Salsa is one of the fastest growing condiments in America and quickly becoming a kitchen staple. And why not? Its lively taste adds a pleasant kick to many foods. It’s full of natural ingredients. And it’s really easy to make. The real question is, why don’t more people make their own salsa with vegetables from their own salsa garden? Here are some easy vegetable gardening tips to get you started.
The vegetables in a salsa garden are among the easiest to grow: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro. The key is to site them in optimal conditions. That means plenty of sunlight (6 to 8 hours a day), good soil and plenty of moisture. A lot of gardeners like raised beds because they can make a highly productive soil mix to support more plants in less space. It’s called square-foot gardening and it works great for a salsa garden.
Start with a 4-foot x 4-foot raised bed (you can buy an inexpensive kit or make one with cement blocks or straw bales). The size is perfect because you can tend and harvest plants without stepping in the bed and compacting the soil. Fill the beds with equal parts topsoil, peat moss and compost. Or you can buy a soil mix labeled for raised beds. You can also grow a salsa garden in the ground if it has good drainage.
To keep taller plants from shading shorter companions, plant tomatoes on the north side of the bed and train them to a trellis or lattice. Use indeterminate tomatoes (which grow continuously until frost), preferably a meaty variety such as ‘Roma’. Next up are jalapeno and red bell peppers supported by a tomato cage in case heavy rain threatens fruit-laden plants.
Onions (red, white or sweet yellow) are best planted from sets (immature plants sold in bundles), while cilantro is usually started from seed. Choose a slow-bolting variety (bolting means that the plant starts to produce seed, rather than growing more leaves) such as ‘Cilantro Long Standing’ and sow in batches a few weeks apart to extend the season. Garlic is best planted in fall in most climates, but an early spring planting is also an option.
Keep your salsa garden well watered and throw down a slow-release granular fertilizer labeled for vegetables—that way you won’t have to fertilize again until next season. Before you know it, you’ll have the ingredients for a sensational salsa. And the best part is, you grew them in YOUR garden!