Fall is a terrific time for gardeners to begin planting lettuce, arugula, endive, or other leafy greens for salads. These plants are easy to grow, grow quickly and also add a significant source of nutrients to your diet.
When growing salad greens, transplants are not as easy to come by in the fall as they are in the spring. The best option may be to plant seed directly into the garden bed. Transplants can be set into the ground in early to mid-September and seeds should be planted in late-August to early-September. Many salad greens go from seed to harvest in less than 45 days making direct seeding a great option. Another option is to start seeds in containers on the patio.
Whether planting seeds or transplants, loosen the soil first, add all-purpose granulated organic or synthetic (10-10-10) fertilizer, plant, and water. When planting seed, dig a shallow trench, add a pinch of seed along the row, and lightly cover it. Be sure not to plant seed too deep. A general rule of thumb is to plant a seed two times its thickness underground. Keep seeds evenly moist with a light sprinkle of water about every other day until they germinate, usually in about a week. Typically, most direct-seeded salad greens will not need to be thinned out.
Provide plants with necessary water – at least one inch per week. Plants should not need another round of fertilizer with good quality soil. Remove weeds and consider mulching the soil with straw or untreated grass clippings. Monitor plants and harvest them as leaves mature or as needed.
For continued harvest, cut the outer leaves first and keep the central point growing. Leaves can be rinsed in very cold water just before serving. Pat dry with a clean towel. If a large supply of greens is ready to harvest, cut and store them in the refrigerator rather than letting them over-mature. Lastly, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, as these nutritious salad greens will make a wonderful addition to the garden and your plate.