Introduction: Salad Table - for the Urban Gardner
A Salad table is a great way for the Urban farmer to grow and eat a wide variety of vegetables and leafy greens in a small space. A salad table can be a box small enough to sit on a small patio in an apartment to as large as the one shown here. They are simple to make and can produce an abundance of beautiful leafy greens for your enjoyment. The beauty of most greens is that they grow in about 30 days and you can use the "cut and come back" method for a couple of cuttings in order to shorten even that time frame. Its a fun and easy way for anyone to supplement their diet and grocery bills. A small amount of seed goes a long way!
Step 1: Build a Framework
The construction can be as simple or as complex as you wish. I have made salad tables out of simple and easy to find (untreated) construction lumber (2X4's) to this one pictured here out of 1 by material. The construction is simply a frame of wood with hardware cloth and or window screen material for the bottom. The bottom is then lined with newspaper and filled with a growing medium for your plants. Typically the frame is no deeper than about 3 1/2". This keeps the weight of the Salad table filled with soil light enough and still deep enough to support growth.
Attached is a Tremble Sketup file of my 2X4 Salad table for reference. It is scaled to 58" long by 33" wide and 3 1/2" deep making it perfect for a 2X4 build. this table will grow enough salad greens for a family of four easily.
Step 2: Add a Wire Mesh Bottom and Fill With Soil
After your frame is built simply staple the wire mesh (Hardware Cloth) to the bottom of the frame, line it with news paper, and fill it with soil - You're ready to plant!
Your soil can be a tricky one, the best thing I have found is a 50:50 mix of compost and a soilless planting meduim with plenty of perlite or vermiculite to keep the soil light this makes a great healthy all organic medium to grow in. Also, as the plants grow I will add worm castings to the soil to give things a little boost. If you're not interested in an all organic method miracle grow in a gallon watering can once every three days will really kick things into high gear. Although, I have recently stopped using all pesticides and chemical based fertilizers on my garden for a healthier diet and a greener world.
Step 3: What Can I Grow?
I have grown everything from sweet Basil to radishes in my tables but I have found that salad bowl, romaine, and buttercrunch lettuce make the best tasting fresh cut salad you can imagine. Use your imagination, I sometimes mix my packets of seeds together to get a "mix" of greens that work well together.
Some other greens that also do well are, Arugula, Kale, Mustard greens, Purple top Turnip Greens, Broccoli raab, spinach, chard, parsley, cilantro.
Step 4: Have Fun and Dont Forget to Water - Explore Plant Link
Again, I have tried growing all sorts of things in my salad tables. I have even started tomatoes from seed in my salad table by covering one section with saran wrap... So, experiment and most of all have fun! Also pictured here is a set of 3 - 4' shop lights I rigged over my salad table for winter / indoor growing... Please keep in mind that there is not a lot of soil in a salad table and it is imperative that you water regularly. I found that one of the large 1.5 Gallon galvanized watering can every other day in the hotter days works well. Also, keep in mind, that lettuces and leafy greens are "cool season" veggies and don't like the heat of the summer in the southeast and southwest. The sponsor of the Urban Farmer contest, Plant Link, would make a great addition to your salad table. Spring and fall growing times are the best with greens.
Thanks for taking a look and I hope you enjoy your salad table. Please feel free to comment.