Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Plant a variety of seeds, from lettuce and pak-choi to spinach and mizuna for fresh spring salads

Waiting until late spring to plant your vegetable garden deprives you of delicious early-season salads. Even before your garden soil has warmed up, you can grow your own salad in pots on balconies or sunny patios. One of the earliest early crops is mesclun, a mixture of baby greens, grown from purchased pre-mixed seed.

1. Fill a 30-centimetre pot with moist indoor potting soil to within 2.5 centimetres of the top of the pot.

2. Lightly firm soil and sow the seed thickly, covering lightly with 0.5 centimetres of soil. Water gently. The pots can be left outside on a sunny balcony or porch. If extreme cold threatens, cover pots with a cardboard box or move inside.

3. Repeat with another pot in five days, and then a third pot five days later.

4. Harvest the first pot in a few weeks. Shear off the top 5 centimetres of growth wtih a pair of scissors.

5. Feed with a balanced fertilizer and in a week or so, harvest again. This can usually be done three times. In the meantime, the pots will be ready to harvest.  —Marjorie Mason

Stephen's custom mixed greens
Like Marjorie, I love to cut fresh mesclun early in the season, and once you've mastered the technique, you can formulate your own mixes to suit individual tastes. Here's what I use:

  • Cornsalad or mâche (Valerianella locusta)
  • 'Black-seeded Simpson Improved' lettuce
  • 'Blackjack' red looseleaf lettuce
  • 'Ideal' cos or romaine lettuce
  • 'Red Salad Bowl' lettuce
  • 'Early' mizuna (Brassica rapa ssp. nipposinica var. laciniata
  • 'Bonsai' pak-choi (Brassica rapa Chinese Group)
  • 'Mei Qing Choi' Shanghai pak-choi
  • 'Scarlet' spinach

For a spicier flavour I include:

  • 'Astro' arugula or roquette (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa
  • 'Cicoria Catalogna' endive or escarole (Cichorium endiva)
  • 'Lollo Rossa' lettuce
  • 'Red Giant' Japanese mustard (Brassica juncea)
  • Purple shiso (Perilla frutescens var. purpurascens)

—Stephen Westcott-Gratton


Read more in Gardens and Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

  • Page 1: Growing early lettuce

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