Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Asian greens

Lettuce, kale, chives, and pansies make a colorful and edible garden accent.

Why not celebrate Earth Day by jumping on the grow-your-own-veggies bandwagon? Colorful salad bowls are a great way to grow your own produce in a limited amount of space. And they can be far more than strictly utilitarian. Combine salad greens with edible flowers and herbs for a showy and tasty mix.

The folks at PanAmerican Seed and BallHort have made creating your own salad bowl a snap with their new SimplySalad seed pellets. Each pellet contains a mix of several edible greens. Global Gourmet provides Asian flair with lacy red and green mustards paired with lettuces of the same color. The Alfresco blend brings a Mediterranean vibe with arugula, endive, and radicchio combined with red and green lettuces. And for the less adventuresome, the City Garden mix teams mild leaf lettuces in a variety of burgundy and green hues.

This photo shows the Global Gourmet salad mix in a container garden, along with Alfresco mix seed pellets in a vial attached to its store display card.

By planting several salad bowls you can have a steady supply of greens for your dinner table. This bowl is ready to harvest. I’ll simply cut the greens off a couple of inches above the ground. In about 3 weeks, they should be ready to harvest again. I expect to get several cycles of harvest from the bowl before summer’s heat puts an end to the harvest. A bonus with growing the greens in a bowl: I can move the container to the shade when temperatures heat up, extending the harvest season. And I’ll be sure to plant some more pellets in mid-summer for fall harvest. By then, I’ll have lots of tomatoes and peppers from my garden to add to the salads!

Floating row cover protected this Provencal mesclun mix from earlier snows and frosts.

Floating row cover protected this Provencal mesclun mix from earlier snows and frosts.

You can have fresh greens from the garden on the table for Thanksgiving dinner, even in central Iowa where the average first frost date arrives in early October. This year my yard was blanketed in snow on the 10th of October. Tender veggies such as the tomatoes and peppers turned to mush after that blast of cold. But other hardier crops continue to thrive despite sub-freezing weather.

I’ve been enjoying salads of chard and mesclun mix (a blend of lettuces and Asian greens) for the last several weeks, and expect to serve some up with the turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving when my family is visiting. I planted the mesclun mix in August, and covered it with floating row cover soon after it emerged, partly to protect it from marauding rabbits, and partly to prevent damage from frost.

Leaves of Bull's Blood beet add wonderful color to salads.

Leaves of Bull's Blood beet add wonderful color to salads.

I’ll add some Bull’s Blood beet greens to the salad to liven up the blend. I grow this beet almost exclusively for its brilliant red/maroon leaves, which are mild and tasty, especially during the cool weather of fall and spring.

BroccoliFresh broccoli is also on the menu. After I harvest the primary head, I let the side shoot sprout. They’ll continue to produce until temperatures dip into the low 20s F. These smaller heads easily fit into the vegetable steamer without needing to be chopped up. Flavor improves with the cool weather. And best yet, there’s no need to worry about closely examining the tight clusters for hidden worms! I prefer to get my Thanksgiving dinner protein source from turkey rather than cabbage loopers.

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