Choosing your plants
When choosing your plants, think about what you like in a salad. Some suggestions include, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, spring onions, radish and maybe a few herbs like mint.
Ornate lettuce can be harvested by only picking the outer leaves and leaving the core to keep growing. Tomato plants will give you a continual supply over many months, and you are sure to get plenty of tomatoes from a couple of plants. I find that cherry tomatoes are a great choice for the kids because they are easy to pick and eat. Cucumbers you can grow vertically as well as on the ground.
Whatever you select just remember to plant what your family will eat. Self-sufficiency is an awesome goal to achieve. Just imagine not having to buy any salad ingredients for the spring and summer seasons.
Choose plants you know the kids will eat. Image: supplied.
Step 1: Position
Your food garden needs to be in 6-8 hours of sun a day. Most plants that produce fruit from a flower need the sun to perform this process. In a salad garden this includes plants like tomatoes and cucumbers. So the position of your food garden is very important. Choose a nice sunny spot that has some shade in the afternoon and is protected from high winds. A flat ground will also help with soil and water retention.
Step 2. Soil
So often soil quality isn’t considered when growing food. For an organic garden your soil is your foundation and the fuel for your plants to grow big and strong. Soil quality can be improved by adding compost, manure and/or organic pellets and mixed through before planting. Your salad garden plants will feed off the nutrients in the soil and produce better quality produce.
Marigolds are sacrificial plants. Image: supplied.
Step 3. Planting
Make sure you choose the plants that are going to be a hit in your salad bowl.
Companion planting is a good way to keep your garden healthy and minimise pests. This is an old process which brings about balance in your food garden. By positioning plants together they can be beneficial to each other. Some examples of this include:
Cucumber, radish and nasturtiums: Nasturtiums are considered a sacrificial plant, so they attract destructive pests away from our crops. Radish helps repel the cucumber beetle. Nasturtiums also encourage more heat and flavour in radish.
Tomato, basil and marigolds: Basil helps tomatoes by repelling some pests, and marigolds help both tomatoes and basil by enhancing their growth.
Lots of plants which climb can be grown vertically. We used a vertical teepee for our cucumbers which helps save on space. All you need is four bamboo stakes and some wool. Position three stakes in a triangle shape and then one in the middle. Tie them together at the top with the wool. Next weave the wool around the poles to create a climbing support for your cucumber plants to attach to as they grow. Plant your seedlings at the base of each of the poles.
Provide a teepee for your plants to climb. Image: supplied.
Step 4. Water and mulch
Both water and mulch are essentials for your salad garden. Make sure you have a water supply that is close to your food garden and use mulch to help retain water and keep the soil temperature regulated. There are lots of different mulches on the market. Choose one that is readily available to you and the most cost-effective.
Water your plants well. Image: supplied.
A food garden can be a very rewarding activity for the whole family to enjoy. Preparation, planting, nurturing, harvesting, making the salad and then enjoying the meal together. It teaches kids about self-sufficiency, sustainability, and most importantly where real food comes from. Not to forget that your home grown salad will taste better, be fresher and packed full of nutrients.
It’s actually a proven fact that when kids grow vegetables they are more likely to try it, so start your salad garden today.
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