Grow a Salsa Garden

Grow a Salsa Garden
When you say the word Salsa it conjures up good times, good tastes, and good company! When you think about the word salsa – well what can happen? You may consider making your own from a plethora of recipes that are available to you, though you’ve probably got our own favourite anyway … or you can grow your own salsa container garden! So. Spring into action as they say and get going in the garden to get going in the kitchen; nothing tastes as good as fresh picked ingredients!

A really popular salsa recipe includes tomatoes, chillies, onions, garlic and cilantro and fresh lime juice so this, for the most part, is what we are going to grow.

Containers, any shape will do though I like wide round ones at least 12 inches deep, chosen plant seedlings, soil, water, fertilisers, sunshine and a touch of patience while they all grow for you. For the beefsteak tomatoes I use a trellis, so rectangular containers are good here or of course a raised bed (if you have the space).

Prepare your pots, make sure they have good drainage holes in the bottom, clean them if they have been used before (vinegar water is good), place them in their sunny spots, use pebbles or crocks to assist with the drainage, use drip trays or saucers to catch extra water and save your floors or deck or wherever.

Mix your friable potting soil (not soil from the garden which will be too heavy) with some good compost. I always add a scant handful of bone meal a third of the way up each container, plus I use finely crushed eggshells, used coffee grounds, Epsom salts (great for roses too!) and fish-based liquid feed. Don’t worry if you do not have all of these, plant up your pots anyway.

Remember to water and feed regularly and, while not vital, quarter-turn your pots weekly to get balanced growth – all sides of your plants get their share of the morning and the afternoon sun that way.

There are so many varieties of tomatoes as you know, but one of my favourites is the big, juicy, tasty firm beefsteak tomato

Prepare your container and ensure that the trellis you are using is sturdy and powder-coated or wooden. I plant two seedlings per planter as they will grow into big plants and will need the space. As they grow, snap off the side suckers nearly every two days or so. This will give you a stronger and tidier plant with just the right amount of foliage you need to produce a good crop of toms. If you leave the suckers, there will be very bushy plants and it may be more difficult to harvest your crop. As they grow, use twine or cable ties to stake the plant against the trellis

Calcium is very important for growing tomatoes which in general are hungry and thirsty plants, so use tomato plant food or home-made crushed or powdered eggshells mixed with coffee grounds and see them take off! Water well, let them drain well, feed every 10 days or so and reap fab results come harvest day. P.S. Leave the fruit on the vines to ripen and only pick when red and jolly (as we kids used to say).

I grow sweet onions because I find them versatile in the kitchen and especially good served raw in salads and salsa.

Growing onions in pots is easy in well-draining loose soil which can be a mix of compost and well-rotted manure that you can buy from the garden centre Use water-soluble plant foods rich in phosphorus (there are specialist ones for vegetables available) and feed your onion containers every 10 to 14 days. Water regularly and well, but do not flood the plants – don’t leave the water to collect in trays at the bottom of the pot.

Plant your seedlings about 4 inches apart and just deep enough so that they are standing up straight. After about two months the onion tops should be about 8 inches tall and at this stage you can pull them up and use them for salads as green onions. For mature onions though, wait until the green tops turn yellow and brown and flop over – for then you will harvest the sweeties and the biggies.

How hot is your palate? Habanero hot or mild and spicy hot? You choose your chillie peppers accordingly and grow what you will cook with. I buy seedlings just because it is my style of gardening. Anyway, transplant your seedlings into pots a good two weeks after the last frost – or it is unlikely that you will get good results (if any) to harvest. Remember too that when transplanting any seedling, be gentle and take care not to disturb the roots.

Plant your chillie peppers in loose well-draining composty soil, and while weeds don’t often trouble that much in containers, keep yours weed free. Water well and keep the soil moist all the time for a good crop yield and if you need to, use a trellis and stake and support your drooping plants if they need it.

When it comes to harvesting chillie peppers, I like to leave them on the vine to ripen completely for flavour which is also good if you want to dry them. When getting your peppers from the vine, don’t tear them, cut them off with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and wear gloves whenever you handle them – capsaicin is not funny on your skin or a rubbed eye for example. You won’t need to wear gloves if you have chosen to grow sweet bell peppers.

This is how I do it. I buy organic garlic bulbs from the garden centre (I don’t get good results from garlic bought at the supermarkets – maybe because they are radurized?) and separate the coves gently from the bulbs. Then you can soak them for a couple of hours in a mix of 1 gallon water, 1 tsp Epsom salts and 1 tsp liquid kelp fertiliser. I was taught that this helps establishing healthy bulbs and scares away fungus and all.

Into your prepared container (friable loose well-draining soil with added compost), plant your garlic cloves flat side down, pointy side up around 1 to 2 inches deep and not less than 6 inches apart. Cover them with mulch and water regularly to keep the soil moist not wet.

When the chive-like leaves are around 8 inches high, you can harvest some to use in the kitchen or you can just leave them be to grow more. Harvest time is around 4 to 6 months later when you see that at least five of the leaves have turned brown. Use a small hand spade to dig them up, let them dry for a couple of days, trim off the leaves and roots and there you go … the magic begins.

What do you want your container garden to do?


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