By making regular sowings you can ensure a continuous harvest of salad leaves throughout summer. Learn how to grow cut-and-come again salads in our No Fuss Guide to sowing salad in pots, with Rosie Yeomans, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine.
Sowing salad in pots: transcript
I’m going to show you how to grow salad crops or actually salad leaves, the kind that you get in a plastic bag in the supermarket, in a pot and produce your own crop, over and over again, using the same pots each time. So, what I’ve got here is a pot with a multipurpose compost in it. You don’t use a propagation compost, because you need the nutrients.
What you’re going to ask these plants to do is to germinate and grow, and then you’re going to chop the tops off them and use those and then allow them to regrow again. So it just needs a bit more nutrients than a propagation compost would have. So, these are multi-purpose compost in both of these pots, and I’ve also pre- soaked them. Always sow onto a pre-soaked compost. If you’ve got a really shallow pot, then you can actually let it sit in a tray of water and let it well up. But these are a bit deep for that, so I’ve used a watering can just to pre-soak it, ready for sowing.
The kind of crops that we’re going to use are either lettuce mixes or maybe rocket. Sometimes you can use… later on, you might use mustards or mizuna and they make fantastic cut and come again crops. I’ve got some rocket here. I’m going to open this pack and sow a little bit onto the surface. It’s quite a big pack of seed here and I want to just preserve that for next time, because as I said, the concept here is that you actually do re-sow, so you maybe use the crop a couple of times and then throw the whole lot away, re-dress the top of the compost and sow it back into this same pot.
So take some seed and just decant a little bit into your hand, so that you’re completely in control when you’re sowing it; with the other hand, I’m just going to fold that over only because I’ve lost a lot of seed by just leaving it open and then it falls all over the table. Now I’ve picked up the seed between my thumb and fingers and I’ve just got complete control as I drop it onto the surface. Now, you can do this from the early spring right up until, sort of October, November, because most of these crops are quite low temperature germination. So, for example, lettuce, at about 20 degrees, it’ll germinate nicely;18, it will still germinate. Much lower than that, it probably will struggle, but higher, it doesn’t like it at all. So actually, they make ideal spring and autumn crops. Midsummer, you might struggle to get such even germination – you need to put it somewhere cool for it to germinate.
So, I’m just scattering it across the surface, not too densely and, as you can see, I’ve still got quite a lot of seed left here. I’m going to decant that back into my pack because I don't want to waste any of it. And that is ready for next time – I’m going to take that packet of seed and store it somewhere cool and dry. Back in the seed tin is perfect. And then in a couple of months’ time, I’ll be calling back on that seed packet to re-sow. Now, the seed has been sown onto the surface and I’m going to cover it up. Now, when you cover up the seed, what you don’t want to do is have a compost that’s too coarse. So, choose something that’s relatively fine. It might be the same multi-purpose compost. And if you’ve got a sieve, you can use that to make sure that you get the fine grain going back onto the surface of the seed. So just gently, you can see in my hand here, I’ve got quite a friable mix and what I’m doing is making sure I don’t put any of those big lumps back onto the top. And just in the same way, total control, I’m going to go across it and just cover up the seed. Mostly it just needs to be about a millimetre’s worth of cover, about the same width as the depth of the seed itself. And with rocket seed, it’s quite small, so I’m literally just sprinkling it over until I can’t see the seed anymore. And so just take a bit of care to make sure that that’s all done. And then once it is, you just want the seed and the moist compost and this layer on the top to be in contact with each other. So really, really gently with a dry hand, just firm it, so that that moisture in the compost already upwells into the surface. And there we are.
That needs to go somewhere relatively sheltered that isn’t going to get disturbed. And germination, particularly of rocket, happens within days, probably within a week you’ll start to see some young shoots coming through. There’s no need to thin it. Just take a pair of scissors to your young new crop and start cropping so long as you leave the centre of the plant intact. It’ll just keep growing new shoots. But there’s a point at which you can’t get it to keep going anymore. At which point – and that might be maybe two or three crops in. At which point, you throw the whole lot away, take the surface off the top of the compost, put on some new compost and repeat what I’ve done. There we are – salad leaves all summer.