Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Salad Box

In my family, we eat a lot of spinach. Spinach salad, spinach chopped up and added to sauces, spinach pesto, etc - I even use it to make “green cheese”, which I put on my homemade pizzas for an added nutritional kick (my kids have yet to discover the secret ingredient ;)). Popeye would be proud. I seriously don’t think I’d be able to produce enough spinach to feed my family, but I definitely want to try. Enter: the salad table. I stumbled across this interesting method to grow salad greens while watching Martha Stewart one day:
http://www.growit.umd.edu/Salad%20Tables%20and%20Salad%20Boxes/index.cfm

Created by the University of Maryland’s “Grow it Eat it” program to encourage vegetable gardening , the salad table is kind of like portable square foot garden on legs! It can be moved around the yard to capture the sun or shade, as needed.

The construction of the box calls for using aluminum window screening and galvanized mesh hardware cloth stapled to the bottom for drainage. I was a little leery about using these products, as I’m always concerned about what is leaching into the soil/plants and whether that is healthy for us to consume. I ended up using an untreated wood bottom with a lot of holes cut in it for drainage…the wood was actually a lot cheaper than buying the screen/mesh. Mind you, it is a little heavier to move around, but so far is working well. Also, I don't expect the bottom to last longer than the season.

I ended up staggering some of the planting so that I’m not harvesting all at once, thus the empty areas. I planted spinach and a gourmet salad mix from Hope Seeds. I have just thinned the box to the recommended 1-2 inches apart. In retrospect, I probably should have made my square foot grids in the box. That way, by using the square foot plant spacing as outlined in the book, I would not have needed to thin the seeds at all, and would have saved a lot of seeds. But, I was in a bit of a rush at the time, and my fingers were numb from the cold north wind….those seeds were pretty tiny and hard to handle with cold hands!

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