Have you ever wondered how long it would take to grow a salad you could eat fresh from your garden?
This post dives into the time you need as well as ideal growing conditions, how to use all parts of the plants you grow and how to manipulate temperatures so you can get growing (and eating) faster.
If you are hoping to have a salad at the next dinner or holiday party you host, plan ahead at least 70 days for a delicious and gorgeous homegrown salad. Here’s how to do it and what you can grow in that amount of time.
How long does it take to grow a salad?
Depending on the variety you grow, there can be a huge range of days until your crop is ready to harvest.
Here are some of my favorite salad varieties as well how long it will take until you are ready for your first harvest.
20 – 45 days
Lettuce: Gourmet Blend (28), Chef’s Medley (20-45), Magenta (48),
Radish: French Breakfast (28)
Spinach: Bloomsdale (28-45)
Pac choy: Shanghai Green (25 for baby)
Arugula: Astro (21 for baby)
40 – 50 days
Pac choy: Shanghai Green (45)
Arugula: Astro (40)
Mustard greens: Tatsoi (43)
Kale: red Winter (50)
Swiss card: Ruby Red/Rhubarb (50-60), Fordhook Giant (50-60), Five Color Silverbeet (52 days)
Cilantro: Santo (50 -105)
Lettuce: Rouge d’Hiver (68), Green Tower Romaine (60), Buttercrunch (65)
Carrots: Carnival (65-75), Cosmic Purple (70), Danvers 126 (75)
Collard greens: Georgia (70), Champion (70)
Peas: Sugar Snap (70), Green Arrow Shelling (dwarf) (68)
Beet: Crosby Egyptian (60)
How to harvest
All the greens above are considered cut-and-come-again, meaning you can harvest from the plant continuously throughout the season.
Use sharp scissors or pruning shears and cut as close to the base of the plant as you can. Leave at least 3-5 leaves on the plant for photosynthesis, so the plant will continue to produce new foliage. Keep in mind, if you uproot, or pull up, the whole plant, you won’t be able to continue harvesting off of it.
Head here for other harvest tips such as signals from the plant as to when it’s ready.
How to use all parts of the plant in a salad
Wash leaves and then chop them with a knife to your size preference or tear them apart with your hands.
For a more tender salad, remove the ribs/stems of the Swiss chard, collard greens and kale leaves. For a crunchier texture, leave the ribs/stems attached to all of the leaves.
Radish, carrot, pea and nasturtium leaves are all edible. Pea and nasturtium leaves are two of my favorites both flavor-wise and for appearance.
Swiss chard stems can be used raw, just like celery, in a salad. Chop them up about ¼” thick, and add them for a pop of color and extra crunch.
Kale and collard greens have hardier stems. When removing them from the leaves, I either compost them or toss them to the chickens.
Carrots, beets and radishes can all be eaten raw. I much prefer roasted beets to raw beets, but they can make a beautiful presentation when thinly sliced in a salad.
Nasturtium flowers are edible and make a beautiful addition to any salad. They have a peppery taste which many compare to the flavor of a spicy radish. I have always found them to be a bit more mild, but I also like to harvest them young so I imagine that affects their flavor.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Most leafy greens grow well in shade.
Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight) is recommended for flowering and root crops: peas, nasturtium, carrots, beets, radishes.
Best Growing Temperatures
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How to Manipulate Your Growing Space
Don’t give up if the temperatures in your area aren’t cooperating – you can provide a little assistance to create a microclimate with better growing conditions.
If the temperatures in your area are still too hot, you can cover your growing area with shade cloth or garden fabric to filter sunlight and reduce soil temperatures.
If the temperatures in your area are still too cold, you can cover your growing area with frost cloth to heat soil temperatures up.
The amount of water you need to provide for your plants will depend on the conditions of your specific growing area – how much rainfall you get, what your temperatures are during the day and at night, how much humidity is present and the list can go on.
When it comes to water, it’s best to follow these tips for when and how to water, and then ask local gardeners in your area and experiment a bit with your unique growing space. If think you might be under- or overwatering, look for these signs and tips for troubleshooting in the garden.
Go grow your salad
I still get giddy every time I bring in a harvest from the garden, but there is something extra special when I have enough to share with my extended family and/or friends.
When I first set my goal to grow my family’s produce, I quickly added to the list that I wanted to grow enough to bring a salad to Thanksgiving dinner that was completely homegrown. It is just so satisfying sharing something I grew with people I love. I hope this information helps you to do the same!