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A new leaf

We’ve come a long way from the traditional iceberg lettuce era. These days, there are lovely loose-leaf varieties that are so tasty and easy to grow in the garden or in pots . Plus, you can sow and grow every few weeks to keep the harvest going.

Most salad greens grow in full sun and in part shade. Prior to planting, remove any weeds and dig in lots of compost to help improve soil structure and increase water retention. If planting in pots or troughs, use a good quality potting mix. After planting, water regularly to help keep your salad greens well hydrated. Apply a layer of mulch, like Whoflungdung, to the top of the soil – this will help keep the soil cool and moist, and suppress weeds too. Liquid feed regularly to help boost growth. We like to water with seaweed once a week (ecoseaweed, Harvest, Seasol Gold).

Remove the outer leaves from established plants, as required. Alternatively, cut the whole young plant with a sharp knife, leaving the crown to regenerate new foliage. Continue to feed and water regularly.

Hot and windy weather is problematic for salad greens; they need to be shaded on very hot days. Keep them well watered and throw over 50 percent shade cloth for sun protection. Snails and slugs love a damp lettuce patch. Control with a non-toxic snail bait that contains iron EDTA, like Multiguard Snail & Slug Killer.

  • Lettuce ‘Bistro Blend’ is a selection of gourmet-style salad leaves available in one handy pack. This mix contains Oak Leaf, non-heading Cos, and frilly and Batavia type lettuces.
  • Lettuce ‘Multi-cut’ may be cut up to three times! Each lettuce is ready to harvest 5-6 weeks after planting. Cut each lettuce back by two-thirds of its height and leave the remaining bottom third to develop a second harvest. It will be ready to cut again within 4-6 weeks.
  • French Spinach (Atriplex hortensis). This fast-growing annual contains calcium, potassium, and antioxidants. Atriplex has a salty, spinach taste and is suitable for use in raw salads or as a steamed vegetable. It is a more heat tolerant alternative to spinach.
It’s good to experiment with all that is now available: looseleaf lettuce, rocket, baby spinach, chicory, sorrel, mizuna, mustard greens, endive, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum), and purple orach. Bok choy, purslane, basil, baby beetroot, and Tuscan kale, can all make valuable contribution to a mixed salad.

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Author: Words: Sandra Ross | Image: Shutterstock