Saturday, January 11, 2014

Salads in pots

Everyone I greeted on my usual Saturday morning walk up to Marrickville Road and back seemed to be of the opinion that today's weather is just about perfect. A beautiful day, a Goldilocks summer's day. Just right. Not too hot, such a gentle breeze you hardly notice it, and the shade of buildings and trees feels as cool and refreshing as a drink of lemonade. Shame it isn't like this every day of summer, so all you can do on a day like this is enjoy it while you can.

The problem with summer here in Sydney is that these lovely days are outnumbered by the hotter days, the searing days when the moment you step outside you can feel your bare skin slowly burning. 

Sadly, this hot season isn't a great time to grow salad greens. That's ironic, as it's the ideal time to enjoy light meals of a grill with a salad on the side. My usual sunny vegie beds are just too hot for salad greens to last long in summer. Forget to water them just one day, or believe the morning weather forecasts of 'showers' and not bother to water the garden on a day that turned out to be dry and sunny yet again, and salad greens soon wilt and die. If they survive, they get through their life-cycle in what seems like a fortnight, shooting to seed in no time.

And so, the solution I use is to grow small crops of salad greens in pots, and put the pots in spots which get nice morning sun, then little or no sizzling afternoon sun. It works, but the trick with salads in pots is to water them every day, and don't trust the weather people. 

This is the basic set-up for two, a pot of rocket in
front, and some mixed greens at the back.
Apart from watering daily, the other trick is light
liquid feeds, especially after you've harvested
a big swathe of leaves.
This is a pot of radish seedlings, a new addition to the mix.
I love the way radish seed sprout in 4 or 5 days.
These are red and brown mignonette lettuce seedlings, which
also came up from seed in just four days. They need mollycoddling
in this heat, so I'm keeping them in a cooler spot to let them
grow up to about 7-10cm tall, then I'll cram the healthiest
healthiest half-dozen seedlings into a wide, shallow pot,
mixing up the two leaf colours for a nice looking effect.

Finally, a little experiment. Hopefully you can see the little
ruby coloured seedlings in the photo. These are a new idea
from Yates seeds, sent to us by the lovely Judy Horton of
Yates to try out. It's a new range called Microgreens, quick-
growing salad greens which you harvest when they're baby sized.
So far so good, they've come up quickly, in five days.
Judy sent us four packets to try. Our little red
babies are the 'Cabbage Rubies'. The idea is
that you sow about half a whole packet of the
seeds in a small (10cm) pot. You can grow
them indoors, on a windowsill, but I'm
growing ours outside. As the seed packet
says "pick in 2-3 weeks". That's what we'll do.
Some seed packets give you too little growing
info, but Yates can't be accused of that. There
are enough instructions here to give even the
most basic beginner some confidence.
 So, if your salad greens in the garden bed are having a tough time of it here in Australia right now, you're not alone with that problem. My tip is to go potty until autumn. I prefer a mixture of leaves, so those 'mesclun' mixes are perfect for pots. The one great thing about pots is that you can move them to the 'perfect' spot that gets the right mix of sun and shade in summer. The problem with pots is that they're a bit more work, but all that really means is daily watering, before you head off for work.


Padaek said...

Love the pot idea! The microgreens make great contrast in a salad mix I think. :)

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