For the price of a single grocery store salad, you can grow enough of your own leafy greens to have fresh, organic salads for weeks! You need very little space, hardly any preparation, and only a little bit of effort.
First, you'll need the seed for the greens. You can buy seeds online or at your local garden store, or get them for free online. Salad green seeds come in quite a variety. You can choose from a mesclun mix, spinach, a variety of leaf lettuces, plus some unusual additions such as wheatgrass, sunflower greens or radish greens. Often, you can find seed packets, in season, for ten cents per package!
Next, you'll need a container, or several containers if you purchased several different types of seeds. You can purchase a container that will fit your needs, or you can search through your cupboards and find one. Most salad greens have a shallow root system, so the container that you choose does not need to be very deep. Optimal depth would be between two and three inches. An old roasting pan would work fine. Inexpensive foil pans also work especially well. Foil pans come in a variety of sizes and it is possible to poke small holes in the bottom to provide drainage. Many are also sold with a lid, which works well to place under the pan to catch excess water. Small foil pans usually come in packs of two and are sold for around $2.
After you've decided on your container, you'll need some good quality soil to fill it with. Good quality soil can be purchased, or if you know you have excellent, chemical-free soil right outside in your yard, you can simply dig up enough to plant your greens. If you purchase your soil, make sure you buy soil that is specifically labeled to grow vegetables. Some potting soil mixes contain unsavory elements that would not be suitable for growing edible plants.
Now, it is time for the fun part. Plant your seeds to the depth recommended on the package, water well and place in a sunny location. You can put the salad greens on a sunny windowsill in your kitchen, or outside on your patio or deck if the temperatures are warm enough. Salad greens can be grown indoors during the winter months, and outside during the usual growing season.
Depending on the type of salad greens you have chosen to plant, you could be harvesting baby greens in as little as seven days!
When it is time to harvest, simply cut off the greens near the base of the plant, wash and enjoy! Most salad greens will continue to grow after they've been harvested, providing you with bountiful greens for quite a while.
Not only are home-grown salad greens much cheaper, but they're also much healthier for you. They're packed with vitamins because they're picked fresh and used right away. With home-grown salad greens, you also have the option to grow them organically, without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or other chemical treatments.
Two great resources to obtain free seeds online are Dave's Garden and Garden Web Seed Exchange. Both allow members to trade seeds with other members for free. Occasionally, visitors may find members who offer seeds for a simple self-addressed stamped envelope!
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