AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Buying all the ingredients and preparing salads at home can become on expensive venture. Gardeners can easily grow a lot of the vegetables that they put in their salads, in their backyard. An Extension professional offers advice on growing these vegetables.
According to Bethany O’Rear, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, this time of year is perfect for growing lettuce, kale and spinach. Other vegetables people can grow during the fall include carrots, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower. Remember, not all plants are meant to grow at the same time.
“With proper planning and planting, there is always something edible, waiting for harvest,” O’Rear said. “Regardless of the time of the year, one can find a way to grow a salad.”
O’Rear recommends researching the plants to find out their specific needs. She said to find a sunny spot, keep the plants adequately watered and don’t be afraid to try new things.
“If you have trouble with a certain plant, or even if you lose that particular plant or plants, don’t hang up your gardening gloves,” O’Rear said. “Gardening is trial and error.”
Vegetables found in salads need full exposure to the sun. Also, there must be adequate moisture added to the soil. She recommends drip irrigation, but one can also water plants by hand. Before planting these vegetables, O’Rear recommends that gardeners perform a soil test.
“After doing a soil test, you will know the pH level, which is important when it comes to availability of soil nutrients to the plant,” O’Rear said.
A soil test will also allow a gardener to know which nutrients the soil may need. O’Rear said there is no need to put nutrients into the soil that are not needed.
O’Rear said the plants grown in a backyard garden should have the best nutrient value. When it comes to quality, backyard vegetables usually beat grocery store options. The reason being that vegetables grown at home can be picked and eaten at the peak of freshness. The options at the grocery store have to be harvested for days, maybe weeks before they hit the shelves. The quality of produce immediately begins to decrease as soon as it is harvested. The longer the time is between harvest and consumption, the lesser the quality will be.
“There is no feeling like the one you have when you look at your dinner plate and know that you grew a portion or even all of the food that makes up your meal,” O’Rear said.