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Grow Your Own Greens and Eat Healthy All Season Long with These 15 Vegetables

Everything you need to know about planting and maintaining a salad garden.

If one of your goals is to eat healthier, cook more, and save money, you need to start a salad garden this year. 

How many times have you bought produce at the grocery store, only to bring it home and have the vegetables go bad? Or how many times have you gone to the market with the intention of buying all the ingredients for a delicious salad, only to find that all the greens have already wilted?

Solve the problem of finicky produce and grow your own greens at home. It’s not difficult, and all you need is a container, potting soil, and seeds to get started. Plus, psychology says that if you have a salad garden at home, you’ll be more likely to make healthy food decisions. 

Why growing a salad garden is a smart choice

We all know that eating a salad a few times a week is a healthy choice. The Colorado State University Extension notes that many salad greens naturally contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and other nutrients. 

A salad garden is dedicated to anything you’d toss in a salad—leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, plus superfood veggies like kale and beets. Of course, cucumbers and tomatoes are essential ingredients to any summer salad, but today we’re focusing on cool-season, spring salad materials like radishes and arugula. 

Save money at the grocery store and waste less produce by growing your own salad greens at home. Leafy green vegetables and herbs are easy to grow and take up such little space that you can grow them nearly anywhere! 

How to grow a salad garden

Salad gardens are about as low maintenance as they come—plant, water, cut, eat, and repeat. 

1. Choose a location

First, choose a location for your salad garden. Leafy greens tend to be compact plants with shallow roots, so you can really grow them just about anywhere. Grow a salad garden in a raised bed, a container on your porch, or even a window box—wherever you will be most likely to check on your greens and harvest them. 


Leafy greens don’t need much maintenance other than regular watering and occasional weeding, but greens grow quickly, and your salad garden will fare better if you remember to harvest them. 

2. Start salad greens early 

Lettuce, kale, and spinach are all frost-hardy, cool-season crops that thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. These plants struggle when summer temperatures soar, and the soil dries out, so get them in the ground early in order to get several harvests before the weather changes. 


Depending on which hardiness zone you live in, aim to sow your greens as soon as the soil can be worked in spring—that should be between two and four weeks before your average last frost. Sow another succession of leafy greens in late summer to have several harvests before the onset of winter. 

3. Direct sow or start seeds indoors 

Salad greens are very forgiving—you can usually direct sow seeds in the ground or start them indoors, depending on your personal preference and ability. 


If you sow seeds outdoors, it’s a good idea to cover them until they germinate, either with a plastic lid or a row cover, to raise the soil temperature and speed up germination. The added protection also helps keep seeds from being washed away by water or wind or eaten by birds and other animals. 


Check the seed packet for recommendations on how deep and how far apart to sow specific seeds. A good rule of thumb is to only sow the seed twice as deep as it is wide. As for spacing, plant seeds further apart if you want larger plants, or you can place seeds closer together if you plan to harvest younger leaves more frequently. 


Here’s another pro tip: mix your seeds before you sow them so that your greens will already be blended perfectly at harvest time—it saves you time in the long run! 

4. Plan for sunlight and moisture requirements 

There’s an old gardening adage: Full sun for roots and fruits, partial shade for leaves. Fruiting and rooting plants need more sun to be able to photosynthesize more sugars into carbohydrate-rich roots and fruit. Leafy green vegetables can typically tolerate some partial shade since the plants are more focused on vegetative growth than fruiting.

Ideally, most leafy green vegetables need between four and six hours of sun daily. Of course, these plants will still survive in full sun, but any shady location that offers some protection from the harsh midday sun will allow leafy greens to thrive well into summer. 

Salad greens do best when they receive between one and one and a half inches of rain per week, just a little more than average garden vegetables. Because leafy greens are better adapted to cooler climates, inconsistent watering and periods of drought may trigger the plants to bolt or flower and set seed. This process makes the salad greens inedible, so try to maintain a consistent watering schedule if you can.

If you’re worried about sticking to a consistent watering schedule, consider installing drip irrigation or a passive watering system to take care of the moisture requirements for you. 

What to include in your salad garden 

No, we’re not talking about a few buttercrunch lettuce leaves and croutons. When you grow your own salad garden, you can cater your garden to your tastes and preferences! The options are endless: you can grow everything from beet tops to arugula in your salad garden. 

Lettuce

A Mediterranean blend of buttery red and green lettuces paired with arugula, endive, and radicchio to add a delightful bitterness. Each pellet contains multiple seeds, so you only need to sow a few seeds per pot for delicious salad greens. This cut-and-come-again crop is ready in as little as four weeks, so you can enjoy fresh salads all summer long.

This beautiful mix of seven-plus red and green lettuces will elevate any salad from bland to five-star restaurant quality. The texture is as varied as the color within this mix—no two plants are the same!

As the name suggests, add a little pizazz to standard salads with this flavorful mix of lettuce, arugula, and other greens. The cut-and-come-again mix matures in 45 days and is a great variety to use for hydroponics.

Spinach

This heirloom is the go-to variety for home gardeners and commercial growers due to its tolerance for heat and drought. Bloomsdale is slow to bolt, so you can have a tasty spinach crop for far longer than other varieties. 

Descriptively called “Japanese mustard spinach,” Komatsuna is an excellent salad green to grow, especially in warmer, drier climates. This heat-tolerant brassica is far less likely to bolt in heat and drought than other varieties. This bok choy look alike tastes more like a mild, sweet mustard than spinach but is just as nutrient-dense and is a great pick for braising. 

Asian greens

If there were one seed mix we’d recommend for the perfect salad garden, it would have to be this one. This mix contains pelleted seeds, and each pellet contains multiple seeds, so you only need to sow one per pot! This mix is ideal for container gardens and planter boxes. Varieties in the mix include bok choy, mustard, kale, leaf broccoli, and pak choi. However, there is no need to thin the seedlings—simply harvest as needed, and the plants will regrow all summer long. 

Another of our favorite salad greens, Mizuna, also called Japanese mustard, is one of the milder-flavored mustard greens. Mizuna matures 40 days from sowing, so it’s a quick and easy cut-and-come-again crop. 

Kale 

A staple in any cool-season vegetable garden, Lacinato is a fantastic salad green when harvested young. This Italian heirloom is commonly called ‘dinosaur kale’ and matures in about 55 days. 

The perfect mix of kale varieties for color and texture! Mature leaves are ready in two to three months, but baby leaves can be harvested in one month. 

Herbs

A low-maintenance, perennial herb, chives are invaluable in the flower garden. The cylindrical leaves have a distinct onion taste that is strong enough to stand in for scallions and mild enough to enjoy raw. The lavender globe-shade flowers are edible and make a delightful garnish. Harvest chives as needed—the plants readily regrow. 

You're missing out if you’ve never thought to toss a few sprigs of fresh dill in a salad! One of the more aromatic and sweet-tasting varieties, Dukat pairs well with cucumbers and adds a classic flavor to any bed of greens. Dukat is slower to bolt than other dill varieties, lasting longer into summer. 

Parsley is another great addition to salads. Low-calorie but rich in vitamins A, C, and K, parsley is a nutrient-dense spring green that adds a crisp crunch to a variety of dishes. This Italian heirloom variety is also an excellent companion crop for peas.

Arugula is a popular addition to the spring garden for a reason. The sharply lobed leaves have a distinct peppery taste that adds bold flavor to the standard salad or as a garnish on other dishes. A versatile vegetable, arugula thrives in full sun or partial shade locations. The quick grower can be reseeded every three weeks for a continuous harvest. 

Roots

No need to choose between greens or roots—bull’s blood is an excellent variety for both. The sweet beet tops add nutrients to salads and are ready for harvest at 35 days, while the dense, bloodred roots mature after 58 days. 

You really can’t go wrong with any variety of radishes, but we love Roxane. She’s an All-America Selections winner for her crisp taste and gorgeous roots, which hold well even under heavy spring rains and rising summer temperatures. Seed rows thickly, and when you go to thin the row, save the seedlings to top your salad or sandwich! Slice the roots and add to salads or soups. This hybrid variety matures in 37 days. 

Conclusion

Growing your own salad garden can be a fun and rewarding experience and is a great way to take back your personal health. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can enjoy fresh, healthy greens right from your own backyard. 

Remember to choose the right varieties, plant at the appropriate time and location, and take the necessary steps to maintain and harvest your garden. Whether you're looking to save money, eat healthier, or live more sustainably, growing your own salad garden is a great way to achieve your goals. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening. 

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