Soil and Site
Any moderately fertile moisture retentive soil is good. A sheltered semi shade position is ideal.
Oriental salads are part of the brassica rotation
Orientals are best sown in the cooler parts of the year in Spring or Autumn. The plants can quickly run to seed in the longer, hotter days of summer. It is possible to grow them all summer long if the conditions permit so they are always worth a try. Well watered semi shade is ideal in mid season.
Seeds can be sown directly as soon as the soil is warm enough in early Spring and can be continued right through till early Autumn. If you're starting early a cloche or fleece cover will be beneficial. Sow 25cm between rows and 20cm between plants.
Sowing in Modular trays
Use a seed compost which has a finer texture and lower nutrients than your standard multipurpose compost. We use a seed module tray with each section being approx 2 inches deep. Here's what you do:
- Fill the seed tray with compost and brush off any excess. When filling the tray rub the compost through your hands to break up any lumps. Give the tray a sharp bang on your table to settle.
- With your fingers make small depressions in each cell about a fingernail or 2cm deep.
- Sow 1 or 2 seeds per module. If 2 seeds germinate you will have to remove the weaker seedling. A piece of folded stiff carboard and a pencil is a grat way to sow an accurate number of seeds. The seeds will line up in the crease in the paper and you can push them over the edge one by one. Easy! Cover the seeds with another layer of compost then scrape across the top of the tray with a stick to remove excess.
- Gently water your seeds. A good tip is to use a plastic bottle with small holes punched in the cap. This is less likely to wash the seed around than the heavy spray from a watering can.
- Place your trays in your greenhouse, polytunnel, cold frame or windowsill to germinate. They should be ready to plant out in about 3 or 4 weeks.
Planting Out Oriental Salads
The spacing for oriental salads is 20cm between plants and 25cm between rows.
Water your seedlings well an hour or so before transplanting. To plant, make a hole in the soil the approximate size of the seedling 'plug'. You need to push the soil in around the roots firmly with your fingers to get good contact with the soil.
Water the plants after planting but do not soak them. You are better to transplant on a dull day or in the evening to prevent the plants wilting on a hot, dry day.
Remember to keep your plants well watered if the weather is dry as they are very likely to bolt if let dry out.
When watering you are better to give the area a thorough soaking to a depth of 6 inches rather than watering all the time. Also it's better to water early in the morning as midday irrigation can evaporate quickly. Evening watering will leave the plants cold and damp over night like going to bed in wet pyjamas!
Pests & Diseases
Flea beetle attack is very common in April and May especially if the weather is warm and settled. The leaves of your orientals may be peppered with tiny holes as if they've been blasted with a shotgun. You can spray the leaves with a natural Pyrethrin Spray which will kill the beetles but if attack is severe they are likely to return quickly. If you grow the crop for it's entire life under fleece or enviromesh this problem can be avoided. Late summer or Autumn sowings should be a lot more successfully.
Harvesting Oriental Salads
Oriental salads are a great choice because most of them are 'cut and come again' varieties. This means you can snip the foliage down to near the base of the plant and it will re-grow fresh, new leaves. You can also just harvest a few leaves here and there when you need them. It's best to take the outside leaves as the new growth comes from the centre of the plant.
Cut and come again
Cut the whole plant down to about 5cm height from the soil level and the leaves will re-grow within the next two or three weeks. You will notice the leaves begin to get bitter when the plants starts to bolt.
Orientals are quite a quick turnaround so when you go back to the start and sow again to keep you in tasty salad all summer long.