A guest post by Elizabeth Matlin
Picture a salad bowl filled with a mix of fresh organic lettuce, mesclun and arugula. Then imagine the pride and joy you feel knowing it came from your garden! Salad greens are one of the easiest types of vegetables to grow, making them a great garden activity for kids. Only a few hours of sun in your yard? No problem—greens actually do better in summer heat without all-day sun. No space to plant? No problem—they grow just as well in pots. Not enough time to garden? Again, no prob! Greens are low maintenance. All they need is a little sun, some watering and consistent harvesting. Snip away for a daily salad and these miracle plants keep on producing. Called “cut and come again,” most greens will grow back a few times before the plants bolt or go to flower and die back. Sow several pots or beds a few weeks apart for a consistent supply all summer. The seeds germinate and grow quickly so they provide almost instant gratification to keep kids engaged.
Simply scatter a thin, even layer of seeds over compost-enriched soil. This is called broadcasting seed. That’s why it’s easy and fun for kids since there’s no fussing over seed depth or spacing. The seeds need moisture and some light to germinate, so only a light layer of soil (about 1/8 inch) should cover them. I like to take handfuls of potting soil mix and rub it lightly between my hands over the seeds to cover them with a thin even layer. Then I lightly press the soil down with the palm of my hand and give it a sprinkle of water. Keep the soil moist and within a week the seeds should germinate—sometimes sooner if the weather is hot. Let your kids take over daily sprinkling-can duty if it doesn’t rain.
To give you an idea of how fast greens grow, I took this photo of my backyard greens on May 16 and started harvesting lettuce and arugula over Memorial Day weekend. Today I’m planting my next batch of arugula. I grow greens all summer long in this 4×4-foot raised bed on the east side of my house that receives only 3 hours of late morning/early afternoon sun per day. Plant some greens with your kids and soon your salad bowl will be overflowing!