Whilst we’re all about the sweeter things in life, we all know that having a little of the green stuff is good for us too! And there’s nothing more organic (and economical) than growing your own salad. But what if you’ve only got a tiny garden, or even no garden? We’ve got some handy tips to help you grow a range of salad produce in tiny spaces such as indoor pots, window boxes or small garden beds and growbags …
When growing space is limited, “cut and come again” salad leaf plants are ideal. Just grow the plants on your window sill and take what you need, when you need it, leaving the rest of the plant growing. Good varieties for this include Salad Bowl, Lollo Rosso, Kendo and Wild Rocket.
- From seed: Start salad leaf seeds off in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard, but don’t let them dry out. You should see growth in about 14 days. When the plant’s about 5cm high you can start to harvest leaves. Alternatively, you can let your plant grow to approximately 15cm then cut the whole plant, leaving a stump of about 3cm. It should then re-grow for you! Sowing a few seeds every month ensures you’ll have plenty of leaves when you need them.
- From plants / plugs: many supermarkets now sell ready-grown “cut and come again” lettuce plants. These usually cost under £1 and, although the care label may say differently, with a little TLC you can easily keep your plant growing for a significant time. Place on a bright window sill or re-plant into a window box, but beware of placing in direct sunlight as most lettuce varieties like a little shade too.
- Just remember: Whether you’re growing indoors or out, keep soil nicely moist but not soaking. If you’re growing outside in window boxes or a small garden bed, protect plants from slugs and snails – they’ll certainly eat and come again given the chance!
One joy of growing tomatoes in a small space is that you can use them as a fresh ingredient in so many dishes. The best conditions for growing tomatoes outdoors are always polytunnels and greenhouses, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t thrive successfully indoors instead. Sungold is a great cherry tomato plant which is ideal for harvesting little and often, whilst Gardener’s Delight is a popular, easy to grow plant with an abundant crop. To ensure successful growing, show your plants a little TLC, avoid over or under-watering and choose a warm, light and sheltered spot.
- From seed: Sow in a tray and leave on a sunny windowsill to germinate. Seedlings appear within 14 days and by 8 weeks you should have sturdy little plants ready to be replanted into pots. If you have space outside for a growbag, you could plant seeds directly into it. Alternatively, if you have lots of outside wall space but limited space for pots and grow bags, consider using hanging baskets instead. A basket of varieties such as Hundreds and Thousands or Tumbler offers an unusual and decorative as well as productive way to grow tomatoes.
- From plugs / plants: Transplant the plants / plugs into the pot / basket / bed / bag. Make sure there is good drainage available and water plants well. For upward growing varieties, use a growing frame or cane to support the plants as they grow by gently securing the main stem to the frame.
- Just remember: If you’re growing an upright variety, you’re aiming for a main stem with four main off-shoots. Once you have this, you’ll need to pinch out any additional shoots which appear at the joints of the stem / main off-shoots. This helps your plant put its energy into flowering and fruiting. If you are growing a bushy variety though (such as one of those hanging basket varieties) you won’t need to do this.
Other indoor salad plants
- Bell pepper and chilli pepper plants can be grown successfully as indoor plants. They do need a little TLC but can make an interesting and colourful addition to a warm, light room.
- Small carrot varieties (such as Amsterdam) and some varieties of beans (for example Dwarf Speedy) could be grown successfully in window boxes which are 30cm deep and 25cm wide (minimum). The beans will need supporting with cane or string as they grow.
Growing your own salad is easy enough with limited space, as long as you take a little time to give them the attention they need. In return, they’ll provide you with a colourful display as well as healthy produce at hand when you need it! Sweet!