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Salad Squares

Salad Squares

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You don’t have to be a master gardener or have a lot of space to enjoy fresh, colorful and flavorful greens for salads and sandwiches. You can grow a blend of salad greens in the same square-foot patch. By planting “a square at a time” over the course of the summer, you’ll get a staggered and steady harvest rather than just a single bumper crop.

Start with the three essentials: one packet each of red loose-leaf lettuce seed, green loose-leaf lettuce seed, and spinach seed. (Curly leaf types add more texture.) To that, add a half packet each of three or four of your favorites (e.g., mustard, red chicory, endive, arugula, bull’s blood, lamb’s lettuce/corn salad, or romaine, to name a few). While you can buy packaged mesclun seed mixes, these don’t always provide a good blend. Mix the seeds in about a 1/4-cup of fine sand. Place the mixture in a container, such as a spice jar, ensuring that the holes in the lid are large enough for the largest seed to pass through.

For spring and fall planting, select a site that will receive full sun; for planting during the hottest part of the summer, choose a partially shaded area. Sprinkle the seed mixture over a 12” square area of soil. The sand lets you see where you have already sown. Cover the seeds thinly with about a quarter inch of soil, tamp lightly, then water deeply, but gently, with a watering can equipped with a rose that provides a fine spray.

Protect the early-spring and late-fall seedlings from frost with a garden cloche or plastic sheeting cut to size, and the summer seedlings from the sun with shade cloth cut to size.

Plant another square-foot patch every two to three weeks to ensure a steady harvest. For summer sowing, refrigerate the seeds overnight before planting.

When the leaves are about 4” or 5” tall, cut them a half inch or so above the ground with scissors. The leftover stubble will grow a second helping of salad greens.

To enjoy fresh salad greens in the fall and winter, plant some in a bowl indoors. Line the bottom of a 6” tall glass bowl with about 1-1/2” of small pebbles, then add about 4” of potting soil. Sow as for outdoor planting. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a sunny spot. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds have germinated, and move away from direct sunlight, as needed. Feed regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer.