By Marianne Binetti
Growing your own lettuce in a metal washtub or half whiskey barrel is a surefire way to enjoy fresh green salads, even if your only outdoor space is a balcony or deck. By planting red and green lettuce in a spiral pattern and repurposing a pair of wooden salad servers as plant labels, you can enjoy your salad days and have an attractive container garden too.
First, gather your supplies. I used a metal washtub with nail holes punched into the bottom because the shape reminds me of a giant bowl of salad. This organic potting soil won’t need any extra fertilizer—a slow-release plant food is mixed into the soil. Rather than wait for seeds to sprout, I went with instant gratification and took home a flat of red leaf lettuce and green lettuce already started.
Next, I used a string to lay out the design. I made a spiral pattern by pushing the string into the damp soil. A pencil in the center acted as my guide.
This way I knew right where to place the red leaf lettuce so the planting pattern was a spiral. The contrast of green and red lettuce gave the finished planting a more decorative look.
The green leaf lettuce filled in between the spiral planting to fill up the rest of the container. This design would have looked even better if there were more of a color contrast between the two types of lettuce—or maybe even a spiral of green onion starts surrounded by red leaf lettuce.
Finally I added a “salad mix” sign made by painting the words on a pair of repurposed wooden salad servers. Labeling your edible crops is a good way to remind others to keep pesticides away—especially when plants are at the tiny seedling stage and can look like weeds.
Harvesting Tip: Use scissors to cut and then cut again when you need fresh greens for your salads. As long as you leave an inch or so of rooted lettuce, the plants resprout all summer. Lettuce likes cool, moist soil, and this is one crop you can grow in a partly shaded site.
So what else do you grow for salads? Repurpose a container and get planting!