Salad crops to plant in spring
If winter’s had you reaching for the comfort food, spring is the time to turn over a new leaf and plant a garden full of healthy, nutrient dense food.
A vegetable garden provides our most vitally important foods. Raw vegetables in particular are loaded with vitamins and minerals, plus other crucial compounds that are essential to good health. Better digestion, more energy, better skin, clearer thinking, improved fertility and weight loss are just some of the rewards when we eat a diet that’s loaded with raw veges, fruits, seeds and nuts.
The freshest possible salad greens are those we eat straight from our own gardens. No matter how big or small, a garden is an opportunity to grow an exciting range of flavours and textures, so spring salads are never boring.
Lettuces grow fast in spring while the weather is still cool with plenty of rain. Be sure to try a range of varieties with different colours and textures.
Rocket (aka arugula) adds a delicious tang to spring salads and it’s fast and easy to grow, either in pots or garden soil. Rocket flowers attract beneficial insects such as the overflies that feast on aphids.
Silverbeet and spinach thrive in cool spring weather. Picked while young, their dark green leaves are great for adding to salads. And they’re essential for green smoothies or as a healthy accompaniment to bacon and eggs.
Basil, that tastiest of summer herbs won’t survive outdoors until frosts are safely passed, but you can start plants from seed in trays indoors. Grow plenty so you can make tasty pesto to have on hand all summer.
Coriander doesn’t like being transplanted, but it grows well in spring if you sow it directly into the garden or a large container.
French Sorrel is an easily grown perennial that grows all year round. Chop up the dark green leaves to add their pungent lemon flavour to a salad.
Florence Fennel looks pretty in the garden with its fine feathery leaves. Its crunchy aniseed flavoured ‘bulb’ is an acquired taste for some, but finely sliced it adds flavoursome crunch to a salad, and it’s delicious roasted too. The pretty yellow flowers are enjoyed by bees.
Peas need to be planted before it gets too hot. Try snow peas and sugar snaps, you can eat the young shoots while you wait for the pods to mature.
Radish seeds are best sown directly into the soil or a large container. They are one of the fastest growing veges and fun for kids. Try some of the interesting varieties that are available as seed.
Spring onions can be grown from seed or seedlings and a good in containers. There are various varieties to try, including red-skinned varieties and those with longer white stems (like mini leeks). Plant a row near your carrots, to confound carrot rust fly.
Beetroot is ready for harvest in 8–10 weeks after sowing. Sow seeds every few weeks for a continuous supply. This delicious and highly nutritious root vege can be eaten cooked or raw. Try it grated with balsamic dressing and feta cheese. You can also eat the young leaves, cooked or raw.
Chinese broccoli is quicker to grow than regular broccoli, but just as nutritious. The young florets make a nice salad addition, lightly steamed or raw.
Micro-greens are ready to eat in just two weeks from seed. You can grow them indoors on a sunny window sill or a pot outside the kitchen door. Almost any vege or herb can be eaten as a ‘micro-green’, including brassicas, carrot tops, beetroot leaves and legumes .
Edible flowers add colour and charm, both in the garden and on the plate. Try calendula, viola, chives, borage, and peppery nasturtium.
Resist the temptation to fill the entire garden in one weekend; allow for succession planting to give you a continuous supply. Plan sowing so you’ll have a fresh batch of seedlings to plant out every two weeks. Or visit the garden centre for a new punnet of seedlings every other weekend.
Mixed lettuces with parsley
Mixed lettuce with basil
Spinach with marigolds