Start sowing salads early in a VegTrug

By Andy McIndoe

Growing Your Own Salad

The whole point of having my small VegTrug close to the house is to have herbs, salad leaves and a few other veggies close to hand. I also want to be able to get an early start, rather than starting to sow in mid to late spring which means I’m not usually picking anything before early summer. I do start some vegetable plants in pots in the conservatory; things like mange-tout peas, beans and courgettes for planting out after the frosts. This year however I’m keen to sow salad leaves, radishes, carrots and maybe some beetroot directly into my VegTrug straight away.

In late winter it is still too early for most crops, however rocket and some of the quick maturing salad leaves are worth a go. I’ve also decided to try a few radishes. These are all crops that germinate and grow better in cool conditions. I filled my VegTrug with multi-purpose compost with added John Innes. It holds over 200 litres of growing medium and has plenty of depth to support root crops and larger vegetable plants if I decide to grow them.

Rocket leaves

I started by making seed drills across the width of the VegTrug. I’m not sure that this is the best approach, but it is how I go about sowing in the open ground. I must say it is lovely working with a nice clean growing medium and at waist height: no bending and no mud! There’s certainly plenty of the latter down on the plot.

Making a seed drill

I decided to partially fill one of the drills with seed compost. This is much lower in nutrients than the multi-purpose medium and should be better for seed germination. It may be totally unnecessary; it should be as I am using multi-purpose compost that is suitable for seed sowing.

It is worth checking: some so called multi-purpose composts that contain high proportions of peat alternatives are not suitable for seed sowing.

Filling drill with seed compost

I then sowed rocket seed by gently shaking the packet and allowing them to fall along the row. I always try to sow really thinly but all of us have a habit of sowing too thickly.

It is quite sobering when you read the packet and realise it contains over 1,000 seeds and you realise that you’ve just sown half of them in a very short row. I’ll definitely try and sow more thinly next time.

Sowing rocket seeds

You could sieve some compost over the seeds to cover them; however it is just as easy to push a little compost back over the seeds using your hand.

That’s another great advantage of working at this height.

Covering seeds

I did firm the compost down lightly using the palm of my hand to get a nice level compost surface. This also helps to settle the growing medium around the seeds.

Firming down

Next job: label the row with the variety and ideally the sowing date. In a small space like a VegTrug this might seem unnecessary.

You promise yourself you will remember what you planted, but believe me you will not. A couple of weeks later you will be wondering just what those little green shoots actually are.


Next I went on to sow a row of radish and a row of spicy salad leaves. These are from a range of Speedy veg. by Suttons Seeds.

This range includes a variety of fast maturing leaves that can be ready to pick in a month.

Obviously at this time of the year they will take longer. I’ve had good results with this spicy mix in pots previously and it really does liven up a salad.

more sowing radishes and leaves

Finally it is really important to water the newly planted seeds, even if the growing medium feels quite moist.

Watering provides that essential free soil water that will rehydrate the seeds and break dormancy. Some seeds, such as beetroot actually contain a natural growth inhibitor.

They will not germinate until that inhibitor is washed away by the soil water. Unfortunately I did not have a watering can with a fine rose, so I had to water gently with my conservatory can.

This is not ideal for the job so a can with a rose is on my shopping list.


After a week I check my VegTrug for progress. Will there be any signs of germination yet? I have had the zipped cover in place and the weather has been mild...

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