We bin so many bags of salad leaves every year, it’s surely time to think again and look to grow your own salad leaves.
Figures from government waste advisory body WRAP suggest we chuck out 40% of the fresh lettuce and leafy greens we buy every year, making salads among the most wasted foods.
Shoppers don’t always buy bagged salads with a specific meal in mind, meaning parts of, or even whole bags are often thrown away untouched, according to separate Tesco research.
Yet it’s so easy to grow your own, insists charity Garden Organic (gardenorganic.org.uk), which promotes organic horticulture.
Growing your own mixed organic salad leaves requires minimal space, with most varieties suitable for growing on a window ledge, says the charity’s growing expert Dr Anton Rosenfeld.
It’s also quick, with shoots revealing themselves in days, ready to be harvested in less than a month.
“Britons buy a huge amount of bagged salad each week, and so much ends up straight in the bin,” says Rosenfeld. “However, it couldn’t be simpler to grow your own – you don’t even need a garden. With a bit of planning and a sunny windowsill, you can keep yourselves in a variety of salad leaves all year round.”
Bestselling bagged salads include lettuce leaves, rocket, spinach and pea shoots, but you can mix and match to suit your particular tastes.
Follow Rosenfeld’s top tips for growing your own stress-free salads leaves…
How to grow salad leaves
Do your prep
Prepare your veg patch (or a tray on a window sill) by weeding, raking and levelling the soil to a fine tilth and gently firming it down. Lightly water the area so you’re just moistening the soil. You don’t want to compact it.
Grow your favourite leaves
These are ideal for beginners, easy to grow and delicious. Simply buy a bag of dried marrowfat peas from the supermarket and soak a handful overnight. Then sow them 1-2cm deep, a few centimetres apart. You’ll see results in days and within two weeks you can snip the shoots to harvest. If you keep the soil moist, you can get up to three harvests from each shoot.
With its peppery flavour, rocket livens up any salad. Sow from March until late August or early September (depending on where you live). Sow seed 0.5cm deep in pots or rows, then thin to 15cm apart. You can start to enjoy them when the plants are 10-15cm tall and regular cutting is advised to encourage new growth of young, fresh leaves.
This is not only delicious but is also a great source of essential vitamins. It can be sown in the spring to late summer. Sow 1cm deep in pots or rows and when the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them to 15-30cm apart. You can cut individual leaves as needed or you can cut seedlings and mature plants to 2.5cm above the surface as the plants regrow.
This is the key ingredient of all mixed salads leaves and there is an abundance of different varieties to choose from including the pretty Lollo Rosso, with its frilly deep copper red leaves, or the ‘cut-and-come-again’ mixed leaf varieties. You can either buy your favourite or purchase a packet of mixed seeds.
Lettuce can be sown directly into the ground from when the risk of frost has passed, right through until the autumn. Some varieties are prone to bolting, or running to seed in the hot dry summer months, so just check the details on the packet before you sow.
And in winter?
Don’t worry about the colder months as you can simply switch to growing your salad leaves on a windowsill. Mixed lettuce leaves, for instance, will grow all year round indoors.
When to harvest salad leaves
When young leaves are big enough to eat, use scissors to harvest just the amount you need for your salad or garnish. Start with the outer leaves, making a clean cut. The stems will grow new leaves, hence the name ‘cut-and-come-again’.
As the plants mature you might notice the leaves taste bitter or attempt to flower, especially in hot dry weather. If so, it’s time to remove them.
Top tips for growing salad leaves
A good, consistent watering habit is key. Ideally little and often. Slugs could be an issue if you’re growing outdoors. Avoid non-organic slug pellets as these are poisonous to hedgehogs, birds and other wildlife that might visit your garden.
Best-selling salad growing kits
Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!
- EVERYTHING you need to kick start GROWING YOUR OWN SALAD SEEDS at home! Save money and gain satisfaction knowing that you've grown your own salad leaves at home. Harvest a bumper of crop of salad...
- Our Seed Kits make the ideal gardening gifts for your green fingered friends and family. Suitable beginner and experienced growers - all the seeds you need for a plentiful supply of salad crops.
- Kit contains a mixture of salad seeds; 1 x packet of Lettuce Valmaine seeds, 1 x packet of Curled Cress seeds, 1 x packet of Sorrel Blood Veined seeds, 1 x packet of Coriander seeds, 1 x packet of...
- EVERYTHING you need to kick start GROWING YOUR OWN RAINBOW SALAD SEEDS at home! Save money and gain satisfaction knowing that you've grown your own salad at home. All of our seeds are laboratory...
- Our Seed Kits make the ideal gardening gifts for your green fingered friends and family. Suitable beginner and experienced growers - all the seeds you need for a plentiful crop of salad vegetables.
- Kit contains a mixture of salad vegetable seeds; 1 x Packet of Beetroot Chioggia Seeds, 1 x Packet of Radish Rainbow Seeds, 1 x Packet of Spring Onion Apache Seeds, 1 x Packet of Lettuce Amaze Seeds,...
- EVERYTHING you need to kick start GROWING YOUR OWN SUPER FOOD SEEDS at home! Save money and gain satisfaction knowing that you've grown your own super food salad mix. All of our seeds are laboratory...
- Our Seed Kits make the ideal gardening gifts for your green fingered friends and family. Suitable beginner and experienced growers - all the seeds you need for a plentiful supply of super food.
- Kit contains a mixture of super food seeds: Lambs Lettuce (Mâche/Corn Salad) Seeds, Spring Onion Apache Seeds, Carrot Purple Sun Seeds, Beetroot Paonazzo D'Egitto Seeds & Spinach Apollo Seeds
- Go from home chef to urban farmer: grow your own healthy microgreens and micro herbs at home, with this clever indoor garden from Chef 'n
- Nice and compact: this grow kit is slim enough to fit on most windowsills and surfaces - even in small kitchens
- Easy to use: it comes with full instructions - just add seeds and soil, and you can harvest your first batch in as little as 2 weeks
- Grow microgreens at home with our handy Microgreens Aromatic Seed Grow Kit!
- Quick and easy to grow, these microgreens are perfect for adding a little extra flavour to your salads, sandwiches and wraps!
- Contains Garlic Chives, Salad Rocket ‘Victoria’, Mustard ‘Red Carpet’, Mizuna ‘Green Mix’ and Perilla/Shiso ‘Red’, biodegradeable growing pots, expandable plugs, labels and snips!
Last update on 2021-08-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API