Growing your own organic baby salad greens has many benefits: you save money and resources by growing greens yourself, you have constant access of fresh garden greens throughout the growing season, and you can customize the mix of greens to your preference. Baby salad greens are easy to grow, and because the lettuce is harvested at a baby stage you can enjoy fresh salads soon after planting.
You only need a small space for growing baby salad greens - even container planting will work. If you hope to have a steady supply of greens be sure you have room to grow greens for several harvests. A row approximately 1 foot long will yield enough greens for a large salad. If you want to have salad several nights a week you will need to plant at least 4 feet of your garden bed with greens. By the time you have eaten all 4 feet of salad, the plants you took your first harvest from will be ready to cut again.
Best Varieties for Baby Greens
Create your own customized salad mix by purchasing seeds for your favorite baby salad greens. Loose-leaf lettuces are best suited for baby greens - do not get head-forming types. Tasty varieties include Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Red Salad bowl, and Tango.
Spinach is a good choice for your baby greens mix, as are chard and beets (grown, of course, for their greens only). If you like a spicy bite to your salad, try arugula, mustard greens, or a spicy cress in your mix.
If you do not want to create your own seed mixture, look for mesclun mix. Most seed companies offer a mesclun mix, which is a combination of salad green seeds that often contains different tastes and textures.
Step 1 - Prepare Your Soil
The first step in growing your own greens is preparing your growing space. Do not overlook the importance of preparing your soil - when you give the plants what they need to grow they will reward you with bountiful harvests.
Lettuce and other greens have shallow root systems and therefore need to have nutrients moisture available in the top few inches of soil. Loosen the soil with a rototiller or by turning the soil over with a shovel. Work composted manure and a balanced fertilizer into the soil. If the soil is lacking in organic matter, you can add straw or leaves to the soil to increase it’s ability to retain water. Rake the garden bed level and flat, then make a narrow trench about 1/2 inch deep to prepare for planting.
If you are planting in containers be sure to amend your soil as stated above.
Step 2 - Plant the Seeds
Salad greens can be planted outside in spring when there is no danger of frost in your area. You can plant greens earlier if you have a cold frame to insulate the plants from frosts.
Most salad green seeds need to be planted 1/4 - 1/2" deep, but follow the depth instructions for each variety. Different lettuce varieties can be grown mixed together, if you wish, but plant other greens separately in the row. You want to be sure each variety in your salad mix won’t get shaded and crowded by quicker-growing plants.
Scatter the seed in the row closer than recommended - since you are not going to allow the plants to grow to maturity they can grow close together. Leave about 1/4" between each seed, but don’t worry if they are closer. Loosely cover the seed with soil to the depth recommended on each variety’s package.
If you are transplanting your greens, follow the planting depth instructions accompanying the plants. You can space them closer than recommended in the row.
Step 3 - Water & Wait
Keep the seed bed moist but not soggy, especially during germination. Once the plants are established, water your salad greens whenever the top 1/2" of soil seems dry. As with most plants, water your baby greens in the morning before the summer sun in on the plants. Keeping the garden bed moist will help your greens to stay tasty, not bitter.
Step 4 - Harvest Time
The baby greens are ready to harvest when they are large enough to eat! Harvest your greens in the morning for best results, when the plants have the most water in their leaves. For lettuces, cut the leaves from the plants about 1" above the ground with a pair of sharp scissors. As long as you do not disturb the root systems or cut the leaves too close to the ground, your lettuce plants will continue to grow new leaves.
For spinach, beet greens, chard, and other greens, harvest the larger outer leaves by picking them off with your fingers. Leave the smaller, inner leaves on the plants so they will continue to grow.
This post is part of the series: Organic Greens
Learn how to grow your own organic salad greens. Organic lettuce, baby salad greens and organic sprouts are easy to grow in even a small space. Read these step-by-step instructions to ensure success!