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Best salad greens for containers and small gardens

Updated on February 1, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Perfect for containers

Deer tongue  and oakleaf lettuces. Greens make excellent container plantings.
Deer tongue and oakleaf lettuces. Greens make excellent container plantings. | Source

Baby Pak Choi

Juicy baby pak choi is an ideal container plant. When seedling are a couple inches tall, sow a few more pak choi seed to extend the crop.
Juicy baby pak choi is an ideal container plant. When seedling are a couple inches tall, sow a few more pak choi seed to extend the crop. | Source

Crisp and cool

I'm glad you asked. I was just writing about fall gardening with herbs and vegetables. All the early spring vegetables can be grown again in the fall. (so save your seed.) Salad greens, radish, spinach, chard with sprout quickly in sun warmed soil.

It is important to keep soil evenly moist when starting seeds. Plant a few seed every week to extend the harvest as long as possible. Many of these greens can take a light frost, often getting sweeter.

You won't see many as many lettue varieties at the store.The tender lettuces you read about in garden catalogs is rarely in the market. Your delicate home grown lettuces are not hardy enough to survive the rigors of travel like grocery store types do.

No need to use up any seed you have left this spring. Any seed you buy now, but don't use up this fall, can be used next spring. Beginning a garden in late summer or early fall is one of the best times to grow season extending crops that will actually benefit from early frosts and grow until winter sets in.

Those juicy green salads of spring are a good example. Try growing a new-to-you variety of salad greens. Many leafy vegetables are good served fresh in salads or cooked as greens. Try spinach, corn salad, baby kale or young chard.

Using containers for the earliest lattuces, makes it easy to move or cover them during those first few freezes.

Spring and fall radishes

Fall radishes are not pithy or too hot.
Fall radishes are not pithy or too hot. | Source

Cool season salads

Lettuce, spinach and radishes.

These heirloom lettuces have been around for generations for only two reasons: they are good tasting and consistently reliable. You can't go wrong with salad bowl classics like oak leaf lettuce and deer tongue lettuces. I found oakleaf and deer tongue lettuce seed selections at Territorial Seed Company

Bright green and frilly loose leaf Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce has been a garden mainstay for 150 years. Simpson performs right into early winter.

Blend your own custom mesclun mix or plant each lettuce separately to create a ribbon of color. Sow seed heavily and then thin as seedlings grow. Be sure to include radishes.

If possible, sow your salad garden in partial shade, remember these lettuces thrive in cool seasons. Gently water, keeping the soil moist, not wet until seed germinates. If you grow a spring garden, then a fall garden is a cinch.

Baby salad greens usually have more flavor and are more tender and nutritious than mature leafy greens.

Mixed salad greens are generally high in Vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Freshly picked baby lettuces have the highest nutritional content.

Young chard

Tender chard leaves are a flavorful addition to the salad bowl.
Tender chard leaves are a flavorful addition to the salad bowl. | Source

Cool season crops

Kale, pak choi, turnips, chard

Pak Choi, Baby is a good fall selection. It's small size produces a mild, quick to mature crop ideal for succession planting. I've had very good success with "Green Fortune"

Grow a couple of varieties of this nutrition powerhouse vegetable if you are unfamiliar with kale. Blue-green paddle shaped leaves of Portuguese "Tronchuda Beira" kale is very mild. Good cooked or fresh in salad.

Try "Lacinato" kale, it is both cold and heat tolerant. This kale is an ideal selection in unpredictable climates. Sweet and never strong flavored. Find kale and pak choi at Renee's Garden.

Turnips have gotten a bad rap. But fall grown turnips are mild and sweet. Home grown, fall planted turnips may surprise you. Farmers Market favorites include Purple top White Globe and Snowball.

Healthy and beautiful Swiss Chard young leaves are an excellent salad addition. Chard grows into a colorful green that can be used like cooked spinach. Brightly colored stems make this an attractive plant even in flower borders.

Turnips and kale are available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

The secret of your success is succession planting. Never plant a long row of lettuce. Pant a small part of the row, in a week, plant more, Stretch out the salad season by planting just a little lettuce every week as long as the weather is cool.


Submit a Comment

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    6 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Chard is a favorite. I love it in the "spinach" bacon quiche. Thank you for commenting.

  • furniturez profile image


    6 years ago from Washington

    I love young chard, the others are OK, but definitely not my favorite!

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    6 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    I think chard is worth growing as an ornamental, even it it not a food crop. Thank you for your comments. Kale is a new vegetable for me this year. There are so many varieties and that means lots of taste variations. I may like one but not another. Or, young leaves are milder and sweeter.

  • bje117 profile image

    Beverly English 

    6 years ago from Savannah

    Have never been able to stomach the taste of chard, but love the colors added to a garden. Nice article with lots of helpful tips and resources.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    6 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Thank you for your comments. Chard is the star in my patio containers. I love the colorful stems.

  • catsimmons profile image

    Catherine Simmons 

    6 years ago from Mission BC Canada

    thanks for thi...perfect timing! I was only wondering yesterday whether it was too late to plant up some containers

  • BWD316 profile image

    Brian Dooling 

    6 years ago from Connecticut

    Great suggestions! I've heard a lot about Swiss chard but thought I would have to wait till next spring to try it... After reading your article im considering trying it this fall! I grow the same lettuce as seen in your top picture, it does extremely well in containers! Voted up and useful!


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