Looking for a fun, interactive way to improve your health? Grow your own salad greens. It's not too late to get in on the 2010 growing season with this advice from Bob Greene and TheBestLife.com.
I must confess that I get excited about growing anything, especially if it's edible. But out of the many things I grow, salad greens are my favorite. Homegrown greens taste better than store-bought, and they're much less expensive. Plus, they're easy to grow and you see the results so quickly—seeds often sprout in a matter of days if the weather is warm. It's even possible to grow them year-round in parts of the country (I grow them from April through October here in Washington, D.C.). That's why I always suggest greens whenever someone wants to start a garden or only has the time or space to grow one thing.
So how do you do it? Follow these five simple steps to get your garden growing:
Pick Your Spot
You can plant seeds in the ground, in a pot or in a sunny window box. No matter where you're planting, it's always important to start with good, healthy soil. If you're planting in the ground, mix some compost into the existing soil before you begin. If your soil is very clay-like or sandy, it might be necessary to add some soil as well as compost. Both soil and compost can be purchased at garden centers, many hardware stores and big-box home goods stores.
Turn the soil over by digging down at least 4 inches to make sure it's not overly compact before starting to plant. If you're using a pot or box, fill it with fresh potting soil to begin.
Select Your Seeds
Most seed packets come with good information on ideal growing factors, such as light and temperature. Look for seeds that match the light conditions and temperature of your area. All greens need sunlight and most prefer direct sunlight, but some will do just fine with sun only part of the day.
Timing is also important. Certain greens—such as spinach and arugula—thrive in the cool early spring and fall but hate the summer. Others, like mizuna and some varieties of romaine, prefer the heat of the midsummer. It's important to go with one specific type of lettuce; planting single varieties together makes it easier to weed, monitor and harvest. If you have a large pot, it's fine to plant half with one type of lettuce and the other half with a second type. In the ground, you can do several types of seeds, but again, be sure to organize them by type for ease and highest yield.
You can buy seeds from online retailers like Seeds of Change, Johnny's Selected Seeds and The Cook's Garden, as well as from most hardware stores or garden centers.