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Salads for Condos and Apartments
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski

email: jfilipski@yahoo.com

Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.


July 13, 2008

What could be nicer than stepping outside and harvesting some lovely greens for that evening salad? Fresh, tasty, healthy and very easy to grow, a salad garden deserves a spot on every balcony or deck.

One pot gardening continues to grow in popularity and a one pot salad garden is perhaps the easiest of all container gardens. When choosing your container keep in mind how large you want your salad garden to be. Are you going to grow only one variety of lettuce or a mix of greens? Are you going to include some flavouring plants such as cilantro or chicory? Do you want some radishes in the container?

If you have answered yes to all of these questions then the container you need to choose should be fairly large. A rectangular-shaped pot works very well with this type of containerized garden. There are many types and sizes of rectangular containers. A container roughly 1-1.5 m long and 25 cm wide will do nicely. If you have decided that all you need is a selection of greens, a round pot (25 cm in diameter) or smaller, rectangular container (60 cm long and 25 cm wide) will fit the bill.

Plastic containers are best for this type of gardening. Plastic will keep the moisture in the soil better than terra cotta and is much lighter as well.

Let Us Discuss Lettuce

There are many different types of lettuce seeds available. Your taste will ultimately determine what type is best for you and this may take some experimentation on your part. There are also other factors to consider such as form. Some lettuce grows in a head while others grow as leaf-types. For the purpose of conserving space and speed of growth choosing a leaf-type is definitely the way to go.

Lettuce is not the only type of greens for a salad. Spinach or swiss chard can make interesting salads on their own or when mixed with a lettuce. Chicory, arugula, cress and corn salad or lamb's lettuce, make nice additions to many salads.

The experimentation comes in by tossing in a few extra seeds of something like arugula at planting time. When mature you can taste it and see if you like the flavour. If you don't, take it out of your pot and plant something else in its place.

This is not Rocket Science

You can seed your lettuce directly outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. This is usually around the first week of June. There is probably not an easier plant to grow than lettuce. All you need is the container, some inexpensive potting soil and some seeds. Fill the container with soil to within a few cms of the top of the container. Water the soil well and press it down slightly so there are no air pockets.

Follow the instructions on the seed packet for planting depth, keep the soil moist and within 2-10 days your lettuce should be growing nicely. Thin the seedlings to about 2.5 cm between plants. If this sounds too close remember that lettuce will grow in confined spaces very well. This allows you to maximize the number of plants in your small garden and also maximize your yield. In a few short weeks you will be harvesting and enjoying your own homegrown salads.

Working in some timed-release fertilizer at planting time will help your lettuce and greens grow and keep the soil from becoming depleted too quickly. Grow your lettuce in a spot in full sun or partial shade. Offering some shade on hot summer days is a very good idea. The shade could be from something as simple as a piece of cardboard in front of the plant. The shade will help to keep the plant from bolting which means going into seed production. Lettuce that bolts turns woody and bitter in taste.

Continuous Planting

The great thing about lettuce and other greens is that they grow quickly from seed. If you have harvested all of a lettuce plant and are ready to move on, simply dig up the roots of the plant and replant more seeds in the same spot. You can have a continuous crop rotation going throughout the growing season. This means you will have lettuce from approximate mid-June right through to frost. Radishes are just as easy to grow as lettuce and greens and can also be continuously planted.

What Kinds are Best?

For leaf lettuce you can try the following examples:

- Salad Bowl

- Red Sails (nice red colour)

- Slobolt

- Buttercrunch

- Romaine

- Bibb

For radishes:

- Cherry Belle

- Scarlet Globe

- White Icicle

For spinach:

- Baby's leaf hybrid

- Melody

If you are single and living on your own, downsized your living space after the kids have left or a senior and retired you can grow your own salad garden easily and economically. If you have never grown your own greens before the difference in flavour between your own homegrown greens and store bought will amaze you. There is nothing like a homegrown salad on a summer day.

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