Freshly picked salad vegetables from your own garden not only taste better but contain more vitamins and minerals than those that have been harvested for several days.
- If you are establishing a vegetable garden, choose a plot that is at least 2 meters square and remember that vegetables taste sweeter if maximum growth is maintained from planting to harvesting.
- Look for an open, sunny position that is free from tree or hedge roots. Dig the area at least to the depth of one spade. Add plenty of rotted compost, liberal amounts of poultry or cow manure, and dig in well. A complete fertilizer should then be sprinkled over the area and raked in to the top seven or 10 centimeters of soil. Finally, water the bed thoroughly and allow it to settle for at least a week before planting.
- There is a wide variety of salad vegetables available and when planting keep those that grow tall at the south or south-east end of the bed, so that shade will not affect lower growing varieties.
- It is pleasing to see many new market varieties of vegetables for space-saving gardens. Many lend themselves to pot or tub culture. Flat dwellers can now grow many kinds of vegetables, where with older varieties, this was not possible.
Choose from the following easiest vegetables to grow:
A member of the daisy family and the basis of most salads, lettuce requires an abundance of water. If starved of moisture at any time from planting to picking they seldom grow well.
Regular sowing of small quantities of seed, direct to the soil, maintains a successive supply. In hot weather evening waterings reduce the risk of mildew and are the most beneficial.
These need not take up a great deal of space. They are, in fact, quite happy to grow on a trellis, or on a piece of wire netting fixed to a fence. Two or three plants will provide ample fruit for salads.
Vines can be grown as closely as 50 centimeters apart in a single row, or alternatively, planted in a clump in hills, with each hill accommodating three or four plants.
Pick cucumbers before they fully mature to encourage a better crop and to reduce acidity in the fruit. If the crop is picked two or three times weekly you will be surprised how long the productive period will last.
Plenty of water is needed for cucumbers.
Spring onions take up so little space. White Lisbon is one of the best. For an ample supply, sow seed in a one meter row without thinning. The plants can be used at almost any stage of development and are useful even when quite large.
Tomatoes are a popular salad fruit and there is a wide variety of newly breed hybrids available. The plum-size fruiting varieties are becoming very popular. These are not only relatively trouble-free and do not require staking, but grow happily in pots and tubs.
Rather than tilling the soil, deep mulching around tomatoes will increase the root growth and improve vigor. Scatter a little poultry manure or complete garden food over the mulch each month. Avoid frequent waterings with soluble foods high in nitrogen because some of these tend to promote leaf, rather than fruit growth.
Capsicum is a close relative of the tomato. It is useful as both a salad or cooked vegetable and needs cultivation similar to a tomato.
Take care when transplanting capsicum seedlings. Keep as much soil as possible around their roots, otherwise they will not move well. Space the plants 45 centimeters apart. Six plants should supply sufficient fruit for your needs.
6. SILVER BEET
Half a dozen silver beet plants will ensure regular pickings of greens which are often a welcome change during the summer months. When picking the leaves, remember to pluck them by hand. By cutting with a knife, the plants sometimes tend to run to seed.
7. MUSTARD CRESS
Mustard and cress still have their places in the salad bowl. If grown in pots, bulb fiber can be used on top of the soil to keep the plants free from grit.
Sow the seeds thickly, press into the soil and keep constantly moist. When the plants are 5 cm to 6 cm tall, cut them off at ground level with scissors. A fresh sowing each week will provide a constant supply.
Cabbages are becoming increasingly popular for use as coleslaw. These are most tender when grown quickly; in fact there is nothing worse than a tough old cabbage. Keep a lookout for infestation of aphids and caterpillars.
No matter how small the vegetable plot, there should always be room for carrot seed. Sow sparingly and thin later to the required number.
10. ZUCCHINI MARROWS
Zucchini marrows are delicious, high in nutrition, easy to grow and wonderfully prolific producers, especially the Blackjack variety. Two or three plants will provide a continuing supply.
Remember to keep picking them regularly, especially after summer rain. Zucchinis grow rapidly and are at their best when only 15 centimeters long. Their leaf structure is large, and because of this they require plenty of moisture throughout the growing season.
A compact pumpkin called Pumpkin Baby Blue is a space saver for the small garden. This one sends out the occasional runner and takes up a less space than its larger cousins. It is quite happy trained to a fence, and produces compact, slightly elongated fruit.