Start mixing your salad in the garden

KUSA - With the hail hopefully behind us and more warm days ahead, we can get really serious now about our veggie gardens.

New this year in the 9News Kitchen Garden is a technique for planting a salad garden. We have the same basic ingredients as always – basil, tomatoes and lettuce – but this year, we're tossing the salad into a different growing pattern. The lettuce is planted UNDERNEATH the tomatoes and the basil is planted close by.

As the tomatoes mature, they will create shade for the lettuce which is a cooler-season crop and will appreciate being kept cool and shaded. Planting veggies closer together also means more water efficiency. Plants that are spaced further apart from one another use more water.

Basil is important to this mix because tomatoes and basil have long been known as good companion plants. Not only are they a good marriage of flavors in the pasta sauce, but planting them near one another is mutually beneficial as they grow.

Spring rains have also brought undesirable companions to our gardens – namely, the weeds. Warm temps early this week have put many of them into a serious and unwelcome growth spurt. If left uncontrolled, they will be larger than emerging veggies and rob veggies of the light, moisture and nutrients they need to grow. It's time to weed and there's no getting out of it – unless you want to spare the purslane.

Purslane is actually regarded elsewhere around the globe as a desirable edible. What we call a weed contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant, six times more E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. Purslane can be tossed into salads or even sautéed. Its flavor is strong like arugula or cilantro – and described as citrus-like, but not bitter.

If you would rather eradicate than sauté purslane, you need to know that it is an early-summer weed and now is the best time to get it under control. Once pulled, it can re-root if the plant is left on top of the ground and its many seeds can last for years to create an ongoing abundance of weeds. A best practice is to pull weeds early before they go to seed, bag plants and remove them.

Information courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, the professional organization for landscape companies and with members in six chapters statewide.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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