Growing your own salad leaves is cheap and easy, and the flavour of freshly picked leaves beats anything packet-bought from the shops.
Repeated sowing is the key to year-round salad production. While it’s tempting to sow lots of salad seeds at once, remember that it’s better to sow little and often. This will ensure you have a steady crop of leaves and you don’t have one glut ready all at once. For best results it’s good to aim for three stages of growth at any one time: seedlings, immature plants and those ready to harvest.
To avoid slug damage, try sowing your seeds indoors in the greenhouse, then prick out the seedlings into plug trays. The young plants can then be grown on and hardened off in a cold frame. Check these areas regularly for slugs and snails.
Discover Monty’s favourite salad leaf crops, below.
Cos lettuce ‘Little Gem’
This popular, compact variety has thick leaves with a stiff central rib and forms a crisp, sweet heart. Sow from March to September and harvest from May to November.
Cos lettuce ‘Parris Island’
Named after an island off South Carolina, the long leaves form an upright, elongated head. Sow March to September for pickings from May to November.
Butterhead lettuce ‘All The Year Round’
Sow March to September and protect autumn sowings under cloches for early pickings in spring (the plants can stand over winter).
Easy-to-grow, peppery leaves – keep well watered and shaded in hot spells to delay running to seed. Sow May to July, for harvesting June to October.
Oriental leaves: mibuna
With a light mustard flavour, these cut-and-come-again leaves thrive in cool, damp conditions. Sow all year round, under glass in winter, late autumn and early spring, otherwise direct, for harvests all years.
Oriental leaves: mizuna
Feathery foliage to eat raw or cooked. Keep out of full sun during hot weather, and water regularly. Sow March to September to pick the leaves May to November.
Radicchio ‘Rossa de Treviso’
Adds autumn colour and zest, especially in autumn and winter. Sow from April to September for leaves, or July for full heads.
Radicchio ‘Palla Rossa’
The large, slightly bitter leaves form a firm heart. Green in summer, turning red as temperatures fall.
Monty’s summer salad sowing tips
- Place seed trays in a shaded spot in hot weather and cover with newspaper or a lid, to keep conditions cool until the seedlings emerge
- When sowing direct, choose a shadier bed and water the drill before sowing, to cool the soil
- Salads sown in early August grow and mature faster than those sown late in the month, due to falling light levels, so allow for this when sowing