This blog post is to help you plan, design and maintain your salad garden for a continued supply of salad all year. This article was published in our monthly gardening peace in the Central Connects Magazine.
At Keela Permaculture farm, we like to have a separate salad garden near our community house to make it easy for chefs, volunteers and guests to harvest a salad. We have periods of the year where we can be feeding up to 25 people every day, and oftentimes we have fallen short in the salad garden resulting in us having to purchase more supplies from the local market. However, due to our new succession planting and interplanting plan, we now have a regular supply of salads.
Design and preparation come before planting.
Firstly before you start planting, I suggest you make a detailed design covering the points in this article. In the meantime, concentrate on preparing the beds through soil amendments and planting cover crops for the next season. Please refer to my November article in this magazine, which you can also find on our website, on planting a cover crop and preparing a vegetable garden.
Designing the space
In this bed we can include our perennial plants and any plants that need the trellis. This bed can have two-metre-high fence posts with a fence to be used as a trellis for plants that need support.
Multiple salad beds
I suggest having two or three spaces for the salad garden. Extra beds provide you with sufficient space for succession planting. One bed can be left to rest, and the plants within can be left for seed saving, planting a cover crop or additional seasonal salad ingredients. After a season of successionl planting, the bed tends to get very messy, and starting fresh on a new bed can allow for a more efficient pattern.
These are in addition to the salad garden for growing vegetables such as carrots and peppers (capsicums) to supplement your salads.
Focus on perennials
It is always good to focus on the perennial bed before your usual salds, as you only have to plant these once and usually each year they give you more yield than the last without too much additional work. The leaves, flowers and fruits can be used as an addition to your salads. These plants also attract beneficial insects to the area.
Perennial plants for leaves
Chives, table grapes (summer shade), strawberries and Mediterranean herbs (Oregarno, Thyme, Marjoram, Sage, Rosemary), Fennel, Korean Anis Hyssop (adds a nice flavour to dishes and attracts a lot of butterflies)
Marigolds, tagetes, nasturtium and hollyhock
1. Large leafy greens in autumn.
These tend to be from plants that last at least one whole year and keep giving you leaves. These plants tend to have deeper roots with more nutritional benefits. I have had salad beds at Keela with over 20 different large leafy greens, but the ones which I find grow best in central Portugal and I am now sticking to are listed below:
Tuscan Kale, Parsley, Red Russian Kale and Purple Sprouting broccoli.
When to plant: Ideally September to November, but you can plant it now in January.
How many to plant: Two of each per person (Total eight plants per person)
How often to plant: Onceper year.
2. Seasonal additions
Cherry Tomato – I would have one plant of cherry tomato per 2 people in your salad garden.
Basil – 3 plants per person – Transplant from seedling
Summer Beans – Direct plant these from seed
When to plant: May
Peas – Direct plant these from seed
When to plant: November
Monthly succession planting
These are medium-sized salad plants you can grow in seed trays or purchase at the market and transplant into your salad beds. These are also short-lived and so fit well into the space in between your larger leafy plants.
There are many different varieties of lettuce and I would suggest planting a selection of what is available at your local market.. I prefer to plant ones that give a bigger leaf, as these can act as bulkers.
How many to plant: Plant 6 every month per person. Ideally, different types.
How to plant: Plant two between each large leafy plant
Harvest: 6 weeks till you first harvest but then just remove the outer leaves each time you harvest so that you have a continuous harvest
Direct seed every month
These are smaller, more delicate plants grown best when directly planted into your beds. I would usually seed these in lines at the edge of the bed so that you have two lines of direct seed plants with a line of large-leafed plants in the middle and salad.
Direct seed every month from October until May, however during the hot summer you can also plant the seeds but it is quite hot for them. Perhaps in shade you may have some success.
Several types of small-leaf spinach are difficult to harvest but delicious.. New Zealand spinach creates a good mulch as it spreads over large areas and itself-seeds. Instead of inside the salad garden, I plant tnew zealand spinach under newly planted fruit trees for this reason.
Rocket – A nice spicy addition to the salad
Radish – Both leaves and radishes can be used in the salad
Coriander – In the summer, it just goes to seed no matter how much shade you have so harvest what you can when it is ready!
To add variety to your salad, you can always harvest leaves and flowers from some of your vegetables. These include sweet potato leaves, grapevine leaves, strawberry leaves, courgette flowers and clover. I also add a variety of leaves when foraging for wild plants from around the farm which is a topic for another article altogether.
Having all of the salad planted in one place makes the garden design easier, makes harvesting more convenient and ensures that you have the right amount per person for the salad garden season.
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