The three pot method: Grow a continuous supply of salad

Amazing but true. A small family can eat home-grown salad every day – growing the salad in their own little porch. There are many ways of growing veg in a restricted space, but in her talk to the Stonehouse Gardening Club, Sally Nex introduced us to her three-pot rotation system. It is so easy and logical, and amazingly self-sufficient. The second pot is planted 2-3 weeks after the first, the third pot is planted three weeks later, and your supply of fresh salad is a long-lasting treat.

You just need three flower pots 
  1. Three pots – they should be at least 35cm in diameter, with holes underneath for drainage
  2. Multipurpose soil
  3. Your choice of seeds. For instance, you can mix mild and sweet salad with fiery salads like wild rocket, mizuna and spicy mustards in one pot, or have different mixes in different pots–the choice is huge.

One pot could be planted in March in a sunny window or the greenhouse, and they can all be put outside after the last frost, without needing to be to be sheltered. The next pot can be planted around 20 days later, and the third pot around a month after the first pot. Plant them thickly, and don’t bother to thin the seedlings as they grow. This system works well, despite traditional dictums on spacing seeds or thinning them if too dense. 

When you have finished eating the salad in the first pot, clear the top and re-sow immediately. Your second pot is already giving you a new lot of salad by then. Clear and re-sow the second and third plants in the same way. 

Even if you don’t have a greenhouse, you may be able to grow a year round harvest of fresh tasty salad, putting the pots on the porch, in a cold frame, or even under plastic bell-jar covers. Certainly you will have a good long season of fresh produce whether or not you grow salad in the winter. I myself grow radicchio, for instance, through the autumn and early winter as it grows happily in reasonably cold conditions.

Cold frame – you can use one or just use plastic bell-jar covers over the pots

I think it’s worth trying even if you get less than six hours of sunlight in your outdoor space, your salad will still thrive.  My daughter could grow a fair variety of salad in three small 30X16cm troughs with drip trays under them on her table below a window inside her Toronto apartment. 

Don’t give up even if you don’t get much sunshine. As long as you have light, there are salads you can grow in your three pot garden such as the red lettuce OutREDgeous (famous for being grown on a space station). Purslane too grows well in difficult conditions.

It makes sense to grow your own salad. Salad leaves are so expensive to buy on the fruit and veg aisle because they have such a short shelf life and are delicate to handle, and are so delicious when freshly harvested.

“Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce – grown on the International Space Station