If you don’t have any outdoor space – or if you want to try extending your salad crops through the colder months – then growing herbs and salads indoors might be the answer.
Herbs and Salads to Try
You can enjoy plenty of homegrown salad ingredients – try some of these suggestions:
- Pea shoots: recently these have become trendy at gourmet restaurants, where they can be found artistically arranged on top of your supper. They are sweet, tender and quite strongly flavoured, so they make a nice addition to a mixed salad. They’re easy to grow in cool conditions: choose hardy pea seeds, and you could have a tray growing on your back porch. You’ll get two or three cuttings from each seedling, making this a good‐value salad crop.
- Long‐lasting herbs, such as chives, sage, oregano and mint. Tender annuals (like coriander and basil) don’t fare so well indoors, so stick to the woodier varieties. Give these Mediterranean herbs a sunny windowsill and make sure you rotate the trays to get the best crops.
- Mustard and cress: an old‐fashioned favourite and still a great choice for an indoor salad garden. These microleaves are ready in a week, and lend a punchy flavour to your favourite sandwiches. Note that these aren’t CCA varieties.
- Rocket, any variety: Notoriously hardy Rocket grows outdoors almost all year round, but if you don’t have space, sow a tray indoors and treat it as a cut‐and‐come‐again plant.
- Don’t forget about sprouting seeds: a fun project for children to try. You can buy mixed or individual packets of seed for sprouting (such as alfalfa, mung beans and chickpea). Use a clean jam jar and quarter‐fill it with seeds, then top up with water. Cover the jar with muslin and place it in a cool dark place overnight. Strain off the water every day, replacing it with fresh water. You’ll have sprouted seeds to enjoy in a few days!
Sowing Made Easy
Sowing seed is easy if you follow a few basic rules:
- You need two trays – one with drainage holes and one to put underneath to catch water. Once the seedlings have started to show, you should water by pouring into the bottom tray and waiting for the soil to drink up the moisture. Splashing water on top of delicate seedlings can uproot them.
- Fill the holey tray with special seed compost. It may seem expensive, but it’s worthwhile – your garden soil may have pests or diseases in it, and it is also probably too lumpy to allow tiny seeds to put out roots.
- Dampen the compost before sowing your seeds.
- Sow a pinch at a time, following the packet instructions for spacing. Some salad seeds do not require any covering, but others will prefer a light covering of soil (or vermiculite – available at garden centres).
- To speed up germination, put a plastic lid on the tray – or cover it with clingfilm. Keep an eye on the seeds and as soon as they start to sprout, remove the plastic.
- Rotate the trays now and again so that the plants get light on both sides, encouraging them to develop a more bushy habit.
- Harvest microleaves – such as cress and mustard shoots – when they are small, cutting with a scissors to encourage them to regrow (which they might not do).
- For ‘cut‐and‐come‐again’ (CCA) varieties, you should allow a bit more growth, then cut one or two leaves from each plant, and leave to regrow.