Salad crops, chard, and many herbs tolerate most soils, except waterlogged, and don’t demand a lot of soil preparation. However, spinach and Asian greens need rich, fertile, non acidic soil. All do well in containers and full sun, but lettuces need shade in high summer.
Sow and Plant Out
Leafy salads germinate quickly in warm conditions, but avoid extremes of heat or cold. Sow salads in modules under cover from early spring; sow spinach, Swiss chard, and bok choy outdoors in light shade. Successional sowings of small numbers of seeds help to guarantee a continuous supply of leaves. Plant out module-grown seedlings when their roots have filled the container, and water well. Thin directly sown seedlings to the appropriate spacing.
Tender herbs, such as basil, are often grown from seed; hardy herbs are usually bought as young plants. Sow seeds under cover in early spring; plant out after the last frost.
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Protect Against Potential Problems
Keep rows of salads and leafy crops weed-free and don’t let them dry out, to discourage bolting. Protect early or late crops from frost with cloches or fleece. Trim herbs regularly to keep them tidy and productive; water those in containers frequently.
Slugs and snails, as well as clubroot and caterpillars on brassicas, are the biggest problems. Lettuces are prone to fungal rots in wet weather; mildew can spoil spinach crops.
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Harvest and Store
Leafy salads are best eaten fresh. Cut hearting lettuces and bok choy at their base; pick leaves as needed from loose-leaf lettuces, cut-and-come-again crops, spinach, and chard. Use herbs fresh, or dry or freeze them.
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Preventing Lettuce and Spinach From Bolting In hot weather and when the soil is dry, lettuces, spinach, and many other leafy crops bolt, which is when plants go to seed and leaves become bitter (image below). Prevent or delay this by keeping the soil moist with regular watering and by planting summer crops in light shade rather than full sun.
Halting the Spread of Mint With its underground runners, mint can become an invasive nuisance in the garden, so it is best to grow it in a container or at least in a pot sunk into the soil. The latter will help to prevent it from taking over, but may not confine it forever.
Propagating Perennial Herbs Renew the vigor of old woody perennial herbs by digging them up in late summer and dividing them. Using pruners, cut the plants into small sections with plenty of healthy roots and leaves, which you can then replant. This works particularly well for thyme, chives, and oregano, but division is not suitable for shrubby herbs, such as sage and rosemary.
These sun-loving crops are a popular choice for patio containers and warm windowsills. There are varieties to suit every size of garden and all kinds of climate, and the right selection will yield delicious late summer crops.
Defining Squashes technically include zucchini and pumpkins as well as winter and summer squash. Though they're all cultivated the same way, they look quite different and are grown and used in slightly different ways.
A large pot filled with the glossy green leaves and neon-colored stems of chard 'Bright Lights' will add color to any patio. Harvest the baby leaves for salads when young, or allow them to mature for steaming and stir-frying.