How to Grow Your Own Mini Salad Bowl Garden

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If you have no space to grow but still want to contribute something healthy and nutrient packed to your plate why not try growing a  salad bowl garden.

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow some tasty food by starting a salad bowl garden and remembering a few simple tips.

Make a salad bowl indoors or a basket
You can create a salad bowl garden in any container

To start your own salad bowl garden, you need

  • a suitable container,
  • a space that gets a good amount of sun around 5 hours. Salad Bowl gardens don’t need sun all day.

These will work indoors and out, you could use a windowsill, a small balcony, or even pop your bowl straight onto the dining table.

Need help getting started? Grab a copy of our new First steps to planning your first family garden printable below.

I start the year by keeping our bowl indoors on the dining table and when the milder weather arrives we move it out onto our patio table.

You can of course keep this indoors the whole growing season.

If you have space, you could plant up a few patio pots outdoors to give you a lot more options but that’s not essential.

Grow vegetables in pots to extend harvest
Expand your growing to patio pots if you have space

What’s the best pot for a salad bowl garden?

For a salad bowl garden, you need a pot that is wide and relatively shallow, it can be any shape you like. 

We’ve used an old wooden salad serving bowl but in the past, we have used a deep seed tray inside an old baking dish to make it prettier.

You could use large empty tin cans clustered together or left over food containers. Literally anything  will do that fits in your space and decor.

A window box would serve as a great salad ‘bowl’ too .You can find a plastic pot easily, which is  lightweight and you can move it conveniently. 

Whatever container you choose, it has to be at least 6-8 inches deep as you’re growing quite a lot in a small space so a good depth of soil is needed to keep fertility up.

Also Read: Starting a small salad garden

Also Read: How to grow lettuce

What’s the best soil to use in your salad bowl?

The soil you use is so important. The soil is responsible for feeding your plants quite intensively over the next few months, so choose a good quality compost.

You can make and add your own compost to boost the fertility in your planter too

Read: Tips for making your own compost.

Which is useful if you have a garden space. If not, you don’t need to miss out as you can still make your own compost in a simple soda bottle.

This is a great experiement for kids to see the science of how soil works. But it is also a fantastic way to create small manageable amounts of compost to add to your salad bowl or patio pots.

Read: DIY compost in a bottle

Rot pot step 5
Make manageable amounts of compost in a bottle

Simply fill a washed soda bottle with kitchen scraps, weeds, shredded paper and cardboard etc in layers. Once full, place somewhere dark and allow to compost.

It should take around 10 weeks to compost down which is perfect timing for adding to your bowls as the nutrients already there is being used up.

It’s a fantastic way to recycle household and kitchen waste.

When you first plant up your bowl, add a fertilizer like Blood Fish and Bone to give your plants the best start possible.

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What’s the best plants to grow in your salad bowl garden?

Firstly, you need to decide which types of the many lettuce varieties you would like to grow:

  • Loose leaf,
  • Butterhead,
  • Cos (Romaine),
  • and Crisp ones.

Lettuces come in a lot of different colours and types from red, yellow, green and even purple, then there’s speckled, Oak leaves, frilly, curly and loose leaf so be adventurous and fill your plate with a range of interesting varieties.

Reduce plastic by recycling food containers as mini salad bars.
lettuce seedlings ready to move into place

Salad leaves like Swiss chard, Pak choi, Raddicchio, Chicory, Spinach and even Pea shoots grow well in a salad bowl.

Herbs like chives, coriander, parsely also work here. 

Other crops that will grow well in a salad bowl include spring onions, radishes, or even a mini bush tomato or strawberry plant if your bowl is deep enough.

How we laid out our salad bowl garden

So, we divided our bowl into 4 parts and used a variety of plants to fill it up. Here’s our plan.

Section 1

Lettuce. Seeds of loose leaf lettuce were sown as seeds in the first quarter.  They will take 10 to 14 days to grow, 4 to 6 weeks to crop and when these finish cropping,  we will remove them and add some soaked peas.

Pea shoots. Soaking the peas isn’t essential but it does help to give the peas a helping hand and they germinate quicker. We are not growing these plants to harvest peas from however, we are growing them quite thickly to harvest the pea shoot or seedlings.

Harvested around 10 to 15cm these seedlings taste strongly of peas and add an amazing flavour to your salads. Cut as needed.

After those peas shoots have been harvested, they will be replaced with winter salad leaves which we will sow in pots 2 weeks before the last cut of peas shoots.

This way we will have a pot of lettuce seedlings waiting to be repotted into our section 1 ready for harvesting within 3 to 4 weeks and will recrop all the way till the end of September if kept well watered.

If you haven’t got seeds to sow, you can buy little pots of seedlings from garden centres or even some supermarkets now will sell them.

Section 2

Lettuce. Luckily we sowed seeds a few weeks ago in some milk jugs outdoors. These act as mini greenhouses in our winter sowing garden so we can sow seeds earlier without taking up to much space indoors. We replanted these into section 2.

There will crop 2 to 3 weeks earlier than in quarter 1 so it extends your picking season.

Why not try growing in your own mini greenhouse.

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In a few weeks time I will start picking small leaves as needed. When the leaves get to 15 cm in size, I will cut a bunch at a time.

After each cut, I’ll feed and water the section to give it a boost and encourage it to regrow within 2 to 3 weeks.

It will continue to grow like this for 4 cuts before it starts to fade. Just before the last cut I will sow spinach seedlings into a pot on the windowsill.

Read- How to make seed tapes

Grow.amazing tasty salads in an Indoor salad garden

We love to recycle food containers like muffin boxes, fruit trays and yogurt pots are great for this too. Here’s more recycled pot ideas to get you started.

When the lettuce is finished I will replace it with these spinach seedlings so I can harvest small leaves going forward.

Read How to care for your seedlings.

lettuve seedlings

Section 3

Radishes were planted in another quarter. These will grow super quick and can be harvested within 6 weeks. As we sowed the radishes in our bowl, we also sowed a small pot of Swiss chard plants on the windowsill.

Noodle or yogurt pots are brilliant for this.

The colourful chard plants will be big enough to replace the radishes once they’ve been harvested in around 6 weeks and if the leaves are picked regularly while they’re small, and should continue to grow all year.

Section 4

The final quarter was planted with soaked peas. Dried peas from the pantry are soaked in water overnight then sown thickly and will produce peashoots.

These can be harvested as 10cm shoots and used as a salad leaf that adds a wonderful pea flavour to your plate. When the pea shoots have finished producing, they will then be replaced with new lettuce.

Pea shoots are super tasty and make a great salad.leaf

We will sow more lettuce once the pea shoots begin to harvest. They will be replaced with  winter varieties of lettuce like corn salad, mizuna, Mibuna etc to extend the season.

These again are sown in a noodle pot on the windowsill as we start to crop the lettuce so it’s ready to be popped right in place when needed.

And finally...

We managed to add a mini group of  5 spring onions to the centre of the bowl to grow as the other seeds establish.

Keep reading to discover more about our salad bowl garden

Which lettuce is easiest to grow?

It really depends on the space you have. Cut and come again lettuce are types of leaves specially bred to be harvested over and over. They don’t grow into a fat round head of lettuce like other types.

You can start thinning and harvesting individual leaves from as little as 3 weeks or leave them to grow to 10 to 15 ‘clumps’ you tcan harvest by the handful.

Leave a stump of leaves at the bottom and they will regrow.

When should I plant my salad bowl garden?

Sow indoors from February. Sow thinly at 1cm deep and 2 to 3 cm spacing for loose leaf types.

Where should I put my seedlings?

Keep your pots in a bright spot all day without too much direct sunlight. Try to aim for a cool bright area of your home with no more than 5 hours  of direct sun.

How often should Lettuce be watered?

The lettuce leaves are mostly water and will wilt in strong sunlight and dry soil.

Lettuce roots tend to be shallow, so frequent watering is more important than deep watering.

Keep your compost slightly moist but not wet. It’s not compulsory to water every day, but always check out the moisture before watering by touching the soil with your finger.

If the soil feels wet then it doesn’t need watering.

Can you over water lettuce?

Too much or too little water can be disater for lettuce. They need moist soil but not waterlogged, and never dry.

How often should you fertilize lettuce?

I feed my salad bowl every two weeks. At the start of the growing season I used Blood, Fish and Bone fertilizer.

I then make my own nettle and comfrey feed which I then use to dilute down to a weak tea colour and feed my bowl every 2 weeks.

Because lettuces are a “cut and come again” crop, they need plenty of fertilizer to help them keep producing new leaves for the next harvest.

How long does it take for salad bowl lettuce to mature?

It takes around 4 to 5 weeks to get your lettuce producing well.

Lettuce grows fairly quickly. Loose leaf varieties reach cutting size in 4 to 5 weeks but individual leaves can be harvested as soon as they are big enough.

Head types of lettuce require 6 to 8 weeks to reach full harvest size.

How do you harvest a salad bowl?

You can start to harvest tasty salad greens from your salad bowl garden 4 to 6 weeks after planting.

Simply pick individual leaves when you need or chop a handful. If one bowl isn’t enough for your family, simply grow more than one bowl. It’s a great alternative to house plants.

Will lettuce regrow after cutting?

Most leaf-lettuce plants will regrow if regularly watered after trimming.

Results will often be smaller than the original plant, but you may be able to harvest a second, good-tasting crop within as little as two weeks.

Reduce and reuse plastic by making a soda bottle salad bar
You could create a range of salad bowls in soda bottles and rotate through them.

Cut and come again varieties will produce 3 to 4 cuttings at 2 or 3 week intervals.

How do you harvest lettuce so it grows back?

Most cut lettuce grows back quickly.

Cut off the amount of lettuce needed when the leaves reach a length between 3 and 6 inches.

Water the lettuce regularly to encourage continued growth even after you begin harvesting and feed with a good general purpose fertilizer like Blood, Fish and Bone.

You can also use your own handmade compost or nettle and comfrey teas although these do have a wicked smell but are free to make!

Peas can be sown thickly in pots to produce tasty pea shoots for your plate

Can you grow lettuce all year round?

Yes, with a little planning you can produce lettuce and other salad leaves all year round You may never need to buy lettuce again.

Some lettuce varieties will grow at any time of the year. Usually taking round 8 to10 weeks to grow for a head type and 4 to 6 weeks for loose leaf types.

Simply protect from slugs when outdoors and cover early and late sowings with a cloche or cold frame (or bring indoors and plant in your salad bowl garden)


How do I stop my lettuce from bolting?

Lettuce will bolt once it’s grown to full maturity so it’s a good idea to make sure you sow lettuce in pots at regular intervals so you have the next crop to continue the harvest in your small salad bowl

Plant lettuce early when it’s cool. It’s also a good idea to place it in an area that’s in partial shade to help avoid high temperatures.

Keep your soil moist and fertile and your lettuce will grow well.

You can also buy small seedlings to pop in if you don’t want to sow seeds.

Can you still eat lettuce after it bolts?

Bolted lettuce can still be harvested and eaten, although the leaves will taste unpalatable and bitter if they are left on the plant too long.

It is best to pick the leaves as soon as possible after bolting and remove the plant entirely once all the edible leaves are removed.

Why is my lettuce growing so slowly?

it will thicken up, the leaves gets smaller and it pushes up towards the sky to produce a flower spike

Slow growth is most often caused by high temperatures, dry soil or too much nitrogen.

Lettuce prefers a cooler, partly shaded spot to grow well. If your lettuce is stressed, it may bolt. This means it starts to grow big and stalky.

This usually happens if it hasn’t had enough water, it’s too hot or even just because it’s come to the end of it’s usefulness.
Don’t worry this is normal and there’s still ways to use this plant if you have space. Remove it from your salad bowl and either plant it in the soil out of the way or sit it in a glass of water.
4 Things You Can Do With Bolted Lettuce
1. Eat it. You can still eat the leaves until the turn woody and bitter. (See above)
2. Compost it. Tear it up and put it in your compost bin or bottle (see above)
3. Let it flower. If you have space, let the bolted plants flower to help attract beneficial insects and pollinators then collect the seeds for sowing next year
4. Use as a sacrifical crop for slugs and snails around another plant (read below)

How do I stop slugs eating my lettuce?

If you decide to put your  bowl outdoors you may find slugs decide your salad bowl is a handy snack for them.
There are many theories and suggestions that will help protect against slugs and snails.
Here’s six ways we use to stop slugs eating out plants.
Try them out and find what works for you.
Growing your own lettuce in an indoor salad garden is super easy with our step by step guide so having fresh nutrient packed vegetables
  • Use a nematode. Nematodes come suspended  in a fine powder which is diluted with water and watered onto the soil. This activates the bacteria nematode which seeks out and attacks and the soft bodies of the slugs and snails and leaves everything else alone.
Watering it on at certain times of the year can be an effective in biological control. This is our preferred method of control as it doesn’t cause harm to other animals like birds who might gobble up any infected slugs.
  • Place copper bands around pots and plants you want to save. This can be a bit hit and miss for some people but we have found it quite affective

It can be costly if trying to cover a big area. If you have plants in the ground you want to protect, cut the top and bottom off a soda bottle and place it around your plant like a collar. Push it down into the soil a little and wrap your copper tape around the top.

This should help a little but it is still possible for the slugs to travel underground if they find a tasty treat the can’t resist.

  • Use a decoy. If you have a plant you are desperate to protect, think about planting a ring of salad leaves or something else your slugs love to eat.

Hopefully they will spend time eating this sacrificial crops and leave the ones you want alone.

  • Cover the soil with sharp grit, sharp sand or egg shells. Anything that is sharp and dry enough to stick to slugs bodies.

They don’t like that. 

We keep all our egg shells and crunch them to a jaggy powder. This deters them long enough to let your chosen plant get big enough to avoid the slugs.

So, there’s our advice for growing your own salad bowl garden. If your growing for more than one person and plan to eat a salad almost everyday you may need a bowl for each person (or a bigger one) but try it

You can crop a few leaves from each bowl as needed or harvest completely from one bowl then move to the next one leaving the first to regrow.

By the time you’ve cropped through them all the first one has regrown and is ready to be recropped. Remember to let us know how you get on.

Grow salad bowl garden is super easy with our step by step guide so having fresh nutrient packed vegetables to feed your family

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