How to grow your own salad from seed

Plate of salad crops

Enjoy bowls of homegrown salad over the summer
Image: Salad Leaves 'Bright and Spicy' from Thompson & Morgan

Growing your own salad ingredients from seed saves money at the supermarket while also helping to avoid unnecessary food miles and waste. Cut-and-come-again salad leaves can be harvested as and when they’re needed, while crops like beetroot and radish can be left in the ground until you’re ready to eat them. 

Here are some quick and easy salad seeds to try growing at home, along with a few sowing tips to help you succeed…

Red beetroot on wooden table


Sow beetroot seeds in drills that are 2.5cm deep and 30cm apart, thinning the seedlings to 10cm apart as they grow. Sowing too early can result in the crop bolting (running to seed), so make the first sowing in mid-spring, a successional sowing about four weeks later, and the maincrop sowing in early summer. Read our full article on how to grow beetroot for more advice. 

Pink tipped celery on ground


Some types of celery are grown in trenches, but self-blanching varieties like Celery ‘Blush’ require no earthing up, and are rapidly increasing in popularity. The plants should be grown about 23cm apart and need plenty of water through the growing season. Protect from autumn frosts with straw or cloches.

green endive on chopping board


Sow endive seeds thinly and shallowly in succession from spring to mid-summer. Direct sow in drills 30cm apart and thin out the seedlings to 30cm apart. They can be eaten as salad leaves, or to reduce their bitterness, you can ‘blanche’ them from late autumn to mid-winter by covering the dry plants to exclude light. Use upturned flower pots, buckets or boxes.

aerial photo of icebery lettuce variety


Cos and iceberg types of lettuce are ready to eat 10-12 weeks after sowing, while the loose-leaf varieties are ready to start cutting after about seven weeks. Make successional sowings of lettuce seeds from March to August, in drills 30cm apart. Loose-leaf varieties can be scatter-sown and then thinned out to 10cm apart for baby leaves or to 30cm for bigger plants.

aerial photo of lambs lettuce

Lambs Lettuce

A hardy annual, lambs lettuce is usually grown for cutting fresh in winter and early spring. Direct sow your lambs lettuce seeds into moist soil from early to mid-summer. The crop will be ready about 12 weeks after sowing and can be used whole or as cut-and-come-again leaves. Protect your leaves with a cloche over winter.

Yellow sweet peppers growing in containers

Sweet peppers

Sow your sweet pepper seeds as you would tomatoes (see our Ultimate guide to growing tomatoes) and move the young plants into 7.5cm pots at the four-leaf stage. Plant out after hardening off when all danger of frost has passed. Peppers can be grown outside in large pots but will really thrive in an unheated greenhouse which should be kept well ventilated and sprayed regularly in hot weather as an aid to pollination and a deterrent to red spider mite. Our chilli and sweet pepper masterclass has lots of expert tips. 

Purple and white radishes


These crunchy little roots are particularly easy to grow and can be intercropped with rows of lettuce or beetroot to take up a minimum amount of space. If you have a cold frame, sow your radish seeds from late winter and then at three-weekly intervals throughout the summer. Choose a sunny, sheltered position in soil that is well fed with organic matter. Sow the seed thinly, evenly and shallowly in drills 10-15cm apart, quickly thinning the seedlings to 3cm apart. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing and after the seeds emerge. Our full guide to growing radishes has more advice. 

Closeup of bunching onions

Spring or Bunching Onions (Scallions)

Sow your spring onion seeds thinly, about 1.25cm deep, in short drills that are 20cm apart. Start in early spring and continue through to early autumn, allowing 4 weeks between each sowing. Ishikura types should be sown thinly in drills 30cm apart and thinned out to 3cm apart while still small. Then, after 6-8 weeks, thin again to 10-15cm apart. Selectively pick through the summer, leaving the final plants to mature in autumn when they will be the size of leeks. Read how to grow spring onions for more advice. 

Red and white chicory on chopping board


Chicory is welcomed by connoisseurs of winter salads for its tangy, bitter-sweet taste and crisp texture. Direct sow your chicory seeds into moist, rich soil early in the summer. Use shallow drills, about 30cm apart, and then thin the seedlings to 13cm apart as they grow. Germination can be rather erratic in hot weather, but growth is rapid once the seedlings emerge. 

White and yellow chicon against black background


Started from regular chicory seeds, chicons are produced by ‘forcing’ the roots into early growth in a warm dark place. Sow into seed drills in late winter for a harvest in autumn, or in spring for a winter harvest. Lift the roots in autumn and cover with 15cm of soil till ready. Then plant upright in deep boxes of moist soil and cover with 18-23cm of dry soil or sand kept in place by an upturned box. Keep below 15C and cut after about 8 weeks, removing only as many as you need.

Four cucumbers on burlap


Sow greenhouse varieties of cucumber seeds early in the year, popping them singly into small pots of compost at about 1.25cm deep. Germination takes 3-15 days at 21-24C. Transplant into 5in pots and grow on at about 18C.

At the four-leaf stage, plant them out into large pots or growbags allowing three plants to a standard-size bag. Water regularly but avoid waterlogging. Train the main stem up a cane or wire to the roof of the greenhouse, pinch out the growing point and allow two side shoots to develop.

Outdoor cucumber seeds are started off the same as the indoor cucumbers but timed so that the plants are ready for hardening off and transplanting in late spring. For more information, read our full guide to growing cucumbers

Looking for more advice? Find out everything you need to know about growing salad crops over at our dedicated salad hub page.

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.

Sign Up For Exclusive Special Offers


Sign up for exclusive offers!