Herbs and salad leaves: in growing-bags

Generally used for larger vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers, growing-bags can also be used for a quick-maturing salad crop or for a ready supply of cut-and-come-again herbs and salad leaves.

Used growing-bags are also ideal for raising seedlings in spring and are a versatile and economical way to produce a crop where space is restricted.

Herbs and salad leaves: growing in grow-bags

Quick facts

Suitable for Herbs and salad leaves
Timing Throughout the seasons
Difficulty Easy

Choosing herbs and salad leaves for growing-bags

There is almost always a sunny spot near the kitchen with room enough for a growing-bag for herbs. Parsley and mint are useful while the taste of fresh home-grown basil and coriander is often superior to shop-bought.

Additionally, popular herbs such as chives, dill, marjoram, tarragon and thyme and salad leaves including cress, cut-and-come-again leaves, endive, rocket, lettuce, leaf beet and spinach are ideal for a late crop of undemanding leaves in a growing-bag.

Benefits for broadcast seed:

When using new growing-bags which offer a sterile growing medium, broadcasting seeds (i.e. scattered across the surface rather than in drills) is easy to manage since unwanted weed seeds should not be a problem. Weed seedlings are always difficult to tell apart from the sown seedlings when broadcast into the soil or non-sterile growing media, with the danger that you may pull out the wrong ones!

Where to use growing-bags

As well as for use in greenhouse cultivation, growing-bags are ideal in the smallest of spaces. Balconies, mini-glasshouses, patios, porches and even windowsills can be utilised.

How to grow herbs and salad leaves in growing-bags

These leaves can be sown in late summer and used through the winter and spring months if kept in a greenhouse. Ideally sow a new growing-bag whenever the current crop is almost ready to pick.

When growing herbs and salad leaves in a greenhouse:

  • Before opening the bag, tamp the compost from side to side to loosen it and let some air in
  • Lay the bag down horizontally and cut out one long panel along the top of the growing-bag
  • Firm the surface of the compost with the back of your hand and water thoroughly with a fine rose. Allow to drain
  • Sprinkle seed evenly across the surface or thinly in shallow grooves every 5mm (¼in)
  • Cover with a thin layer of sieved compost
  • Some thinning is usually needed for a final distance between each plant of 2.5cm (1in)
  • For hungry crops such as winter lettuce, pak choi or mizuna greens, a liquid feed can be applied if necessary

Harvesting

Salad leaf crops and leafy herbs can be picked easily by snapping off the outer leaves. This can result in several leaf pickings from each bag.

Book references:

Salads for small gardens by Joy Larkcom (Hamlyn 1995, ISBN 0600585093)

Jekka’s complete herb book by Jekka McVicar (Kyle Cathie in association with the Royal Horticultural Society 2007, ISBN 9781856267410)

These books are made available through the RHS Lindley Library.

Problems

Close sowing can increase problems with fungal diseases such as grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) and damping off of seedlings.

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