How to Enjoy Fresh Salad Every Week of the Year!
With a little bit of planning, it’s not hard to enjoy fresh salads nearly every week of the year from a small garden bed! Learn how to layout and plan multiple crops in two garden beds in order to harvest fresh salads year-round.
The garden plan below would work well in a frost-free growing season from May 15th through October 15th. (You can adjust the plan to fit your own climate.) Each bed is 4′ x 4′ in size, and they are both divided into 4 sections – A, B, C, and D. Each section is 2′ x 2′.
Bed 2 includes a trellis along the north side. All four sections in both beds will be producing two or three crops during the gardening season, and could supply you with a fresh salad most days of the year. Each 2′ x 2′ section can produce up to 16 heads of lettuce every 2 weeks!
To make this plan work, it is important to pay attention to the “days to maturity” for the vegetable varieties you will be growing. For some vegetables, this will refer to the date of planting the seeds in the garden bed. For other vegetables, this will refer to the date of transplanting. You can find this information on your seed packets or in the seed catalogs.
Bush bean seeds are usually planted directly in the garden, so their days to maturity are calculated from that date. Cabbages are usually planted into the garden as transplants. Their days to maturity is from the date of transplanting – NOT when you first plant the seeds in containers to start the transplants.
For planning purposes, I have divided up most of the salad crops into 3 types:
- extra-early varieties that can be harvested in less than 45 days
- mid-season varieties that mature in 60 days
- long-season varieties that can take up to 75 days
I include a more detailed breakdown of these lists at the bottom of this page.
OK – let’s get started!
This first graphic shows what to plant in your garden starting 6 weeks before your last average spring frost. You will need to cover these early plantings with a cold frame or row cover, until the weather warms up. (See Using Cold Frames or Using Row Covers for more information.) Make sure you use cool-season vegetables for these first plantings.
You will be able to start harvesting some young salad greens by early-mid May. Other vegetables will be ready to harvest in June or July. This graphic shows when you would start replanting each section, as you finish harvesting the first crops. You can refrigerate or freeze any of the extra vegetables that you may need to harvest in order to make room to plant the next crops.
You can plant either cool-season or warm-season vegetables after your last day of frost. If the weather turns hot, provide partial shade and extra water to any cool-season vegetables that you may be growing. Some people find 30-40% shade cloth very helpful. It’s also important to choose heat-tolerant varieties. However, if your summers are scorching hot, you might not be able to grow many salad crops in the heat. Focus on crops for the spring, fall, and winter seasons instead.
This graphic includes the second or third crops that you can plant in your salad beds. You’ll need to take extra care to start these seeds in hot weather. (See Planting Winter Vegetables for some ideas on how to start cool-season crops in the summer.)
If you plant cold-hardy winter vegetables in the fall, you can continue to harvest and enjoy salad vegetables throughout most of the winter, if you give them the simple protection of row cover or a cold frame. (See Winter Vegetables for a list and descriptions of cold-hardy vegetables.) If you would like to eat lots of salads through the winter, you might want to double the size of your fall-planted beds.
List of Vegetables for Salad Beds
<45 Day Vegetables: Japanese turnips, radishes, and most salad plants when harvested as baby greens (lettuce, mache, claytonia, arugula, spinach, watercress, mizuna, sorrel, endive, escarole, purslane, and many more…)
<60 Day Vegetables: Larger salad greens (such as heads of lettuce), kohlrabi, and some bush beans, Chinese cabbages, and early root crops (some varieties of carrots, beets, turnips, etc), and any of the <45 day vegetables
<75 Day Vegetables: Most salad and cooking greens, many root crops, miniature cabbages, green onions, and any of the <45 or <60 day vegetables
Trellised Vegetables: include peas, pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more…
Select the right varieties for each season. For example, if you want to grow lettuce all season, choose cold-tolerant varieties to grow in early spring and late fall, and heat-tolerant varieties for summer plantings.
With a little bit of planning, it’s not hard to enjoy fresh salads for most of the year from a small garden!
Thanks for your easy to understand planting salad bed rotations plus the link to your post on Creating Winter Beds. Your suggestion to plant 40-60SF per person for winter eating makes a lot of sense. I’ve yet to reserve enough garden space to plant a large enough winter garden. Since we eat from our winter gardens until late April due our cold wet spring if the winter garden is larger we will have enough to harvest. It works best to eat from mature plants that resprout than attempt early plantings in wet, cold soil. Keep the tips coming!
Hi, Corrine! Thanks for sharing your experience. You make a very good point – it’s a lot easier to harvest new leaves from mature plants this time of year than from new plants. The varieties of kale that I grow aren’t as winter-hardy as some types, so mine were killed back this year. BUT I’m getting new young leaves growing up from the base of those plants, so they’re still providing fresh greens well before my spring plantings can.
Thanks so much for your e-mail and information about how to plant salad for almost year round enjoyment. I am VERY new to any type of gardening and will be trying it out this year. My question is: Are the two beds that you have drawn enough for a family of 4?
Hi, Dana! Well, that depends on several factors, including how large of salads you eat, how often you eat them, and how well your garden grows. This plan should produce about 1 head of lettuce per day, or the equivalent of other greens, that can fit in a 6″ x 6″ space. Crops like spinach often produce less per square foot than large heads of lettuce, but they can provide salad greens all winter. You’ll need to experiment to find out how much space your family will need. I suspect you may need twice as much as I describe during the growing season, if your family really enjoys salads.
Depending on your climate, vegetables don’t usually grow much during the winter months, so you have to plant a larger amount of bed space for your winter harvest. If you love large salads, you might need to plant as much as 50 square feet per person in August and September, to be able to harvest fresh salad all winter long. But I don’t know your growing season! Maybe wintertime is your best salad growing season and a scorching hot summer prevents growing lettuce in that season.