If the idea of foraging for fresh food fills you with joy, how about going one step further and building a salad with ingredients you’ve grown yourself?

“Growing your own fruit and vegetables is becoming increasingly popular, with more people discovering the many benefits of producing your own food,” says Daniel Carruthers, of Cultivar Greenhouses.


What to plant

“If I had to name one crop I could always grow, eat, and sell, it would have to be salad crops,” says Jane Scotter, a Herefordshire biodynamic farmer (fernverrow.com), who grows seasonal vegetables, fruit and herbs for some of London’s top restaurants.

“A high-value crop, much sought-after by restaurant customers and individuals alike,” notes Scotter, who has also just launched her first online gardening course with Create Academy.


Varieties of salad leaves

There are lots of varieties of salad leaves you can grow. “For spring, I like the hot zing of the mustards, such as mizuna, mibuna, purple frills and golden frills,” says Scotter. These are all from the brassica family, and are quick to germinate and fast to grow.


Fruits of the vine

“Tomatoes are a firm favourite in most salads and, with shortages in many supermarkets at the moment, it’s a great time to start growing your own,” suggests Carruthers. “Cucumbers are a perfect summer fruit, adding a refreshing crunch to salads. There are almost 100 different varieties, so choosing which ones to grow can be a minefield.”


How to plant salad seeds

Direct sow the seeds into clean, weed-free soil, says Scotter.

“They’re not hungry feeders, so lots of fertility is not a big issue. If you don’t have a garden, fill a container or wooden box (with holes in the bottom for drainage) with organic compost. Fill the box at least 20cm deep with the fine soil. Pat down firmly and evenly.

“Then make a small trench, about 2cm deep and 4cm wide, using your finger or a round-ended tool, the thickness of a marker pen,” she adds. “Aim to have seeds about 1-2cm apart. Don’t worry about being too exact, but try not over sow, as plants will grow small and not as healthily.”

Cover with soil carefully and pat down firmly. She says to water with a watering can rose at first, otherwise seeds will not be evenly moistened, plus they may float away if water is added in a heavy-handed way.

“If these are started early to mid-March, you should see germination within 10 days. Sow at least four lines. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and in a sunny spot outside. Your salad leaves should be ready for their first harvest within three weeks,” says Scotter.

“The varieties I’ve mentioned are cut-and-come-again crops – meaning you can cut at least four times from the same plant, before the leaves begin to get tough and lose flavour.”