No bedding plants this year? Why not let the border pay for itself rather than you paying for it. Enjoy the fun of growing and caring for attractive edibles. And you’ll forget all about self isolation.

Growing fresh healthy salad crops is just as easy as plonking in some bedding plants and your only tools are a trowel, a rake and a watering can. Salad leaves come in a range of colours and textures and you can devise a planting plan that doesn’t leave dull gaps after harvesting.

Lettuces form the base for most of our summer salads so choose to grow several different types to suit your needs.

You can then forget about buying and using part of a lettuce and returning the rest to the fridge to slowly wilt.

You’ll be able to select a large heading Cos or a Little Gem for a meal or a few tasty leaves of loose-leafed Cocarde or cut and come again [cut and come again] Green Salad Bowl for sandwiches.

Mix up the colours. For green leaves you could choose Tom Thumb, Roxy adds a splash of red and Freckles is just that. And as you know, I keep on extolling the virtues of leaf texture and this certainly applies to lettuces. Plain-leaved Buttercrunch makes a fine backdrop for Tuska’s frilly foliage.

When planning the layout, choose a selection of different colours and arrange in a pattern. You can then harvest a selection of different colours for one meal.

Loose-leafed varieties also work well as cca. Instead of thinning a row let the seedlings grow on. Start cutting a section of leaves when 10cm tall and allow them to regrow while you enjoy further cuttings elsewhere.

These leaf crops grow quickly and can be sown between April and late July. By doing a patch fortnightly you’ll enjoy a good succession and avoid having boring empty areas. You’ve probably heard that lettuces have the reputation of germinating poorly in the hot weather we hope to enjoy in June and July. Don’t worry, there’s a way round this. First put the seed in the fridge for 24 hours and then sow in the cool evening.

Prepare a patch of ground in the usual way, removing weeds and trowelling over to loosen the soil. Mark out a 1cm deep line, making it any shape, straight, semicircular or whatever. Water, sow thinly, lightly cover and firm down. Water daily during dry weather.

For hearting lettuces, let them grow to 5cm. Water to soften the soil and tease out enough seedlings to leave 10-15cm between your selected plants.

For the first harvest, trim, wash and eat the thinnings. Then let the main crop grow till they touch and remove alternate plants, leaving the rest to fully form. Add extra flavour to a salad by growing salad rocket and mustards like Mizuna or Purple Frills.

Grow as for lettuce. And why not get the bit between your teeth and grow the likes of spinach, chard or kale, as baby leaves. They grow at different rates, so each species should be sown separately. As a bonus chards, like lettuce, come in different colours, and kale offers a range of shape and colour.

Endives and radicchio are equally varied, from wildly frilly Pancalieri to pointy red Treviso. And, like lettuce, can be treated as cca, maturing in 5-6 weeks, or fully grown after 12-14 weeks. I find this longer display is quite an asset.

As a final flourish, top the salad with some bright orange nasturtium flowers and the blue-green leaves of the variety Blue Pepe., which grows as a neat clump. Trailing varieties offer tasty young leaves.

Plant of the week

Tulip ‘Dutch Dancer’ bears brilliant orange blooms streaked with vermilion on sturdy 40cm stems. If the sun isn’t shining this flower will.

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