As the weather gets warmer, cooler dishes start having some real appeal, and a DIY summer salad garden can provide you with a ready source of meals. These aren’t just your regular everyday fast-food dishes. You’ll have bowls and plates filled with the freshest, most nutritious ingredients you’ve ever served yourself and your family.
When you’re creating a DIY summer salad garden, the sky is the limit. You’re not stuck with a sorry looking iceberg lettuce picked weeks ago at the grocery store. Instead, you can grow an assortments of greens, flavor enhancers and toppings, all in a surprisingly small amount of space.
If you’re just getting started now, you’re definitely off to a late start, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy tons of meals that you grow yourself.
The difference is that at this point, you’ll likely want to purchase some of the slower-growing plants as seedlings from your garden center, instead of growing them from seed. Still, some faster growing veggies will still do great in seed form, so go ahead and buy some packets and do things that way!
Nearly every home has an opportunity for a DIY summer salad garden. If you have a bit of land you can set aside for planting, you can grow as much or as little as your real estate (and interest) permit. That said, if you don’t have any room to dig up, you prefer to work in containers, you have a balcony, or even just have a sunny window, you can still work with pots and successfully grow the basics. For instance, a good-sized window box can successfully house several lettuces on your balcony, patio or indoors in a sunny window.
A great DIY summer salad garden starts with greens. This primarily means lettuces. From there, depending on what you want and how much space you have, you can add everything else you’d like to include on your plate.
There are four main types of lettuce:
If you’re a beginner or you just want the easiest possible DIY summer salad garden, looseleaf will be your pal. These types of lettuce are easy and simple to grow, last longer than the other varieties, and don’t bolt as easily. Bolting occurs when the plant sends up a flower stalk. When it happens, the rest of the lettuce leaves become tough and bitter. Looseleaf is also great because you can pick the leaves off as the plant gets larger, letting the rest of the plant remain to continue producing leaves (a process called “cut and come again”). This will give you many salads as opposed to a head lettuce that you pick all at once.
Lettuce is great to grow in pots and in the ground because it doesn’t require much soil depth. So, a window box will perform very well. From there, the size of the planting area depends on how many you want to plant and how much space you have to do it. You can start indoors earlier in the year by planting seeds, then transplanting them after the last frost, or you can purchase small plants at a garden center and use those for a head-start.
If you’re determined to plant from seed, even now, choose a heat-tolerant variety that won’t get torched by the sun as the temperature rises. You can keep planting more seeds every 10 to 14 days early in the season to make sure you have a steady crop that continues to be ready at a staggered rate instead of all at once.
For a great mix of flavor and texture, consider planting along with your favorite basic lettuce:
Lettuce and greens are a fantastic base in your DIY summer salad garden, but it’s also fantastic to have other fruits and veggies to add to your meal if you have the space to grow them.
Consider the following add-ons:
Get started with what you can handle this year in terms of planting, tending, harvesting and eating. This will help you to know what you like, fine tune your DIY summer salad garden strategy, and better understand what you’ll want to do next year. Do yourself a favor and take a few notes so you’ll remember what you’re interested in doing next year and how you’d like to do it. That way, as February and March arrive, you’ll already be planning your next garden for better results with each passing year!