Salad Gardening
Published February 2, 2022 by Nicole Burke

The 3 Best Salad Garden Tips to Maximize Your Production

Filed Under:
salad garden
lettuce plant
The 3 Best Salad Garden Tips to Maximize Your Production

Salad Greens Are Super Easy to Grow

Salad greens make great starter plants for those new to gardening or for those who don't have a whole lot of space.

We're just growing these plants for their leaves, so we don't have to spend months tending them while waiting for heavy fruit to ripen or give them space to vine and stretch across our entire garden bed. We don't have to support the stems by tying them to a trellis or stake, and we don't have to follow a complex fertilizing schedule.

All we really have to do is set them up in some good soil rich in organic matter and then follow these three tips.

The 3 Best Salad Garden Tips to Maximize Your Production

salad garden tip #1

Water Your Salad Garden Often

Salad greens are easy to tend overall, but they're also not plant-'em-and-forget-'em plants. Some varieties of lettuce are up to 96% water—if that tells you how important it is to water your salad garden regularly.

Keeping your lettuce plants well watered lowers the soil temperature and prevents the leaves from drying out, which would make them taste bitter should you harvest them. Lettuce plants love cooler weather, so when it's warmer outside, it's especially important to water your salad garden to delay your plants from bolting and producing a milky-like substance (which is perfectly safe to eat but means your plant is nearing the end of its life cycle).

If you study the roots of salad plants, you'll notice they don't go very deep. For that reason, it's better to give your lettuce plants a nice drink of water every couple of days (or every day during warmer weather), instead of deeply soaking them weekly as you might do with other plants. Aim for at least one inch of water a week total.

The best time to water is early in the morning, but if you're not a rise-with-the-sun-type of person, evening works just fine. Watering during prime sunlight hours often just means the water you put in your garden evaporates before it can really soak into the soil.

Also, aim your water at the roots of the plants, not the leaves, if you don't have a drip irrigation system.

Overall, it's best to maintain a consistent watering schedule to get the best crispness and flavor from your leaves.

water your salad garden regularly

salad garden tip #2

Harvest From Your Salad Garden Frequently

I like to grow as many lettuce plants as possible in my garden, and that means that regular harvesting is critical to maintain airflow around the leaves and prevent fungus and other yucky stuff I don't want growing on my leafy greens.

Harvesting also tells your plants to keep producing leaves for you instead of focusing their energy on producing seeds.

You can start harvesting leaves from small plants like arugula, mizuna, spinach, and spring mix in as little as 40 days, when they're a couple inches tall. Many people prefer the taste of baby leaves, so the sooner you cut, the better!

When harvesting from salad greens, always take the older, outer leaves and leave the newer leaves in the center of the plant to continue growing. This ensures the plant can keep growing and you can return in several weeks to harvest more. Use clean scissors or pruners.

If a plant starts bolting or looking like its time in the garden is over when you still have several months left before frost, pull it and plant new seeds.

Learn more on how to harvest your leafy greens to increase production.


Salad Garden Guide Ebook

In this ebook, you'll learn the step by step for every part of developing and growing (and troubleshooting) your own organic salad garden in a raised bed or other container. Each chapter is complete with full instructions and detailed graphics, as well as clear calls to action, to keep you making progress in your own organic salad garden this season and for many seasons to come. 

salad garden tip #3

Protect Your Salad Garden From Pests

Salad greens are like little plant magnets for creepy crawlies in your garden. The best and simplest way to protect your greens from pests is by covering them with inexpensive garden mesh. Read more about this organic pest solution here.

Add your cover as soon as you sow salad seeds or plant starter plants. Seedlings and garden transplants are particularly vulnerable to pest pressure, and you don't want to cover once you've already spotted pests, only to trap the bugs underneath the mesh and give them an endless leaf buffet!

If you don't have a cover and see signs of pests, grab your pruners and remove any leaves that look discolored or have holes. Pests focus on the bigger outer leaves of your salad plants, so the newer leaves at the center of the plant usually won't have any issues at all. 

Monitor your garden daily, and if you still see signs of pests, here are the steps to treat your salad garden organically:

i. continue to prune and clean the soil around the plants

Use a little hand rake or your fingers to pick up dead leaves, weeds, and debris around the base of your plants. Caterpillars like to hide in the shade of your plants when it’s hot and then come out to dine at night. This is one of the reasons I don’t recommend putting wood mulch in your raised garden bed: it gives all the pests a convenient place to hide! 

If you see aphids, give your plants a quick spray with a garden hose.

ii. add some compost around the base of your plants

Compost is like Airborne for your plants, a nice little nutrient boost to support them as they work to get the pest situation under control.

iii. remove the plant from the garden

If the infestation is still bad, pull the affected plant altogether from your garden so that it can no longer harbor pests.

iv. spray with castile soap

I generally deal with pests using the above steps before I ever consider using spray, even something organic like castile soap. 

Don’t be discouraged if pests are eating your plants. Holes in your leaves are a sign that you’re doing everything right and nurturing a thriving garden that’s filled with all kinds of life. They’re also a sign that you need to get out to your garden every day and beat other animals to your delicious leaves! 

Need more salad tips and tricks?

Grow your salad knowledge with Gardenary. We've got all the resources you need to harvest six months of salad greens each year.

  • If your raised beds are full or if you don't have raised beds set up yet, you can grow lettuce plants in a container. Explore the best containers for salad gardening. One advantage of growing in containers is the ability to move your plants to find more sunlight. Just make sure your container has holes for drainage. If you're really short on growing space, consider growing leafy greens indoors as microgreens.
  • Here are the steps to create your own easy cut-and-come-again salad planter to grow all the lettuces you can eat.
  • Discover our top picks to grow in the salad garden.
  • Get access to our Salad School and lots of video courses each month with an online Gardenary 365 membership. Learn more here.

Love from my salad garden to yours!


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