HOW TO START A CONTAINER GARDEN – Grow your own salad bowl ingredients!
Today we’re talking about how to start a container garden and learning to grow your own salad bowl ingredients. Keep reading, you’ll be amazed at how easy it really is!
It’s that time of year again! Mother Nature is starting to stir and Spring is in the air!
Are you a gardener who’s itching to get your hands dirty in a big bag of soil? Or perhaps a weekend gardener with a balcony or windowsill filled with your green thumb’s bounty.
With the right materials and a little know-how, you’re just weeks away from fresh, homegrown salad greens, right outside your door!
at your fingertips. Learn how to grow salad greens in a container garden-both indoors and out, plus how to care for your salad container garden. Get answers to your container garden questions in our FAQ section, and learn what types of salad to grow in a container. Plus, see delicious salad recipes to help you enjoy your bounty.
DO I NEED TO BUY EXPENSIVE SUPPLIES TO START A CONTAINER GARDEN?
Not if you don’t want to! Anything from bowls, boxes or barrels, wicker baskets and old shoes can be used to accommodate greenery.
As long as there are adequate drainage holes and a flat bottom, don’t worry too much about choosing the best container for your vegetables and herbs. It’s really up to you.
Go with whatever you have on hand, or design a garden with your individual style in mind. Your creativity can go wild as you look for new items to use as planters.
Containers are available in nearly any color, size or style imaginable. Tall, short, barrels, hanging baskets and more. When it comes to choosing containers for your garden, indoors or out, how do you know which one is best? Here’s a rundown to help you choose.
HOW TO START A CONTAINER GARDEN? With the containers, of course!
Your only assignment is to try to match the chosen pot to the plant, as well as to its home. Containers being used as potted environments should always be chosen with the plant in mind, not just your decor!
Make sure they’re large enough to accommodate the chosen plants and their growth, and you’ll be good to go.
CLAY POTS – Clay pots are porous, allowing air and water to easily pass through. While they are quite sturdy, clay pots can break easily. And because clay is porous, your plants will dry out faster and frequent watering may be necessary. The best things about clay pots are they are good for keeping roots cool and are ideal for growing drought-tolerant plants.
STONE/CONCRETE CONTAINERS – Both are extremely durable and well suited as permanent fixtures for outdoor planting, especially for small shrubs and trees. But, there are definitely pros and cons to their use. First, they are frost proof and hold up well in windy areas because of their weight. But because stone is quite heavy, they can be difficult to move around and thus are unsuitable for areas such as balconies, decks or rooftops.
DECORATIVE CERAMIC POTS – There are a myriad of glazed ceramic pots available in tons of styles and colors. But, while they’re so attractive, they can also be expensive and are known to break easily. Because glazed ceramic pots are generally smaller and more decorative, they are normally used indoors for houseplants.
AND STILL MORE CHOICES…
WOODEN BOXES/CONTAINERS – You can find so many attractive wooden containers these days, especially in gardening and home decor catalogs. Many are designed with punch-out holes to provide adequate drainage too! Generally, cedar wood is most popular as it is longer lasting and pest resistant.
Treated wood is not recommended due to the chemicals used in the treatment process. Edible plants, especially, should not be placed in treated wooden planters unless you use plastic liners.
But, using plastic liners will help prolong the life of untreated wooden containers, as over time the wood will begin to break down. You could also consider painting your boxes or purchasing some that have already been painted.
METAL CONTAINERS AND POTS – I really don’t recommend metal container for outdoor use, unless purchasing one especially made for that purpose. I’ve got a beautiful copper planter from Frontgate that’s been home to my kitchen herb garden for the last several years.
Having said that, where metal containers and pots really shine is for displaying indoor plants. The array of design, sizes and types of metal are such that you’re sure to find one that fits into your home decor perfectly.
PLASTICS COME NEXT
POLY-RESIN POTS – Poly-resin is lightweight and inexpensive. And that makes it a great alternative for use on balconies, decks and rooftops, as they also can withstand the elements.
However, they are more likely to tip over in windy situations because of their lightweight construction. But, poly-resin pots are quite durable and can even be make to look like stone or weathered concrete.
FIBERGLASS POTS – Fiberglass containers are lightweight, but because their construction is often thinner than plastic or poly-resin, they are best suited for indoor environments.
PLASTIC POTS/CONTAINERS – Plastic is the least expensive and most popular option for planting pots and containers. They hold in moisture really well, but also might start to develop cracks if left in a sunny location, unless labeled as UV protected.
POLYSTYRENE POTS – Lightweight, inexpensive, but nonporous. Polystyrene pots are available in many sizes and finishes so finding one to match your decorating style is a breeze.
They’re thick enough to insulate plants effectively both in the heat of summer and cold of winter, but light enough to go just about anywhere you want. Perhaps the only con to polystyrene pots is their tendency to blow over easily in windy planting sites.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD BOWL INGREDIENTS?
Now that you’ve decided on the containers for your garden, you probably want to know what else you’ll need.
THE ANSWER: DIRT The most essential item for you container garden is the soil. Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Drains well
- Won’t compact
- Not over-saturated with nutrients
Which I’m sad to say leaves out many garden mixes and most dirt coming directly from your yard or garden. But, no worries…
You can find packaged soil mixes at your garden center specifically designed for container gardening. You can also make your own organic soil mix if desired, here’s the “recipe”:
- 5 gallons compost material
- 1 gallon clean sand
- 1 gallon perlite
- 1 cup granular AP fertilizer
Now you’ve got your containers and soil, where do you get your seeds? In the early months of the year, you’ll see seed catalogs in your mailbox and emails in your inbox. Gardening resources abound! You’ll find plenty of fabulous seed choices at these resources too:
- Home Depot
- Local garden centers and nurseries
While you’re shopping, you might want to add a WATER STICK (measures moisture levels) and HAND-HELD CLAW to your cart. Container plants need to be watered more frequently than those in the ground. And a small hand-held claw is helpful for occasionally aerating the surface of the soil.
IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GROWING MICROGREENS AND SPROUTS, READ THIS INFORMATIVE POST BY CLICKING HERE: How to Grow Microgreens and Sprouts (in the middle of Winter!)
GROW YOUR OWN SALAD BOWL INGREDIENTS – How to start a container garden with Lettuces and Greens
Container grown salad greens don’t require much space or even much effort.
And, with a rapid return, most lettuces mature from seeding in about three weeks.
Growing lettuce in containers is a common practice for small space gardeners and apartment dwellers. And if you’ve got no yard, but two decks, like me, it’s the perfect solution for a “green thumb” fix!
You can start seeds early indoors or bring the pots inside during light freezes. Lettuce is a cool season crop and leaves develop best in cool but not chilly temperatures. That calls for 5-6 hours sun on days that don’t reach high temperatures.
Growing your own salad bowl ingredients in containers means that you can move them to a cooler, shadier spot as the days get warmer.
Keep in mind that the dog days of Summer are not the best time to grow leaf lettuce. You’ll want to pause production during the hottest months, then plant again in late Summer for a second harvest in Fall. Check your see packets for the proper planting times.
A great thing about growing lettuce in containers is that is allows you to control weeds and pests more easily. Container gardens also afford quick access when you want some leaves for a salad.
How to grow your own salad bowl ingredients boils down to some simple rules. Most apply to the various varieties of vegetables and herbs you’ll be growing.
Here’s a few guidelines specifically for growing lettuces in your container garden:
- Give the roots plenty of space – you can grow several varieties in a 12 inch pot
- Greens need a consistent supply of moisture, but cannot tolerate wet roots
- Using clay pots allows any excess water to drain or evaporate to prevent soggy roots
- Make sure the chosen container has adequate drainage holes
- Lettuce can be planted by direct sowing or transplants into your container garden
- You’ll need 1 to 3 ½ gallons of soil depending on the size of your container
- Choose a lettuce mix marked“cut and come again” for repeat harvests
- Recommended varieties include Black Seeded Thompson and red or green oak leaf types
- Loose leaf lettuces are better suited to pots than head lettuce
- Seeds should be sown ½ inch deep and 1/2 inch apart, then covering with a scant 1/4 inch of soil
- Transplants should be buried ¼ inch deeper than they would be in garden soil and set 6 to 12 inches apart
- Lettuce has shallow roots and responds best to consistent, shallow watering
HOW TO START A CONTAINER GARDEN – Keeping pests away & Harvesting your crop!
There are plenty of pests that enjoy lettuce as much as we do. You’ll want to employ organic methods to combat these pests, as you don’t want to contaminate your crop.
One of the best ways to get rid of bugs that get into lettuce is to use blasts of water or insecticidal soap. If your containers are plagued by slugs, try trapping them in shallow containers filled with beer. (at least they go out happy!)
Thin the plants when they are a few inches tall using a pair of scissors. You can then toss the thinnings into a salad as microgreens.
When the plants are 4-6 inches tall, fertilize them with a soluble fertilizer at half strength.
HARVESTING YOUR LETTUCE
The best time to harvest loose lettuce is when the leaves are young. The leaves will grow back for additional harvests. Always cut lettuce when it’s tender, as it’s quick to bolt and become bitter when left too long.
Greens should be harvested by just plucking the leaves instead of the whole plant. That means you have a continual supply of fresh greens when growing greens in a container garden.
Maturation times vary widely by variety, anywhere from 45-100 days. Consult your seed packet for a more accurate time frame, but, essentially, you can begin harvesting whenever leaves begin to form.
For the freshest, crispest lettuce, harvest early in the morning before the sun begins to wilt the greens.
You should be able to enjoy 3-4 harvests from each plant, but you can also succession plant so that in another few weeks, you have another set of plants to harvest from.
BUT, WHAT KINDS OF GREENS SHOULD I PLANT?
Well, there’s Arugula, Baby Spinach, Cress, Frisee, Mustard, Chervil, Escarole, Endive, Mache, Mizuna or Tatsoi…
Or, if you do decide to grow your own salad bowl ingredients, you might want to consider one of my favorites. I love to have a fabulous “mesclun” mix available for harvesting right into my salad bowl!
Mesclun mixes can include arugula, lettuce, frisee, mustard, radicchio, baby red leaf, chervil and endive. Each mix is a little different, be sure to check the package when purchasing.
The huge variety in greens makes for a very interesting and wide palate pleaser. The name “mesclun” comes from the word “mescal” from the Provencal or Southern France dialects. The word means “to mix” or “mixture.”
Mesclun mix should be harvested when the baby greens are only three to four weeks old, small, soft and tender.
This fabulous mix of greens are valued for their color, variety, nutritional punch and mix of flavors.
You might find it labeled as “Spring mix” at the green grocer or farm stands. This particular combination is rich in vitamins and their color and form add interest to your menus.
Wash your greens right before you plan to eat them. Soak leaves in a bath of cold water for about 5 minutes, then swirl the leaves gently with your hand to loosen the debris. Lift them out of the water and dry in spinner or on kitchen towels.
Once your greens have reached their perfectly crisp-yet-tender peak, either remove the entire plant at the base, or cut the outer leaves with kitchen shears and leave the center intact so new leaves can grow.
READY, SET, GARDEN!
You’re ready! You now know how to start a container garden and exactly how to grow your own salad bowl ingredients! And don’t forget to plant some fragrant herbs too!
You’ll never have an excuse again not to have a fresh green salad on your dinner table.
If you grow your own salad bowl ingredients, you’ll always be able to select the types of greens you love. And don’t forget it’s super easy, fast, and much more economical than buying boutique baby greens. as well.
Learning how to start a container garden and how to grow your own salad bowl ingredients is really a win/win.
How about showing us your container garden pictures over at THE FAB LIFE FACEBOOK GROUP! We’d love to see your “green thumb” at work!
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