Today we are going to talk about Salad Bowls.
Before you think we are off to the department store to find a designer Wedgewood Vera Wang Sequin Crystal Bowl you can put the credit card and car keys down. (The fact that I know there is a Vera Wang Sequin Crystal Bowl probably suggests I should re-examine my shopping habits – or hide the next credit card statement.)
No – as much as I do love a bit of good shopping therapy – today we are talking about growing salad bowls. Hmm if I could break bits off the Vera Wang and plant them in the yard to grow more…. but I digress.
Let me explain. I’m talking about bowls or pots that you can grow your own lettuce in.
You can repurpose an old traditional salad bowl to grow your lettuce in. Glass bowls don’t work as well since it’s impossible to add drainage holes in the bottom. Translation – don’t try this in the Vera Wang. Your wooden bowls should work well though as do ceramic planter bowls or even pots you’re no longer using for potted plants.
The basic idea is simple. You get a bowl or pot, fill it with potting soil, and plant your salad and salad fixings. A salad or lettuce bowl can include several different varieties of lettuce and a few of your favorite herbs. Or you can divide everything up in several different containers and grow a small tomato plant and a few green onions as well. Mix and match as you see fit, depending on what you like to eat.
That’s the fun of growing your own food. You can try different varieties and combinations until you come up with the one that works best for you. Along the way, you get to sample and try different varieties of lettuce your local market doesn’t offer. There’s so much more than iceberg lettuce and spinach out there.
Salad bowls are small and compact way to give gardening a try. They are also an excellent tool to help teach your children about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Get the little ones involved in planting and caring for the lettuce plants. Not only is it a great learning experience, it’s also a wonderful way to get them to eat more greens. After all, they’ve grown this lettuce.
Lettuce plants don’t have very deep roots, which is why shallow bowls work perfectly for planting them indoors. And since it won’t get super-hot – even in a sunny window- you don’t need a large amount of soil to retain moisture. In other words, shallow bowls are a great way to grow a large amount of lettuce in little space or soil.
To get started, get a nice shallow planting bowl and a bag of quality potting soil that includes a slow release fertilizer appropriate for vegetables. Or if you’re composting already, well-aged compost would make a rich organic way to fertilize your lettuce. Get them started, watch them grow and harvest once they grow to maturity. Last but not least, eat and enjoy!
What Should I Grow in a Salad Bowl?
You can grow just about any type of lettuce in your salad bowl. That being said, there are some varieties that lend themselves to ongoing growing and harvesting. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. The size of your bowl and how many bowls you want to have sitting around determine what type and how much lettuce you can grow. Or flip that around and figure out how much lettuce you want per week and then figure out how many bowls it will take to keep you from heading to the grocery store.
Or you can keep it simple and start with one planting bowl. See how you like growing your own lettuce on your kitchen counter or your patio. If you find you’re eating the green leaves as fast as they can grow, consider adding another bowl or two.
Let’s go back to what you can grow in fairly small containers indoors. Loose leaf lettuce is often your best bet when you want to be able to continually harvest greens for your salads. You can pick up seedlings at your local garden center and plant a few different varieties in your bowl. Or pick up a few different pack of seeds, divide the bowl into sections and sprinkle seeds from each variety in a different area of the bowl. Not only will using different varieties make it look pretty, each plant grows at slightly different rates and has different nutrients, helping you make the most out of your salad bowl.
Of course you’re not limited to just loose leaf lettuce. You can also grow spinach, green onions and various herbs in containers inside. Mix and match them in your bowls, or set up separate little containers to grow your favorite salad herbs in. If you have enough room, you can even grow some radishes to cut up and add to your salad.
Start with a few different varieties of loose leaf lettuce like oak leaf, butter oak, red sails, or the aptly named red salad bowl. Romaine lettuces also work well and will regrow after you cut the leaves. If you like a slightly peppery taste, don’t forget about arugula (rocket).
Mix and match varieties until you find a combination that grows well for you and you like to eat. Water your plants, fertilize occasionally with an organic fertilizer and refresh the soil every few month. If you harvest and replant on an ongoing basis, you may never run out of fresh lettuce for your kitchen table.
Feeling More Adventurous About Growing Salad Bowls?
Growing your lettuce in shallow bowls or similar planting containers is a lot of fun and a great way to get more healthy greens into your diet. While most of us are perfectly happy with a side of salad greens with dinner most nights, it’s nice to have a little variety in our salads. Of course adding other home-grown plants to your salads adds to the overall nutritional value as well.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at various other “salad fixings” that you can grow indoors or on your patio. They make great additions to your salads, but also come in handy in the kitchen in a multitude of other recipes.
You can spent a small fortune on fresh herbs at the grocery store. Why not grow your own instead. You can keep them in small pots or even old tea or coffee pots. Actual little planters are preferable since they have drainage holes, but use what you’ve got and just think of how pretty these little pots of herbs will look all lined up in your kitchen window.
Popular herbs to grow and use in your salads include:
… and more. Like lettuce you can either grow them from seed, or pick up small plant seedling at your local garden center.
Sprouts also make a great addition to your salad. They provide a little crunch and a lot of extra nutrients. But like herbs, they can be pricey if you pick them up at the store each week. Instead, order some seeds online, then sprout your own in a shallow container lined with moist paper towel. Sprouting is surprisingly quick and easy. The biggest secret is that you have to keep the seeds moist and warm.
Common things to sprout include alfalfa, lentil, mung, rye, soy, and wheat. Start with the sprouts you like to eat, then expand your growing horizon from there.
Tomatoes And Peppers
Tomatoes and peppers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about growing plants indoors, but there are small varieties that do surprisingly well in a sunny window. Of course growing them outside on a patio or balcony in larger containers is also an option.
In either case look for varieties that don’t grow very large and provide a nice little harvest. You should be able to find varieties of tomatoes (mostly cherry tomatoes) and various peppers from hot to sweet that you can grow in a small space and add to your salad.
Not only do they add a nice burst of flavor and visual appeal to your salad, they also make surprisingly beautiful houseplants. And isn’t it more satisfying to grow a plant that also provides you with food?
Onion and Garlic
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try growing your own onion and garlic alongside your lettuce bowl. While regular onions don’t lend themselves to indoor growing you can plant green onion and garlic bulbs and grow both of those in fairly small containers on your counter. Use the green onion, and you can even use the green stalks of the garlic plants in a similar way. It has a mellow bit of garlic flavor that’s not quite as strong as the garlic bulbs that will be growing all along in the soil.
Ready to give it a try? Head to your local garden center and give it a try.