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Salad crops are easy growing, providing some of the best tasting home veg and the speed and reliability of growth is very satisfying.

It is a great place to start vegetable growing and salad crops can be grown in the smallest of spaces, even indoors with minimal preparation.

Our guide to the benefits and joy of growing salad crop is a great start, there is an abundance of good advice, reading and videos on the subject on the internet that can help as well.

  • Growing salad crops provides a quick return on our efforts, providing satisfaction and a boost to self-esteem.
  • Their reliability can be grounding and increase feelings of having control
  • They are crops that need some maintenance and so provides purpose and meaning
  • Common maintenance tasks will be weeding (if outside) and watering, both these tasks can be meditative and diversionary in nature leaving us within the moment and free from negative thoughts, anxious thoughts or even intrusive thoughts. Even for people fortunate enough to be free of stress and anxiety, this type of activity can be a rest for mental fatigue.
  • They require some precise and delicate movement and so practice our dexterity and fine motor control
  • When harvested they will provide good nutrition and varied micro nutrition
  • When someone else tastes the freshness of your salad pride will ensue
  • You may get some abundant crops and so can share and connect with others
  • The lighter nature of salad crops reduces the need for strength
  • Most salad plants don’t deep route so a lighter forking over or easier dibbing reduces the need for strength and stamina
  • Growing in raised planters and in containers can make it easier to garden from a seated position
  • Using sticks or larger dead plant material in place of crock or stones at the bottom of the container can act as drainage and make the containers lighter to move around
  • When tabletop gardening, try and think about the height you will be working at. Ideally you want your elbows and shoulders at right angles so that you are not overreaching and adding pressure to tendons and joints. Sometimes containers sat on a chair are a more comfortable height than sat on the table.
  • Spending a few minutes getting your working position set up makes the task easier and more enjoyable, try to be positioned close to the work area, keep a natural posture not bending the beck.
  • Pace yourself, as long as plants have soil covering their roots and moisture they can be left for an hour, day, or longer until you are ready to finish.
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Indoors

Some salad crops can be grown on windowsills or under growlights. Our 'Sowing seeds in trays' and 'Growing microgreens' guides can provide the general steps to produce these salad crops. Specifically, you'll probably need around 12cm of soil depth to grow mature salad crops indoors. You can find grow lights and indoor growing systems if you really get the bug!

Some crops to try indoors would include loose leafed lettuce, or seeds labelled as 'cut and come again'. In 12-15cm depth of soil you can expect these leaves to grow 9-18cm tall but are best harvested around 9-12cm as they will keep coming back for a least a few successions.

Sow them direct onto the soil, roughly 10 seeds per seed packet sized area of soil. Follow the instructions for planting depth. Keep them moist throughout their growing time and wait for harvest at 3-6 weeks.

Spring onions are another variety that would grow indoors, they will take around 12 weeks to get to a good size but can start to be harvested young. Again around 10 seeds per seed packet size of soil, keep moist and wait.

Radish, oriental greens and salads, rocket and soft herbs can all be added to salad crop and indoor growing spaces creating more interest, flavour and nutrition to salad dishes. In slightly deeper pots 20-30cm deep you could even try crops like Florence fennel, using the fluffy tops in salad and the bulb cooked.

There are also a few varieties of tomatoes suited to indoor growing, look out for varieties labelled as 'dwarf' and you will need to consider if cordon or bush varieties will work best in your space (seed and plant labels explain height and spread). Indoor tomatoes will need help with pollination, the most reliable method is to use a paint brush or cotton bud to spread pollen between the flowers.

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Containers for balconies and in small outdoor spaces

Growing salad in containers is usually very successful too. There has been an increase in varieties developed for containers over the last 20 years, and we now have varieties of almost all salad specifically developed for this growing environment.

Plan what crop will grow in which container - think carefully about the depth of soil different salads need to maximise your growing space, use the information above about growing indoors to help.

Alongside all the salad crops mentioned above we can grow cucumbers and gherkins and we could find space for a small bush variety courgette. If picked young, an acidic dressing on thinly sliced or spaghetti courgette, leaves them greatfor salad. Swiss chard, although not to everyone’s taste, can also be used as salad when picked young, and again an acidic dressing applied in advance will help tenderise.

Maybe you can also add some edible flowers as companions within salad crop containers. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), and Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) work well in containers and look pretty great in a salad!

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In larger outdoor spaces

Salad crops will work well in standard veg beds but may suffer from pests and slug damage, being the more tender stemmed amongst hardier vegetables. Growing in raised beds is a great approach to salad, minimising slug and pest damage, particularly if the bed is netted.

With a larger space successional sowing becomes easier, sowing your favourite varieties every 2 weeks can see a constant supply of salad throughout the summer.

All the salad varieties above are possible and a wider variety of them including heritage type become suitable. Headed lettuce like cos and romaine become available in larger spaces as well.

Additionally, a larger crop of peas is achievable and space for some crops with lower yields or with stronger flavours, that you may only use sparingly in creating different salads, like red-veined sorrel can be squeezed in.

Cloches, polytunnels and glasshouses can extend the growing season, provide a good start, and extend the selection of plants to grow. Varieties that need additional heat, like the cucumber and tomato family, may crop with real abundance under protective cover and winter salad production becomes much easier.

Good luck and happy harvesting!

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Rebecca H potting up Charlie Garner 2019 3