I often come across blog or magazine articles about how this family or that celebrity grows all their own food in a small back yard or inner-city balcony, and often find myself dreaming of doing the same. I might aspire to this idea of self sufficiency, but I honestly, who am I kidding? It would be a colossal amount of hard work I imagine. I’m pretty certain not many of us are that motivated.
However, in the last couple of weeks since the weather’s gotten a warmer and salad has often been on the menu at dinner time, I’ve found myself at the green-grocer picking up various types of leaves – soft butter lettuce, red tinged lollo rosso, peppery watercress – and then picking over a bit of curly kale and rainbow chard in the garden. I like a lot of different leaves in my salad. I think we’ve all felt the relief that winter is finally over, and fully embraced these “salad days”.
Since I don’t work full-time, and I do have a bit of sunny backyard, there’s really no excuse for me to be buying salad at the green grocer. Salad leaves have to be the easiest thing to grow. Dad gave me a bit of garden bed of my own when I was a kid, and showed me how to plant lettuces and radishes. Anyone can do it. The benefits are many – no more limp forgotten lettuce at the back of the fridge = fresher, healthier produce and less waste. Just walking out to the backyard = less food miles. Planting and watching something grow = massive satisfaction and Brownie points.
The Wikipedia definition of “Salad days”: A Shakespearean idiomatic expression to refer to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person.
These words perfectly describe my gardening prowess, but I’m not easily deterred. Once I’d made my resolution, I planned a salad garden and renewed my membership of the Digger’s Club of Australia, a gardening organisation specialising in heritage seeds. A happy couple of hours was spent trawling through their online store, and a few days later I had my seeds. I did already have seeds left from my previous membership, and from bits and bobs I’d picked up along the way, but there’s nothing like an online seed catalogue to get me inspired.
I thought I’d get a cheeky, quick salad crop into my newly made garden bed before the planned zucchini and tomatoes got too big. Salad is a great crop to get the interest going, germinating in a few days if the weather is warm enough, and ready to harvest in a just few weeks.
The weekend was gorgeous, with blue skies and sunny weather, around 20 degrees, and an absolute pleasure to spend in the garden. I planted lots of different varieties of salad leaves, and the plan is, in a few weeks when they’ve established, I’ll plant a few more, and so on, to keep us in salad all through the summer. It really should be that easy. There’s no excuse. We should all give it a go.
This is what I planted:
Little Gem-Lactuca sativa:
A deservedly popular variety known for its sweet, crunchy flavour and texture. A small semi-cos, ideal for growing where space is limited. Prefers rich, well-drained soil. Harvest in 8 weeks.
Green Cos-Lactuca sativa:
Crisp, tall leaves. Large, firm hearts. Excellent flavour. Great in tubs or pots. Harvest in 8-10 weeks.
Baby Cos-Lactuca sativa:
Sweet and crunchy baby variety ideal for saving space and can also be grown in pots. Harvest in 9 weeks.
Quick and easy to grow. Peppery flavour. Provides an abundance of spicy leaves. Harvest as required.
Dwarf Green Curled Kale – Brassica oleracea acephala:
Produces leaves, does not form a head. Excellent source of vitamins A and C, and powerful antioxidant properties. Harvest in 8-10 weeks.
Baby Leaf Gourmet Mix:
Tatsoi-Brassica narinosa, Mizuna-Brassica rapa, Roquette-Eruca sativa, Beetroot-Beta vulgaris, Red and Green leaf lettuce-Lactuca sativa
A beautiful, sweet, delicate mix of different textures, colours and flavours that balance superbly when cut as baby leaves. Harvest in 4 weeks.
Rainbow Chard-Beta Vulgaris
Dazzling, colourful and extremely nutritious. Mid-ribs of red, orange, yellow, pink or white make this the perfect fountaining accent plant for any flower or vegetable garden.
Red Spinach-Spinacia oleracea
High in iron, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins A, B6, C and K along with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and a complete set of amino acids.
French Sorrel-Rumex scutatus
Edible perennial herb with large heart-shaped leaves that have a mild lemon or citrus flavour.