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garden projects
Published September 13, 2022 by Nicole Burke

Our Simple Container Garden Idea for Growing Your Own Gourmet Salads

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salad garden
container garden
beginner garden
organic salad
Container for Salad Garden

Want to Try Your Hand at Growing a Little of Your Own Food...

But not ready to go all out with a large raised bed?

Starting with a small, natural container for homegrown salad greens is a great way to make gardening a part of your everyday life and get your first taste of that garden-to-table experience. Lettuce plants are small and have shallow root systems, so growing lettuce in small containers makes perfect sense.

lettuce container growing

Grow Your Own Lettuce in a Container Garden

When I first started my company Rooted Garden, I created these containers and sold nearly 100 of them for holiday gifts. I literally pulled the salad plants for each planter from my own backyard garden, snapped a pic for Instagram, and offered the little planters as teacher and friend gifts for the holidays.

salad planter

As I was starting to spread the message of the kitchen garden, I realized that jumping in with a full raised-bed setup was a bit much for most people. These little containers were the perfect introduction to growing a bit of your own food (and they're cute too!).

The best part? Friends and clients wrote me all spring saying they'd cut from their planter once a week for months! And even the most neglected gardens still came back the following autumn when dormant lettuce seeds decided to sprout again.

Ready to make your own small salad planter too?

Five Steps to Create Your Own Salad Garden

salad garden containers

Step 1: Pick your Salad Garden Container

Grab a container or tub that's at least 6 inches deep (again, lettuce plants have shallow roots) and made of natural materials. Some of my favorites are cedar, stainless steel, and terra cotta clay. Shop my favorite containers. If you're shopping around on your own, look for words like "food grade" and "untreated" to ensure you're using the most natural of materials for your organic salad greens. I recommend starting with a container that holds at least two gallons.

Clean off the container/tub, remove any stickers (easier said than done), and add a patina finish to the outside if you'd like by spraying with a mix of vinegar, salt, and water.

Be sure to add drainage holes to the bottom of your container if it doesn’t come with them. Your lettuce plants won't be happy sitting in extra water. You can use a drill or a hammer and large nail to add about two drainage holes for every square foot of container bottom. Test these drainage holes by running some water in your container on a flat surface and noting how long it takes for the water to completely drain from the container.

weed barrier cloth at the bottom of a salad container

Cut a piece of weed barrier cloth and cover the drainage holes in the container. This ensures that your soil won't run out of the container each time it's watered or there's heavy rainfall.

soil for lettuce container

Step 2: Fill Your Salad Container with Ideal Soil for Lettuce Plants

Use an organic potting soil and compost mixture. Good soil is the secret to growing anything. My grandfather used to say, "Plant a 50 cent plant in a $5 hole," and of course, he was right. (Aren't all grandfathers?) Spend your money on your soil, and you'll be set with delicious salad all season long.

Lettuce plants like a soil mix that’s a little more alkaline. I love to grow lettuces in a sandy loam soil mix, so if you can find one at your local nursery, grab a bag. Lettuce also loves to grow in organic compost. Creating a 50/50 mixture of soil and compost works great. Fill the container nearly to the top.

Shop my favorite soil additives.

starter lettuce plants

Step 3: Plant Young Lettuce Plants or Lettuce Seeds

Use locally grown lettuce plants or organic seeds. The source of your plants and seeds matters more than you know, so don't just grab the first bag of seeds you see at the hardware store. Shop organic and non-GMO if possible. If you find heirloom varieties, this is your chance to try lettuce flavors you've probably never experienced before.

Check out my favorite seed mix and the top ten leafy greens I recommend for a salad garden.

Use a dibber (or chopstick) and measuring tape or seed spacer to ensure that your seeds are spaced three to four inches from one another in rows that are at least two to three inches apart. Gently cover your seeds with a little bit of compost and water in lightly.

making salad planters

Step 4: Water Your Lettuce Plants Regularly

Give your planter at least four hours of sun every day and about one inch of water per week.

Lettuce is like 90% water or something crazy like that, so mind the water! Check your lettuce planter each morning to ensure that the soil doesn't dry out as the seeds start to germinate.

The simplest way to keep your plants happy is to keep a watering can right next to your plants and let it fill with rain water. Use that rain water during dry spells to water your lettuce plants, and your leafy greens (and your water bill) will thank you! As you water, take care not to disturb the tiny seeds and seedlings as they begin to grow.

You can test your planter’s moisture by gently sticking your fingertip into the soil. If it feels dry a few inches down, it’s time to give the plants a drink. If your planter is in direct sunlight, you’ll need to water more often. That's also true for containers that are on the shallow side, which tend to dry out faster.

And remember, plants are living things, so check in on them often and be sure they're doing okay.

container garden lettuce

Step 5: Harvest Your Gourmet Salad Greens

In three to four weeks, begin harvesting from your new salad container by cutting each plant from the outer and lower leaves. Lettuce is a cut-and-come-again plant, so by harvesting only the outer leaves, you'll be able to come back the next week to harvest from the same plants. Continue to harvest as your salad plants keep growing, maintaining a good water level in your container.

Most importantly, skip past the slimy lettuce bags at the grocery store with a spring in your step. You're bringing back the kitchen garden and lowering your food miles, so you have absolute rights to be braggy about it!

lettuce container garden

Start Growing Your Own Greens

Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me!

Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you click on the link and purchase the item. The links to stores outside of Amazon are not affiliated—they're just products I really like. All opinions remain my own.

Our Simple Container Garden Idea for Growing Your Own Gourmet Salads