Grow Your Own Fresh Salad Greens – Indoors Or Outdoors
Cut and come again lettuce and salad greens are probably the easiest food to grow. You can grow them indoors by a sunny window, under grow lights, or outdoors in containers or a veggie bed.
The are called ‘cut and come again’ because the leafy greens are cut (and eaten) when the leaves are still young and tender (and delicious).
After the first cutting, more leaves grow from the base of the plant (come again) to be harvested later. I usually get at least 3 or 4 harvests from the same plant over a period of a few months.
Below you will find detailed growing instructions for the beginner gardener from seed to harvest (and compost) as well as a list of suggested seeds to try.
Even if you have a tiny apartment, so long as there is some sunlight, you should be able grow your own fresh salad greens.
How To Grow Cut And Come Again Salads
- You can grow salad greens indoors near a sunny window , under grow lights, or outdoors in containers, raised beds, or in the ground.
- The growing season can be extended year round with greenhouses, covered raised beds, polytunnels, or cloches.
- I learned to grow vegetables year round from The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour.
Prepare The Soil
- Containers: Use organic potting soil made for food crops. Read the label to be certain it is okay for veggies (safe to eat food grown in it). Many common potting soils are not food safe.
- In ground: I use my own garden soil which I add mature compost (humus) to a few times a year. You want soil that will retain moisture without being too damp or dry.
Sow The Seeds
Read your seed packets for specific instructions. In general this is how I do it:
- First moisten the soil with water so it stays in clumps when you grab a handful but does not drip water. This tells you it’s just right for planting.
- Sprinkle the seeds over the soil. I try to get them about 3/4″ apart. They don’t need too much room because you will harvest them before the plants mature.
- Cover the seeds with 1/4″ (or a bit less) of soil.
- Ensure everything is damp but not soaking and leave them alone to sprout.
- Your seed packet(s) will tell you how long it should take. Generally it’s 3-4 weeks in the warmer months, and 5-6 weeks at colder times of year before the plants get established.
- Grow lights are not really economical just for salad growing, but if you want to try them for seed starting (with or without salad greens), here’s my inexpensive grow light setup.
Care For The Seedlings
- I don’t want to hear any excuses about having a brown thumb. You just have to make a habit of paying attention to what you’ve planted.
- Check the seeds each day and just make sure the soil stays damp and does not dry out. Water gently as needed (don’t flood the newly sown seeds). Experience is the best teacher in gardening.
- Salad greens are edible any time before the plant starts bolting (to produce flowers and then seeds).
- Always cut your salads right before you want to eat them. Nothing compares to that fresh taste.
- I use kitchen scissors to cut the leaves.
- Only cut as much as you need and leave the rest for future salads (tomorrow and onward).
- You can cut your first harvest when the leaves are a few inches tall.
- Leave approximately 1″ of growth (from the soil to where you are cutting). You’ll be eating the tops of the leaves.
- Smell and taste each one as you cut them and get to know what’s what. It’s very enjoyable! You’ll soon have favourites and know which ones you like the best together.
- Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, it usually takes a few weeks for the greens to regrow.
- Cut the next batch whenever there’s enough to clip off, leaving an inch at the base.
Sow More Seeds
- Sow additional seeds every 2-3 weeks.
- You can plant the new seeds amongst the older plants if space is an issue.
- By the time you’ve exhausted the first planting, you’ll have several new lots well-established.
Compost Out and Compost In
- When you’ve had several harvests from a lot and the greens are getting old/ tough and/or starting to bolt, pull them from the bed and put them in the compost pile.
- Add compost to the beds a few times a year.
- Rotate all your growing crops to keep the soil healthy.
- If you’re using containers, use new potting soil each year.
Additional Salad Crops To Try
- Plant peas along with your spring and fall salads. Pea shoots are my favourite addition to fresh salad greens each day.
Recommended Seeds To Try
- Mesclun Mix is a blend of seeds consisting of various leafy lettuces and other greens.
- You can buy packets of mesclun mix or choose several individual seed packets and make your own.
- I would recommend buying separate seeds (and planting them in their own sections) if you want to get to know what each type is.
- Check the seed packets to see what time of year the seeds will grow best in your region.
- Here’s a list of seed sellers I like. It’s always best to use seeds from plants grown organically in your region.
Suggested Seed List For Growing Cut And Come Again Salad Greens
- Beets (eat the tops)
- Giant red mustard
- Golden yellow Chinese cabbage
- Kohl rabi
- Loose leaf lettuces
- Oriental mustard
- Red Russian kale
- Upland cress
Get your scissors ready and start planting!
Need More Info? There’s lots more seed starting basics to help you get started.