Basically, you will plant a bunch of different lettuces and greens in containers. Start your seeds now, and by the time people start getting the gardening itch- you’ll be ready. Don’t let limited garden space stop you from growing vegetables this winter and spring. Many cool season crops are easy to grow in containers and now is the time to plant them. Salad greens like lettuce, spinach, and arugula thrive even in shallow pots. They are often planted mixed together with herbs and other greens in bowl shaped containers, providing all the ingredients you need for healthy, tasty salads in a single pot. Lettuce is a quick, nutritious fix for the winter-weary gardener hungry for a bit of green. Sow or transplant this easy, leafy cool-season vegetable February to April for a succession of healthy salad bowls. We can plant lettuce in the garden in February, but for color and easy access, add a few pots of green and red varieties on the decks and need the chicken and rabbit coops.

Supplies Needed

  • Salad bowl garden (Shallow, bowl shaped containers are an attractive way to grow a variety of salad greens in a single pot.) You do not need a lot of supplies to start a salad bowl garden. Start with the container, which does not have to be bowl shaped. Rectangular window box containers and round pots work just as well. Containers of many types can be recycled for the purpose as long as they are at least six inches deep and have several drainage holes drilled in the bottom. I have even seen cardboard boxes used as planting containers for a single season.
  • Potting soil. Most potting soils will work well, but avoid those that have lots of bark in them. They are too coarse for smaller pots, causing them to dry out too quickly. If you are unsure what to buy, choose a seed starting mix. These mixes usually contain a combination of peat moss and vermiculite and are designed for use in shallow containers. There is no need to buy a soil that already contains fertilizer. In fact, it is usually better to add fertilizer separately.
  • You will also need plants. You could sow seed into your containers and grow your own plants, but since you will not need many plants it is often easier and quicker to start a tray full. Seedling trays are starting to show up at the garden centers- toilet paper rolls work too, and guess what, so do egg shells. Lettuce seeds are readily available, including those with green, red, frilled, and lobed leaves. Other greens that can be included in your salad bowl include mizuna, a mild flavored Chinese mustard, spinach, tatsoi, arugula, Swiss chard, and spicy red mustard. Add dill, cilantro, or parsley plants for additional flavor. You could even include edible flowers like pansies or Johnny jump ups, which have a mild, sweet flavor.
  • You will need two types of fertilizers for best results; a liquid fertilizer to get plants going, and a slow release fertilizer to mix into the potting soil. Liquid fertilizers include those from organic sources like compost tea or fish emulsion (which is what I use) or you can use products like Miracle Gro. Use these to water plants in after they are initially planted and for the first few weeks. You can use liquid fertilizers alone to supply the nutrients your salad garden needs, just remember to apply them on them regular basis. Mixing a time release fertilizer like Osmocote or an organic fertilizer like Plant Tone into the potting at planting time will provide a more reliable source of nutrients for the whole season.

Planting and Care

Plant individual plants fairly close together in your salad bowl, around three to four inches apart. Place the container somewhere it will receive at least six hours of sun each day and remember to check daily to see if your garden needs to be watered. When you do water, add water until it starts to drain out of the holes in the bottom of the container. If you have a saucer under your container be sure to pour it out once all the extra water has drained out of the pot. You can start harvesting in about a month by picking individual leaves from plants. If you eat a lot of salad you may want to plant several containers. If you are going to sell them start with at least a dozen. You can presell them too. All of the plants suggested for salad bowl gardens will tolerate frost and can survive temperatures down to twenty eight degrees.


What kinda lettuce is best for these bowls? The answer is any kins, herbs too, but rember you want it to look pretty, so add variety. Looseleaf is the easiest, quickest lettuce to grow. High in vitamins A and C and calcium, it’s harvested in 45 to 50 days from seed. You can plant more densely if you’re going to follow the cut-and-come-again harvest method since you’ll be removing outer leaves when they’re 4 or 5 inches long. Use sharp kitchen scissors to cut leaves about an inch above the soil line. Or cut all the leaves on a plant. They will regrow, giving you two to three harvests per season. ‘Black Seeded Simpson,’ a longtime favorite heirloom, has delicately flavorted, light green, crinkly foliage. ‘Deer Tongue’ is an heirloom with red-tinged, triangular leaves. Heat-resistant, sweetly flavored ‘Oak Leaf’ forms a tight rosette of medium-green, deeply lobed leaves. There’s also a ‘Red Oak Leaf.”Salad Bowl’ is a heat-resistant All America Selections winner with irregularly shaped leaves. ‘Red Sails’ has beautiful bronze-red leaves that intensify in color in cooler weather. ‘Vulcan’ is a a slow-bolting red leaf lettuce. Butterhead or loose head lettuce form a loose head of iron-rich, buttery leaves that are somewhat crunchier than leaf lettuces. A container 8 inches across is adequate for three butterheads; a 15-inch pot will hold five to seven plants. Tasty butterheads include ‘Buttercrunch,’ a heat-resistant All America Selection; miniature ‘Tom Thumb’ and ‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’ (‘Four Seasons’), a gourmet French lettuce with burgundy outer leaves and pinkish-cream inner leaves. Romaine lettuce is a rather elegant lettuce with elongated, upright heads. The leaves are slightly coarser than leaf lettuces, but the inner leaves are especially mild and tasty. These lettuces contain good amounts of vitamins A and C and calcium. Romaine types suitable for our gardens include ‘Paris Island Cos,’ a medium-green lettuce matures in about 75 days and ‘Rosalita,’ a deep-red romaine with crispy leaves that’s ready in 55 days.