How to Plan Your Salsa Garden
Select an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. A 4×4 foot raised bed or square foot garden will grow plenty of ingredients for fresh salsa. A trellis on the north side of the bed will provide extra room for vining tomatoes to grow without shading the other plants.
Divide your raised bed garden into one-foot sections to make it easy to map out the growing area so you know where to plant everything in your salsa garden. Beginning in the back of the bed:
Row 4: 3 Tomatoes along a trellis.
Row 3: 4 Peppers in front of the tomatoes (1 per square foot).
Row 2: 9 Onions per square foot.
Row 2: Garlic Fall planted garlic = 6/square foot OR Spring planted Garlic = 9/square foot.
Row 1: 9 Cilantros per square foot.
Start onions, peppers, and tomato seedlings from seed under lights or use transplants. Onion sets, garlic seeds, garlic chive, and cilantro seeds are available at Martha’s Bloomers or at your local garden center.
What to Grow in Your Salsa Garden
The basic ingredients that go into salsa are tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, and cilantro.
Select meaty indeterminate varieties of tomatoes with good flavor, such as Amish Paste, Juliet, and San Marzano. These are dense, have few seeds, and not a lot of moisture to water down the salsa. Other fleshy varieties to consider are Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, or Bloody Butcher.
Indeterminate tomato plants grow very tall and produce their fruit over a period of time. Three tomato plants located on the north side of the garden bed along the trellis will provide you with plenty of tomatoes for salsa beginning mid-summer until frost.
Start seeds indoors, under lights, 6 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant hardened-off seedlings into the garden after all danger of frost has past. Plant them 16 inches apart along the north end of your garden in front of the trellis. Tie the vines to the trellis as the plant grows. Prune out the lower branches to aid in air circulation. Water regularly if rainfall is scarce. Plants need about 1 inch of water weekly once they are actively growing.
Do you like your salsa mild or hot? For hot salsa, select varieties of chili peppers such as Jalapeno, Serrano, or Habanera. If you prefer mild salsa, opt for bell peppers and mix with a mildly hot pepper like Anaheim. Four different pepper plants will allow you to mix, match, and experiment with a variety of salsa flavors.
Start seeds indoors, under lights, 8 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant hardened-off seedlings into the garden after all danger of frost has past. Space pepper plants at least 12 inches apart. Use small tomato cages to help support the plants. Water regularly if rainfall is scarce. Plants need about 1 inch of water weekly once they are actively growing.
Onion flavors range from sweet to pungent. Select onion varieties that grow well in your area. Grow from seed or small bulbs in the spring. Space onions 4 inches apart or place 9 per square foot.
Garlic is usually planted in the fall for larger bulbs, but it can be planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. The spring grown bulbs will be smaller, but will taste the same. Space fall planted garlic 6 per square foot and spring planted garlic 9 per square foot.
Another option to add garlic flavor to your salsa is to purchase a garlic chive plant, which we carry at Martha’s Bloomers. Chopped garlic chives will add a nice, mild garlic flavor to your salsa and will make a nice addition to your salsa garden.
Cilantro adds a nice, fresh zing to salsa. Cilantro matures quickly, especially in warm weather, so to keep a continuous supply of cilantro available for your fresh salsa, grow a slow bolt variety, such as Cilantro Long Standing and keep seeding every 3 weeks.
Direct sow cilantro seeds in one square, 4 inches apart or 9 per square foot. Cover seeds with ½ an inch of soil and keep moist. Sow another round in the next square 3 weeks later, then the next 3 weeks after that, and then the next. Keep rotating and this will maintain a steady supply of fresh cilantro growing and ready for harvest for your salsa.