How to Grow a Salsa Garden
Plus, who doesn’t love salsa? Garden salsa is made with fresh vegetables and herbs. If you like salsa or want a reason to grow certain vegetables and fruits, a salsa-themed garden is for you. “Growing a salsa garden is highly motivating,” says gardener and Pool Gardener founder Mike DeRose. “You know what you’re working towards from the start.”
Be aware that not all salsa ingredients will be planted or harvested at the same time. “Onions and garlic take about 18 weeks, capsicum and peppers take about the same time as tomatoes (10-16 weeks), and cilantro can be harvested from seed in as little as eight weeks,” says Horticulture Magazine gardener Thomas O’Rourke. That moment of perfection—yum.
Got sand? Then Grow a Salsa Garden. “It is acceptable to grow all plants in the same plot, but each must be cordoned off and given adequate space,” says O’Rourke. Planting certain vegetables together will help repel pests. Planting onions and garlic in raised beds keeps pests and diseases away, says O’Rourke.
Everything can be planted in the ground or in containers. It comes down to personal preference, space, and time. “If you’re planting late in the season, you need to know how long your season is left and how long your plants will take to mature,” says DeRose. Growing in pots allows you to move them if the weather changes. “Containers are ideal because they can be transported,” says O’Rourke. “They let you enjoy the summer while protecting your plants.” Containers also help if you start planting late.
A lot of sun and heat are required for tomato growth, so plant them where there is plenty of natural light. Provide ample space for your starter plants, as they will grow significantly. Use well-drained soil with compost to boost tomato growth.
If you wait until mid-summer to plant tomatoes, you’ll need to prepare for the cold weather. “Unprotected tomato plants will die and fail to bear fruit,” says O’Rourke. “Plants in USDA Zones 1-8 will need to be protected for the winter.” Knowing your climate zone will help you choose the best plant placement and plan ahead for a few months.
“Any tomato can be used to make salsa, but it comes down to personal preference,” says O’Rourke. “The larger the tomato, the juicier the salsa. So use smaller tomatoes for a thicker salsa. “
There are many varieties to choose from, but for salsa, go for tomatoes that ripen quickly. “Sub-Arctic, Early Girl, Patio Choice, and Fourth of July are the quickest bearing tomato plants,” says O’Rourke. “These tomatoes usually ripen in mid-summer.”
“Onions are essential in salsa,” says O’Rourke.
Onions can be grown from seeds or small bulbs called sets, which saves time in the garden. Plant in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler.
They prefer moist but not soggy soil that drains well. Onions are ready to harvest when their green tops droop and turn yellow.
If you are short on time, scallions (green onions) can be grown in place of onions. “They harvest much faster than onions, usually around ten weeks,” says O’Rourke. Although scallions have a distinct flavor, they can be grown and used in a pinch.
Scallions can be grown from seeds, but for a head start, buy sets. Fill the soil with plenty of amendments. Green onions are usually harvested in two months.
Garlic is an underground bulb. It’s usually planted in the fall and matures in about seven months (just in time for summer!)
Garlic grows well in pots or directly in the ground. Plant one clove (papery skin intact) one finger length deep into the ground. Plant in loose, well-drained soil. Every few days, but not soggy. Garlic requires six hours of sunlight per day to thrive, so plan and plant accordingly.
Chili peppers give the salsa its spiciness.
How to grow: Do you like your salsa hot? The answer will help you choose your chili peppers. Early jalapeos can fruit in as little as eight to ten weeks, says O’Rourke. “Those seeking extra-hot peppers will have to wait longer.” Want to speed things up? Peppers that are allowed to mature have a much richer flavor than those that are harvested too early, according to O’Rourke.
For those who haven’t planted yet, starter plants are the best option. In nurseries, DeRose suggests pepper plant starter plants. Chilies require lots of sunlight and loose, moist soil that isn’t overwatered.
Cilantro adds citrus, peppery notes, and a bite to the salsa.
How to grow: “Cilantro prefers a warm, sunny location,” says O’Rourke. “A window sill herb garden is ideal.” Easy-care If you keep a few basic things in mind, cilantro will thrive with little care. Don’t overwater your plants and use well-drained soil, says O’Rourke. Harvesting begins at around six inches tall. Harvesting the leaves once a week will help them avoid bolting (going to seed).
Whether you wait for the perfect harvest or buy a few items from the market, enjoying fresh, homemade salsa is worth the wait.
That’s how to Grow a Salsa Garden.