Steps to a successful container salad garden

If you’ve got the gardening itch and just can’t wait to get your vegetable garden going, an indoor salad garden is a great way to satisfy that itch and enjoy fresh garden greens in your salads, sandwiches or wraps. By following these easy steps, you can be planting your garden today and reaping the benefits in only a few short weeks.

Begin with thinking about what salad greens you like, and then start looking into what is available in either transplants or seeds at your local nurseries and stores. You can start with transplants for immediate harvest, but you will often have a limited selection at the stores. For a wider selection and to try interesting varieties of salad greens, starting with seeds may be your best option.

Decide what flavors you prefer – spicy, mild, or intense – as well as what textures you like, such as delicate or crisp. Maybe you prefer arugula with an intense flavor to add to pizza, sandwiches or pesto, or perhaps you like something milder like leafy lettuce or spinach.

No matter what flavors or textures you prefer, just remember you want to pick varieties grown for productivity that can handle frequent trimming and will regrow. Many of the seeds will be labeled for harvest in as little as 15 to 25 days. Some varieties to search for include leafy lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, pak choi, cress, spinach, mustard greens, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi and collards.

Once you decide what you want to grow, be sure to read the seed packet for more information on sowing and plant care. Many seed packets will even tell you how and when to harvest. They may also provide you with delicious recipes.

Now that you have purchased your seeds, you will need containers, soil mix, fertilizers or compost and the right amount of water and light to care for your germinating seeds and new plants.

You can select containers of any size, shape or color, but make sure the soil mix is at least 5 to 6 inches deep to provide adequate space for your plants’ root systems. When picking a soil mix, be sure to select one that will hold moisture, provide good drainage and offer high nutrient levels. Most soil mixes contain a two-week supply of nutrients. After two weeks, you will need to replenish the nutrients with a fertilizer or compost.

various pots of shapes and sizes
At your local nurseries, you can choose from a variety of containers, from simple to decorative. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Once you plant your seeds, keep the soil moist until your plants emerge. Light requirements will depend on the plant variety and will be displayed on the seed packet. Most greens need somewhere between four and six hours of sun per day, but these plants are cool-season crops that prefer temperatures below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. An east-facing window would be the best location in your home.

Depending on the variety, you can begin harvesting at three weeks and enjoy an indoor garden until the snow melts and the outdoor soils are workable. To learn more about edible garden plants, including tomatoes, herbs and vegetables, we invite you to join us at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road in Reno, for the last three classes of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s “Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series.” These classes are on Tuesdays during March from 6 to 8 p.m. and are open to the public.


Jenn Fisher is the Commercial Horticulture Program Coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Garden questions? Ask a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or, or visit