wanted: salad garden ideas
i'm sure the resident experts have suggestions for a salad garden:
-which veggies are the most fool-proof? literally, what veggies can be grown even by idiots like me?
-which veggies grow most rapidly? that way we can eat what we grow sooner.
-which veggies offer the most yield? it'd be nice to get the most for the least effort.
-which veggies that can be grown at a small home garden offer the most nutrition?
thanks in advance and peace to all.
Probably the easiest thing for beginners to start are the larger seeds. It's easy to plant seed too deep until you get the hang of it. So go easy the first year. Try starting out with radishes, carrots, lettuces, swiss chard or spinach, and when it warms up thoroughly--April/May depending where you are--start beans, squash from seed, and your peppers and tomatoes (from plants). Beans can be bush beans, no trellis needed, or pole beans which need something to twine around. They can get 7-8' long, so don't skimp on trellis height.
Pay attention to spacing suggestions on seed packets. You can start out seeding a bit closer, then thin the baby plants to create more room in between planting.
Don't waste a lot of room with paths between each row. Plant in blocks about 3 to 4' wide so you can reach across to weed and harvest. Or you can plant in large continers on a sunny deck or patio. Just make sure they don't dry out during heat spells, or you may lose your blossoms and hence the veggies themselves.
When one short season crop (radishes at an amazing 45 days to harvest) finishes, plant another in its place. Say, eggplant or a few pepper plants.
Don't forget to find homes for the over-producing plants in your garden. Try elderly neighbors, or large families who can really benfit from all those zucchini and tomatoes. Or find a soup kitchen that can use your extras. Or the local firehouse.
Interplant herbs like cilantro and dill amongst the other veggies. They produce nectar in their blossoms which are food sources for the beneficial "guardian" insects that consume the destructive insects. Prowl the good gardening websites like Dave's Garden and your local university extention service website for tricks, tips and a wealth of localized information about soils, fertilizers, integrated pest management or "IPM" (using "good" insects) etc. Release lady bugs, praying mantis and intoroduce earthworms and toads. (You can get the polywogs of toads at a pond supply store).
Gardening is a life-long enterprise, always something new to learn and pass along to the next generation. Every year brings different weather and new lessons. Keep an eye out for Rodale Press books at your local used book store. LOTS to learn from them. The PIONEERS of 'GREEN'.
Make a resting/contemplation spot withIN your garden for relaxing and enjoying what you've created. NOTHING in the world like having a cup of tea IN the garden.
I love perennial salad greens. Sorrel and lovage are the ones that come to mind for my zone (6), but I'm sure there are others. My sorrel is already peeking up and I'll be able to start harvesting it in a few weeks. You can keep picking it all spring, summer and fall - just make sure to chop off any flower stalks that form.
I think the questions you need to ask are: What do I like? What does my family eat a lot of? What am I willing to care for in the garden? What do I want out of my garden?
My childhood garden was about three things: salsa, salad, and pickles. So we grew onions, hot and mild peppers, TONS of tomatoes (for a family of four, probably 25 tomato plants), salad greens, spinach, cucumbers, garlic, and dill. Other stuff changed -- sometimes we had zucchini, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower. We grew corn for a few years but it takes a lot of space. Usually green beans. Herbs most years. But the stuff we HAD to have was stuff for salsa, salad, and pickles.
That's where my theory on this whole thing comes from: if you *want* a particular food and plan to use it, you'll be willing to put in the few minutes a day to tend it. But if you don't have plans to use all those zucchini -- or if you don't really like it all that well -- there's no point in putting them in. See what I mean? No amount of awareness of something's nutritional value, ease of maintenance, high yield, or rapid growth is going to motivate *me* to get off my behind in the heat of summer unless I really want to eat it and actually have plans to use it!
As far as rapid growth, you can't beat salad greens. You can be picking baby greens in a couple of weeks from sowing. Plant a new batch every couple of weeks to ensure you have nice young salad greens all season long, or you'll end up with bitter, tough, bolted greens. We always just did salad mixes and spinach.
Radishes are pretty good for early production, and peas have to produce before it gets too hot. Some tomatoes (Early Girl is probably the best known, but there are others) are bred to have shorter time to harvest. You do want to plant stuff with longer maturation times, or you'll get your whole yield by mid-July and have a useless garden for the rest of the season!
Zucchinis are notorious over-producers, which is great if you enjoy and would eat a lot of zucchini. As far as summer squash goes, I think pattypans/scallops are better than the plain yellow summer squash you see everywhere, besides being much prettier, and they're just as easy to grow. Certain varieties of tomatoes have been bred to be big producers.
Spinach and other dark greens are easy to grow and very, very good for you... if you eat them! ;)
Burpee's website is very helpful, and they have a couple of collections of vegetables that might give you some good ideas! :)
One salad veg/herb I have great luck with is arugula (also sold as "rocket") - it is spicy with a bit of a peppery taste. When the weather heats up, the leaves get more spicy - and when the plant starts flowering you can leave one to re-seed itself.
With basil, if you keep harvesting it and pinching out any flowering blossoms that start, it will flourish and get bushier and bushier until your first real cool weather.
Zucchini will produce male and female flowers; the male flowers will fall off, and only the female flowers will give you the lovely vegetable. So don't worry too much if your first blossoms don't do what you expect!
I hope these added bits of info are helpful.
I agree about arugula. Also, I want to recommend some of the asian leafy vegetables. Mizuna is easy to grow and delicious. I also had pretty good luck with bok choy, napa cabbage and komatsuna (which is a delicious large leaved mustard), my only probems with these was that the bugs ate them and I was attempting to be organic so didn't want to use pesticides.
thanks alot for all the replies, it looks like i'm in for a bunch of zuchinni if all goes well. i'm also going to do my best to take care of this garden better than ever as i've bought so many basil and tomato plants and have enjoyed harvesting but they've always died on me.
Try some salad mix seed packets. I have 3 kinds going and a row of winter red kale(turns sweet after a frost)a row of butter head lettuce. Radish, plant them then 2 weeks later plant another batch so you have a continues harvest. Sugar snap peas grow very easy directly sowed where you want them. Plant some just to harvest the sprouts also. Snow peas are also easy.
Very small zucchini are nice in a salad as well as the blossoms. Bunching onions if you like green onions are good producers. Burpee has a yellow/orange sweet pepper called "Big Daddy" that is great! Sweet as a bell pepper but is ready to eat much faster than bells. Yard long beans if you have a trellis are nice blanched in a salad.
I think you are asking the wrong questions.
- a basic herb garden is a great suggestion. Learn what are perennial and what need to be planted fresh each year and which are biennial so you might get an early crop in the second year. You didn't mention your zone so that makes it kind of tough but nice basic mixed lettuce salad is even nicer with fresh herbs.
- zucchini is probably something that grows with the least effort unless it's one of those years when they don't. They also grow rapidly when you least want them too. I think they make a nice addition to a salad. Plus, if they get too big you can turn them into muffins and breads to go with a salad.
- I think everyone should grow tomatoes even if you only have room for a couple of pots. I like several kinds of cherry tomatoes. I kind do with only one standard red and one standard yellow. If you have fresh basil, a basil mayonnaise is wonderful over slices of fresh tomatoes. Don't forget basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
My idea of a salad includes many things served chopped or sliced at room temperature or chilled. It might be lettuce based or maybe chopped veggies mixed with couscous. Your gardening experience will effect you every year. Last year we grew more heirloom peppers but they weren't as prolific as the previous year. Still, a great crop of tastes you just can't get at the supermarket. Last year we found out we loved fresh beets more than we remembered. This year I'll plant more golden beets plus some unusual varieties. I thought broccoli was very rewarding thanks to a variety that puts out a good amount of side shoots. We love broccoli salad and it can handle cold weather.
I suggest reading Square Foot Gardening for idea about how to grow the most amount of food in a small space.
Wow, no replies yet? I love to plant a variety of lettuces...Start'em from seed right in the ground, and snip leaves (not waiting for the whole head to form) to make my own mixed green salads for dinner. Pole beans are also fun and easy, and lend to bunch of different recipes. Tomatoes are a must plant for me, but they do require a bit of extra tending. Cucumbers are easy and fun, and if you train them in a vertical wire fence, easy to deal with. Biggest yield? Depending what zone you live in, zucchini and yellow squash are huge producers, and grow fast, minimal effort, though do take alot of room...Not really a salad item either I guess. Don't forget a few herbs for your salad garden...maybe some oregano (it'll come back next year to) basil (I have best luck with it in containers), chive, parsely. Have fun in your dirt.