Even the smallest garden can find space to grow vegetables. Start now and you can enjoy delicious home-grown salads all summer long.
Producing useful quantities of your own vegetables doesn’t take up as much space as you might imagine. There’s a lot you can plant out or grow from seed right now that will give you some super-tasty, succulent, and top-quality salads in just a few weeks’ time.
Before you get sowing or planting, choose the right containers. Big ones are easier to maintain than small ones; and of course bigger pots mean more produce. Go for something of at least 30cm (12in) in diameter, larger if possible.
As salad crops tend to be pretty short-term there’s no need to spend a fortune on compost. Ideally choose a good-quality multi-purpose compost but you can get perfectly acceptable results with the contents of a growing-bag. I find the quality of the compost in these isn’t all that brilliant, but if it’s well-fertilised, it will be adequate.
If you grow your own salad leaves you can get precisely the mix you like best. There are plenty of eye-catching lettuces such as the frilly Lollo or the gorgeous burgundy-tinged Lollo Rosso. Treat them as cut-and-come-again crops, snipping off the leaves as you want them but not cutting into to the base, then they’ll put out new shoots and keep cropping for longer.
Baby beet leaves are a popular salad ingredient too. Choose a variety like Bull’s Blood for the prettiest leaves or grow any of the standard varieties, and you’ll also get a great-tasting root crop later on. I generally harvest the young leaves a few at a time but let the plant produce a root too.
When buying tomato plants, hunt carefully to find the ones that are still in top condition. Outdoor varieties can be grown in their own pot – if you have a big enough container you can grow some other salad ingredients around the edge of the container.
Fresh herbs can make a salad more interesting too. Choose your favourites and either grow them in a dedicated herb pot with extra grit in the compost for good drainage.
Vegetables, like most plants, do best in a relatively warm spot with plenty of sun but sheltered from wind, so site your containers carefully. You may prefer to raise some of your crops in pots and grow them on a bit before planting them out. The garden containers will always be full and looking their best, even while you’re harvesting them. The new plantings will very quickly blend in with the old, and all summer long you’ll have a garden that’s pleasing to the eye.[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=”600″]Visit Pippa’s website, www.pippagreenwood.com, for ‘Grow Your Own with Pippa Greenwood’, the AskPippa Q&A service, and lots more.[/box]