Salad Gardening
Published August 31, 2021 by Nicole Burke

Top Ten Salad Greens to Grow in the Salad Garden

Filed Under:
salad garden
salad
organic salad harvest in front of a raised bed filled with salad greens

Our Top Ten Salad Plant Varieties for Your Salad Garden

  • Toscano Kale
  • Arugula
  • Spring Mix
  • Swiss Chard
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Mizuna
  • Purple Mustard
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Blue Curled Scotch Kale
organic salad

Toscano Kale - Our Number One Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Kale is part of the Brassica family, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and arugula. You probably already know that kale is super healthy for you, but did you know that kale has over 900% of your daily needs for vitamin K and over 600% of your needs for vitamin A. There's more vitamin C in a single serving of kale than in an orange.

Here are three reasons to grow toscano kale:

toscano kale is one of the most robust and rich kale varieties

Toscano, or dinosaur kale, is an heirloom variety that produces huge blue-green kale leaves that are savoyed, or wrinkled, as you can see below. This type of kale is robust and resistant to frost and cold.

toscano kale can stay in your garden for a long time

Because it's so hardy, this cool season plant can continue to thrive in your garden in the warmer parts of the year. That means you can come and harvest these delicious leaves for months and months to come.

toscano kale can be used in more than just salads

I like coming out to the garden each morning to harvest some leaves for my morning smoothie—I find that toscano kale leaves are more tender and richer in flavor than other kale varieties. I also bake toscano kale to make kale chips or toss in sautéed dishes.

toscano kale

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Kale Here

In one of the very first episodes of the Grow Your Self podcast, Kale Yeah, I discuss the interesting and sometimes surprising origin story of the kale plant and how it became the popular green we love to grow and eat today.

If you're ready to try your hand at growing kale, find out how much kale you can grow in small garden bed, and check out my tips on how to double your kale harvest and how to harvest your kale leaves. If you find holes in your kale leaves, here's my simple method for organically treating pests and disease on kale plants.

Once you're bringing in those kale leaves on a daily basis and have more kale than you know what to do with, here's my favorite kale salad recipe.

Get the Salad Garden Guide Ebook

Learn the step by step to plant, set up, and grow your own organic salad garden and enjoy fresh greens at least six months each year. This extensive Salad Garden Guide was developed from Gardenary's online course: Salad Garden School. 

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. 

Arugula - Our Number Two Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

This is one of the first plants I had success with in the garden. It's the quintessential cut-and-come-again plant, meaning you can keep on harvesting (and enjoying) its peppery-flavored leaves over and over again.

Here are three reasons to grow arugula:

arugula is chock-full of nutrients

Arugula, like other members of the Brassica family, is a cancer-fighting food. It contains iron and magnesium, boosts our immune systems, and helps balance our pH levels.

arugula is easy to grow

It's fast (you'll get a full-size plant in about six weeks), super easy to grow, and stays fresh longer than most greens. My Rooted Garden clients in Houston can grow arugula year-round, even when the temperatures spike over 100 degrees, which is definitely not true for other salad greens. If those reasons weren't enough to grow arugula, its unique smell and oils also make it unappetizing to garden pests that typically go for your salad greens.

arugula adds a nice nutty flavor to dishes

There are endless ways to eat arugula (and if you think you don't like it, try growing your own—I promise it's so much better than the stuff you buy at the store). Throw arugula in a pasta or soup, braise it, eat it fresh, or make pesto.

arugula is the number two plant pick for the salad garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Arugula Here

Learn more about the history of arugula and how it became the omnipresent green for restaurants to toss on dishes. When you're ready to grow this super easy green, here are my tips for how to plant, grow, and harvest arugula to maximize your production of leaves.

fresh arugula leaves

Spring Mix - Our Number Three Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

With spring mixes, the idea is to produce an assortment of small salad greens that blend together into one perfect salad bowl.

Here are three reasons to grow spring mix:

spring mix salad greens are easy to start from seed

I toss my salad seeds on the soil, rake them in, and step back to watch them grow. They require very little maintenance, just consistent watering. For the cost of one spring mix box at the grocery store, I can grow a variety of lettuce plants that keep producing again and again after I've harvested their leaves.

spring mix adds flavor variety to salads

You won't just love how these different plants look as they grow together, you'll also love the flavorful variety of leaves selected to blend into the perfect salad. My favorite spring mix is Baker Creek's Rocky Top Lettuce Mix Salad Blend. Look for heirloom, organic, and non-GMO, since the quality of these tiny seeds can make all the difference.

spring mix is rich in nutrients

Even though lettuce is over 80% water, you'll still get vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin K, and the B vitamins, plus immune and liver support.

spring mix is number three plant pick for the salad garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Spring Mix Here

The lettuce varieties in spring mixes don't need a lot of space above or below ground, which makes them great for containers, tubs, or short raised beds. Here's the easiest way to start a salad garden in containers, plus more details on the four things you need to grow your own salad. If you're ready to grow in a raised bed, read these simple instructions for how to create your own super simple salad box.

Here's how many times you'll be able to harvest from one lettuce plant.

I've got more details about how to harvest lettuce, plus an easy spring or fall project with a mesclun mix.

Once you harvest your first leaves, here's how to make a gourmet salad with your spring mix.

Learn How to Build Your Own Raised Bed Salad Garden

In this full color ebook, you'll learn exactly how to construct a $100 raised cedar bed.

You'll get a complete supply list and the step by step to creating your own beautiful raised bed with the exact specifications you'd like for your own unique kitchen garden design.

Amaranth Plant Family Photos

Swiss Chard - Our Number Four Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

I grow Swiss chard in all my gardens, I’ve put it in all of my clients’ gardens, and I’ve even made it a point to put it near the front of the raised beds to add beauty and color. The jewel-toned stems of Swiss chard are just as pretty, at least in my opinion, as flowers in a garden. Swiss chard is in the goosefoot, or Amaranth, family, along with beets and spinach.

Here are three reasons to grow Swiss chard:

Swiss chard stems are edible

We can actually enjoy all parts of this nutrient-dense plant, not just the delicious leaves. The stems are a bit like celery. That means bigger bang for your plant-growing buck, if you ask me.

Swiss chard is a super food

The leaves and their rainbow stems are excellent sources of vitamins K, A, and C, plus magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

Swiss chard is a biennial

Weather permitting, you'll be able to keep your Swiss chard in your garden for two full years.

Amaranth Plant family includes swiss chard

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Swiss Chard Here

Here are four tips to help you grow giant Swiss chard in your salad garden. Check out my detailed instructions for how to harvest your Swiss chard stems.

If you're looking for ideas on what to do with all your Swiss chard leaves besides add them to a gourmet salad, here's my favorite Swiss chard lasagna recipe.

Swiss chard is our Number Four Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Napa Cabbage - Our Number Five Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Also known as Asian or Chinese cabbage, this plant's sweet and crunchy leaves are highly coveted in East-Asian cuisine. I became hooked on napa cabbage leaves in stir fries when I lived in China for two years out of college. Napa cabbage is a cool season plant that produces heads of tightly grouped light-green leaves. This is a member of the Brassica family, just like broccoli and bok choy, and it needs about 60 days of cool temps to grow in the garden.

Here are three reasons to grow cabbage:

napa cabbage is resistant to cold

I've heard of people growing this vegetable in the far northern regions of the globe... like really far north. It's also just easy to grow as long as the weather doesn't warm up too much.

napa cabbage has many uses

This a good salad green choice for large crowds—one head goes a long way, and it's filling. In China, napa cabbage is used in stir fries, noodle dishes, dumplings, rolls, and salads. It's also generally the main ingredient in kimchi. Cabbage is easy to prepare and has a mild, celery-like flavor that gets sweeter with cooking and that picks up flavors from the food it's cooked alongside.

napa cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse

Rich in vitamin C, calcium, and essential vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, and more, napa cabbage is also a good source of dietary fiber. Like celery, napa cabbage is in the net-zero calorie group of vegetables praised by dietitians.

Asian, or napa, cabbage

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Napa Cabbage Here

I tried something new this year and tied up my cabbage heads to encourage more leaf production and fit more mature cabbage plants in a small garden space. Here's how to tie up your cabbage plants. Learn how to care for you plants and how to troubleshoot if your cabbage plants aren't forming a head.

Mizuna - Our Number Six Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Mizuna leaves grow on long stems and have glossy dark green leaves with feathery edges. Mature leaves have a fresh, peppery flavor that's a little less spicy than arugula. Mizuna, also known as Japanese mustard greens, belongs to the Brassica family.

Here are three reasons to grow mizuna:

Mizuna is easy to grow and decorative

This cool season plant is vigorous, cold-resistant, and easy to grow in most soils. Just like Swiss chard, it can add lots of beauty to your raised beds. I like to grow mizuna near the edges of my beds to fully appreciate them.

Mizuna has many uses

The Japanese like to pickle the leaves or use them in hot pots, stir fries, and soups. The leaves can be steamed, sautéd, boiled, or stir-fried, though they shrink quickly like spinach leaves, so it's best to add them near the end of your cooking. In salads, mizuna mixes really well with mustard greens, mesclun mixes, or spring mixes. You could also add mizuna to pasta dishes, pizza, or risotto for a nice crunch.

Mizuna is super nutritious

The leaves are high in vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate and iron. They contain essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium.

mizuna is Our Number Six Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Mizuna Here

Mizuna is another great cut-and-and-come again salad green. Learn how to plant, tend, and harvest mizuna. Find the steps to create your own easy cut-and-come-again salad planter to grow all the mizuna and lettuces you can eat.

Kitchen Garden Revival by Nicole Burke

Get an autographed copy of my book, Kitchen Garden Revival, delivered right to your doorstep!

Kitchen Garden Revival brings you step by step to create your own beautiful raised bed kitchen garden and learn exactly how to plan, plant, tend, and harvest from it more than you thought possible. 

Purple Mustard - Our Number Seven Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

This member of the Brassica family packs a spicy mustard flavor. With tender leaves and crunchy stems, you'll end up finding so many uses for this plant, including adding flavor and color nuance to microgreen seed mixes.

Here are three reasons to grow purple mustard:

purple mustard adds bright pops of color to your garden and meals

The leaves begin a beautiful green and then turn more intensely purple as they mature. I don't know about you, but I can never have enough color in my kitchen garden (or in my salads). I love to toss the leaves into salad mixes and stir fries, and have found that this leaf pairs well with just about anything.

purple mustard is easy to grow

You might be getting sick of me saying all of these leafy greens are easy to grow, but there's a reason I recommend starting with herbs and salad plants before moving on to more complex fruits and vegetables in the garden. Though it's a cool season plant, purple mustard is cold-tolerant, super productive, and slow to bolt in warmer weather. The seeds have a high germination rate, so you can simply scatter them over your bed and pat them in with your hand or a small rake. You can eat the sweeter baby leaves about 20 days after planting or wait 40 days for the bolder mature leaves.

mustard greens are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat

These leaves are rich in fiber and micronutrients. Just one cup of chopped raw greens provides 44% of your daily vitamin C and 120% of your vitamin K, and guess what. Cooked mustard greens contain even more nutrients, including 96% of your daily vitamin A and 690% of your vitamin K.

Purple Mustards are Our Number Seven Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Purple Mustard Here

To plant mustard seeds and harvest their leaves, you'll follow the same principles as planting and harvesting arugula. Here are my tricks for maximizing your leaf production so you can cut these beautiful leaves and then keep coming back again and again.

Once you're growing more purple mustard leaves and other salad greens than you know what to do with, here are my favorite ideas to shake up your meals with fresh garden harvests.

Build and Plant Your Own Salad Garden this Season with this Book

Learn the step by step to plant, set up and grow your own organic salad garden and enjoy fresh greens at least six months each year. This extensive Salad Garden Guide was developed from Gardenary's online course: Salad Garden School. 

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. 

Spinach - Our Number Eight Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Spinach, a member of the Amaranth family, has become increasingly popular in the 21st century, but you may be concerned to learn it ranks on the Dirty Dozen, a list of the top 12 vegetables and fruits that should be bought organic to avoid high rates of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic materials used in the farming. The best way to ensure you're not ingesting stuff you don't want in your body is to grow your own spinach. Fortunately, that's really easy to do!

Here are three reasons to grow spinach:

there are actually three different types of spinach

Smooth spinach is the most popular variety at grocery stores, but if you grow your own spinach, you can broaden your spinach horizons to savoy spinach, which is bumpy, and semi savoy spinach.

spinach can help you sleep better

In addition to all kinds of nutrients, spinach has magnesium, which relaxes our nerves and muscles and can prevent leg cramps while sleeping. Spinach is a good source of calcium and supposedly helps your brain manufacture melatonin, so you can make yourself a little spinach smoothie at dinner and see if you just might sleep better.

spinach is an incredibly fast grower

Mass producers of spinach harvest just 25 days after planting! In your garden, you can successive plant spinach for a continuous supply of fresh greens throughout your entire cool seasons.

Spinach is Our Number Eight Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Spinach Here

I bet you knew Popeye ate lots of spinach to make his muscles big and strong, but did you know that the perception of spinach as the muscle-building superfood arose from a mistake? Learn the surprising story of spinach and how it's grown today—this one will amaze you!

Spinach is a cool season plant and can bolt when the weather warms up. Here are the signs your spinach is bolting and what you can do about it.

Romaine - Our Number Nine Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Romaine is one of the four most popular types of lettuce (along with crisp head, butter head, and loose leaf) and has long been the star of Caesar salads. I'm sure you've eaten your fair share of romaine—and probably stopped buying it every time there's an E. coli recall—but you haven't really tasted romaine until you've had it fresh from the garden, not trucked in from California or Arizona.

Here are three reasons to grow romaine:

romaine can stand the heat

Unlike most lettuces, this plant is tolerant of heat.

romaine goes down easier than kale

If you're concerned about eating too much kale or spinach, romaine contains a much smaller amount of oxalate, which can be difficult for those with compromised gut health, and because it's less fibrous and higher in water, it's easier on your digestion. Plus, there's more than 100% of your daily vitamin K needs in a single serving of romaine, not to mention tons of folic acid, vitamin C, and minerals.

romaine is good for more than Caesar salads

Toss romaine in sandwiches to add a crunch, or keep the ribs attached and add the leaves to stews. You can even add romaine to green smoothies.

Romaine Lettuce is Our Number Nine Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Romaine Here

Lettuces like romaine are one of the best plants to start off with in the kitchen garden. They grow quickly, don't take up a lot of space, and provide harvests again and again. Get the step by step for a fun project that teaches beginner gardeners how to regrow romaine lettuce.

In Episode 6 - "Romaine Calm" of the Grow Your Self Podcast, I explore the interesting history of romaine and how it became the staple lettuce it is today, plus how we can avoid those scary lettuce recalls on the news.

Blue Curled Scotch Kale - Our Number Ten Plant Pick for the Salad Garden

Like toscano kale, blue curled scotch kale is a superfood, and these blue-green leaves have a sweet and nutty flavor.

Here are three reasons to grow blue curled scotch kale:

blue curled scotch kale gets sweeter with some frost

Not only are these plants resistant to cold, the leaves get that much sweeter after a bit of frost. You probably know by now what I'm going to say, but these plants are also easy to grow, they keep producing leaves for you, and they're easy to harvest. They even last longer in the fridge than most leafy greens.

curled kale fights cancer

Studies have shown that out of all of the kale varieties, curled kales contain the highest concentration of glucosinolates, which are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Kale also has a ton of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to more beta-carotene than any other green vegetable.

curled kale adds the perfect texture to salads

I love cutting these leaves into strips and tossing them in my salads for a little extra crunch. They also do well in juices and smoothies or baked to make kale chips. and collards.

Nicole Burke surrounded by Swiss chard and blue scotch curled kale

Find Tips for Growing and Harvesting Kale Here

Discover other foods like kale that help you fight cancer.

If you're ready to try your hand at growing kale, find out how much kale you can grow in small garden bed, and check out my tips on how to double your kale harvest and how to harvest your kale leaves. If you find holes in your kale leaves, here's my simple method for organically treating pests and disease on kale plants.

Once you're bringing in those kale leaves on a daily basis and have more kale than you know what to do with, here's my favorite kale salad recipe.

Start Growing Your Own Gourmet Garden Salad

Gardenary's Salad School

Replace tasteless store-bought lettuce with your own fresh garden salad. Learn all you'll need to grow your own organic garden salad season after season through this FOUR STEP course led by Nicole Burke, Owner of Rooted Garden.