‘Selamat Pagi, I live in a townhouse that has a small paved area with sunny balconies and was looking for some ideas on growing some salad type plants in planter containers. Looking for easy to grow or the lower maintenance types. What would you suggest for a beginner green thumb like me? Many thanks from Pat at Canggu’
It’s easy to grow a few different varieties of salad greens in a few planter boxes or even on a sunny windowsill in an apartment. It’s all about making the most of your space. Greens can easily be grown in a few containers and picked as needed to supplement your cooking. I think everyone should at least try to grow a few edible plants, it’s good for your health and then don’t even get me started on commercial farming methods and pesticides.
On another note, I was reading with interest these past few days Sainsbury’s (UK based supermarket) has started offering touch free meat for sale. According to their research, there is a large group of concerned consumers out there (the under 35s) that are very concerned that they may suffer food poisoning or contract salmonella from handling raw chicken – and now I think to myself ‘thank god I’m turning 40 this year’.
Sainsbury’s will launch raw chicken pieces in special ‘no touch’ packages that will accommodate the fickle people in avoiding contact with meat before cooking….Geez they’d get a shock if they went out the back of some of these warungs to see how their food was prepared. God forbid they may even see a live chicken slaughtered – I hope the irony is not lost on them!
The average person, probably the younger generation more so has become so far removed from the origins of their food that most probably think that pineapple grows on trees – when in fact we all know that they propagate in the refrigerator down at the supermarket aisle…?
Well I’ve always got to have at least one rant per article – now back to the plants and how to grow them. When people are starting out I always advise to just grow what is easiest yet flavourful. It’s all about getting the most for the least effort. I’ll give you my personal favourites which are easily grown in pots or garden beds, that will also do well in both full sun to partial shade.
Easy to Grow Salad Vegetables
Kale – Growing kale from seed is easy. The plant is hardy and will withstand dry conditions. Kale is a member of the Brassicas, in fact I consider Kale as the easy grow leafy form of broccoli. It doesn’t require constant watering. The leaves are super healthy and packed with flavour. Can be eaten raw or steamed, added to soups etc. Also great for raw juicing into a green smoothie. Outer leaves can be clipped off as needed and the plant will survive a few seasons if grown this way. Chop off the top off the plant to produce multiple crowns and get more bang for your buck. There are many varieties to grow with subtle variance in flavours such as Tuscan, Russian Red, Curly Kale etc. Just keep your eye out for caterpillars which absolutely love it and can devour a plant in just a few days, which is also a reason why commercial crops are heavily sprayed. Caterpillars lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, the best way to deter them is to regularly clip the plant and occasionally check the for eggs which can be brushed off with your hands (millennials may prefer to use a Hazchem suit) or otherwise with a hose of water. Also look out for bright green balls of caterpillar poo on the leaves, a tell-tale sign of the critters existence. Swiss chard or silver-beet is another salad plant packed with nutrients that will grow easily with similar requirements to kale.
Alliums – Spring onions, shallots, scallions or whatever you like to call them are the gift that just keeps on giving. Easy to grow from seed or offcuts. If you’ve bought a bunch from the store or market after cutting off the root ends for food prep, simply plant them in the ground. Keep watered and a new plant will quickly shoot, best sown in clumps of 10 or more. Once they’re growing, instead of harvesting by pulling from the ground simply cut off shoots at ground level leaving the root base from which new grow will shoot.
This method will give a constant supply for years to come. They also produce a lovely mauve/blue/ white flower that can be added to salads or eaten raw straight off the plant – a word of warning though the flower is oniony spicy hot. This plant will withstand dry conditions, though will obviously do better if watered once or twice a week. Add to soups salads, sandwiches or as a garnish. Also great for your health, high in chlorophyll and Vitamin K – one of the lesser known essential elements critical too good health.
Parsley and Celery – Both are from the same botanical family which also includes carrots and parsnips. Parsley, sometimes known as rock celery gives a hint that it is the hardier of the two. Although typically people consider the fibrous stalks of celery the main edible, I grow celery more so for the leaves which are aromatic and flavourful when added to soups, stews, salads or even juiced. Same goes for parsley.
Parsley can generally survive in the ground off natural moisture and humidity alone, if potted though it will do well watered once a week. Celery on the other hand will do well watered twice weekly. As with most salad plants, just clip the outer stems as needed for a perpetual supply. Eventually parsley and celery will flower (attracting bees), and then run to seed at which point simply shake the seed heads out around the garden or into containers and within a month the next crop will be emerging. Parsley is so determined you will see it springing up in rock crevices and cracks in the pavement. The best thing about these plants is that pests avoid them, and parsley planted out in the garden is even thought to have a deterrent effect on some insects.
Dandelions – Another favourite because they are just an effortless plant to grow and high in essential nutrients. Many people consider them a weed, but I think that is exactly the type of plant you may want to grow – one that will grow on its own. If you can’t get any seeds, next time you see a fluffy dandelion orb (the seed head) pick it and spread the cottony seeds around the garden – they will spring up in no time. Leaves can be added raw to salads, otherwise steamed like spinach, the flowers are edible also and will attract bees to the garden. Roots can also be harvested, dry roasted and ground into a healthy coffee alternative good for improving liver function, otherwise just boil the leaves and drink as a tea.
Get reconnected to the food supply and see how easy it is to have a supplemental supply of fresh produce growing in containers or the garden.
Oh, and by the way pineapple is a fruit which grows from a bromeliad (Ananas comosus) – interesting to note the Indonesian word for pineapple ‘nanas’ is derived from ‘Ananas’ which is the name it goes by in many European languages.
Copyright © 2018 Dr. Kris
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