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A salad basket in two weeks? Yes, with a quick-sprout mix of salad greens.

A salad basket in two weeks? Tender salad greens mixed with flavorful herbs, accented with flowers, and presented growing in a basket--this is a living spring centerpeice or container garden. Add a few dyed eggs and it's an Easter basket for gift-giving or decoration.

Whatever plant combination you choose, the essential ingredient for these spring baskets is a mix of salad greens, known as mesclun. Many greens will germinate just a few days after planting, and you can start harvesting in two to four weeks.

Create your own mesclun by mixing seed of greens with favorite flavors, textures, and colors> or buy a premixed blend. For piquant flavors, try arugula, various chickories, mizuna, red mustard, and curly cress. Mellow and sweeten the mix with loose-leaf and romaine lettuces.

Two mail-order sources for ready-made mesclun mixes or the components are Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 6116 Highway 9, Felton, Calif. 95018, and The Cook's Garden, Box 65, Londonderry, Vt. 5148. Catalogs for each cost $1.

To competent the mesclun, select herbs for textural interest as well as for flavor and fragrance. Plant trailing flowers that will bloom soon, like the lobelia pictured in the basket at left. Buy herbs and flowers in sixpacks or 2-inch pots.

Planting the baskets

Choose a sturdy basket taht can support the weight of wet soil. Line the basket with 3-mil plastic cut from a heavy-duty trash bag> let surplus drape over the top edge. With scissors or a large nail, poke drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with a moistened fast-draining potting mix and then trim plastic or just below rim.

Mesclun Easter basket. When blending your own mesclun, mix the different seeds together before planting. Scatter seeds thinly over the soil surface and cover tiwth 1/4inch of soil. Water entire basket and keep moist until seeds sprout.

For quick germination and to keep the soil surface from drying, cover the basket with plastic until seeds germinate.

Combination herb, flower, and mesclun basket. Prepare the basket and soil as for the mesclun basket. Plant herbs and flowers first, placing trailing plants close to edge. Scatter mesclun seeds as above.

Basket maintenance

Once seeds sprout, place the basket in a sunny, frost-free outdoor location. Water regularly to keep soil moist. Feed weekly with a complete liquid fertilizer. Snip herbs frequently to maintain compact, bushy form.

Harvest mesclun leaves when they are young and tender, 3 to 4 inches long> cut about 1/2 inch above the soil surface. If weather stays cool, you can have successive harvests before plants turn bitter. In the mixed basket, take the final mesclun harvest by carefully pulling out plants. Allow herbs and flowers to fill in.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1991
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