Salad in a box
THERE is no doubt that vegie gardens are right back in fashion, but why do we get so much enjoyment out of growing our own vegies, because it saves us money, gives us a sense of achievement, impresses our friends or because it’s “trendy”.
All of these are valid, but most surveys show that the main reason people grow vegies is because th
ey want to have fresh, healthy food right there when we need it.
Vegie growing can seem a bit daunting for beginners, so one easy way to get started is by producing a crop of lettuce in a styrofoam box.
Here’s how to go about it:
Acquire a good-sized styrofoam box and check to make sure it has some holes for drainage. If it doesn’t, use something like a large screwdriver to punch a few holes through the base.
Next, fill the box with a good quality potting mix, top with a thin layer of quality seed raising mix, water and allow to drain.
Sprinkle lettuce seeds on top of the mix. Press the seeds into the moist mix, but be sure not to cover them.
Water them in with a gentle mist spray that won’t dislodge the seeds.
It’s important that the seeds are kept moist though the germination period but, because they’re right at the surface, they tend to dry out quickly.
Cover the box with a clear layer, such as plastic wrap or the lid of a Yates Mini Greenhouse will help.
There are two effective ways to water without washing away the seeds. One is to move aside the cover and continue misting with an atomiser. The other is to sit the base of the box in water inside a larger container, allow the moisture to seep up to the surface of the mix, then remove to drain. Either method works well.
Lettuce seeds won’t germinate if temperatures are too high, so keep the covered box in a shaded, but bright, position. Don’t leave it in the sunlight, it will get far too hot.
Lettuce needs plenty of nitrogen to promote healthy growth so, as soon as the seedlings appear, start feeding with a liquid plant food.
As the plants develop, take off the protective cover and move the box into a sunnier spot. Thin out by removing some of the excess seedlings. This will give the remaining plants room to grow.
The best varieties to choose for your salad box are small, non-hearting lettuces like Mignonettes or those found in Yates Salad Mix.