Grow Your Own


baby leavesStick with familiar lettuce or rocket, or try a more unusual salad seed mixture, or both. Harvest leaves when a few inches high – you’ll never get them fresher or tastier. Join the top chefs by adding pea shoots (peas grown for the sweet tips of the plants rather than the pods).


What you need

 
  • Container or growing bag - almost any container will do, provided it is more than 15cm (6in) deep and has good drainage holes. Even a 25cm (10in) pot can give the equivalent of several supermarket bags of salad leaves. Use a separate pot for peas, or sow small patches of each crop in large containers or growing bags.
  • Multi-purpose compost for containers
  • Seeds - salad mixes give a range of leaves from one packet, from simple lettuces to ones with range of spicy leaves with varied contents such as rocket and oriental salad leaves. Pea seeds – dwarf sugar pea cultivars such as ‘Sugar Ann’ have the sweetest taste.
  • Watering can with fine ‘rose’ (spray)

 

Sowing

  1. Fill containers with compost to within 2-3cm (apprx 1in) of the rim, and firm the surface lightly using the bottom of another pot or seed tray.
  2. Scatter salad seeds thinly, allowing 1-2cm (13 to 23 in) each way between seeds, and cover them with a thin layer (5cm / 2in) of compost.
  3. Push pea seeds about 2cm (23 in) deep into the compost, about 5cm (2in) apart each way, and smooth over the surface to cover them.
  4.  Finely spray the surface with water.

Growing

From now on keep the surface of the container moist. Water with a fine spray at first, but when the seedlings are taller and stronger, take the rose off the can and direct water beneath the leaves until the compost is soaked.

Harvest

Salads – Start when the plants are 8-10cm (3-4in) tall, which could be in as little as six to eight weeks. Pick individual leaves as you need them, or cut across patches with scissors leaving stumps 2.5cm (1in) high. Keep watering, and the plants should regrow once or twice more.

Peas – Once plants are 20cm (8in) high, harvest the top 5cm (2in) of the stems. In two or three weeks, they should produce more sweet, tender shoots.

Added extras

Radishes and annual spinach will both grow well from March sowings - add patches of these to large containers (or use more separate small ones). Fill in space with a few violas bought as plants from the garden centre - their flowers make colorful (and edible) decoration. Try adding other herbs such as parsley as well.

Get the kids involved!

It's never too soon to get kids active and helping on the vegetable plot or in the garden.

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