.

Your container should be at least 10 cm deep, it should have holes in the base of drainage - things I have used successfully in the past are polystyrene fish boxes, mushroom boxes, crates (line with plastic and make holes through the plastic), compost bags (turn on side, cut the front of the bag completely off and use a skewer to pierce through the compost right through the plastic so there are drainage holes) as well as more conventional decorative pots.

Fill your container with peat free compost and water it well, leaving to drain.

If you have a garden, your ground should be free of weeds and raked so that the soil resembles crumble topping.

2. Choose and sow your seeds.

The fastest and tastiest baby leaves are mibuna, mizuna, rocket, mustards, spinach, and salad bowl type lettuces - these are all plants that are happy for you to pick a few leaves at a time, they will keep growing, giving you a much better harvest than if you were picking the whole plant at once.

Pour a bit of seed into the palm of your hand, each of those seeds is a plant. Each seed will grow into a plant that is eventually 8-10 cm square when fully mature. The most common mistake people make is sowing seeds too generously - because the correct spacing looks really miserly. What then happens is that too many seeds germinate, they get crowded and the plants grow really weakly. It is also a waste of seeds and money.

Instead of scattering the seed, draw lines with your finger 5 cm apart on the surface of the compost/soil. Then carefully place a single seed every 3 cm along these lines. This gives you enough plants to be picking from without them getting crowded.

Carefully cover the seeds with a fine layer of compost/soil.

Keep gently watered.

3. Growing and harvesting.

Salad seeds tend to germinate in 4-10 days. They can be harvested when each plant has 8 leaves (just take 1-2 leaves from each plant at this point, you always want to leave at least 3/4 of the plant to grow on).

Make sure you keep them well watered as salad leaves are mainly water. It is also best to pick at the beginning or end of the day when the leaves are cooler and crisper.

If the lettuce begins to grow a flowering stalk it is finished - the leaves will turn bitter - so remove from your container.

Mibuna, mizuna, rocket and mustard all continue to taste good when in flower, and the flowers themselves are edible too adding a little punch to salads.

4. The main secret to growing salad

Keep sowing every 2-3 weeks - that is it.

Most people get very enthusiastic at the beginning of the season, but then forget to sow any more crops. If you sow a small amount of salad seeds every 2-3 weeks from April - September (September sown crops need some protection in the northern half of the UK) you can have freshly grown salad leaves for most of the year.

When you sow your first crop mark your calendar 2 weeks ahead as a reminder to sow some more.

packets of salad

Comments: 1 (Add)

Sarah on April 25 2020 at 13:01

I love this Jane. Thank you. When you say ‘every 2 weeks, sow more seeds’ do you mean in a different container, or adding to your current container? Question might sound a little silly, but I don’t have a very green thumb. Keep trying though :)

Snapdragon social

Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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