New to gardening? Try a salsa garden

Salsa gardens take up a limited amount of space and can be grown in containers. Here are some tips and ideas to get you off to a successful start in growing tasty salsa ingredients!

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Cristen Clark

If you are new to gardening and want to jump in and try to grow a few things without a tremendous hassle, try a salsa garden. Salsa gardens take up a limited amount of space and can be grown in containers. Here are some tips and ideas to get you off to a successful start in growing tasty salsa ingredients!

How to plan your salsa garden:

Be sure to select an area where you’ll set containers or a raised bed location that receives 6+ hours of sun per day. Situating your containers or raised bed near a water source is important, as even watering will create the best growing environment for the plants.


Try to select meaty indeterminate varieties of tomatoes that have great flavor. Indeterminate varieties grow very large and continue to bear fruit until the frost in the fall, be sure to grow them on the north side of your planting area so they don’t shade out the additional salsa ingredients. Determinate tomato varieties only bear fruit for a certain amount of time and only reach a certain size, best for containers. I like using paste tomatoes like Amish Paste or San Marzano. They are dense and don’t hold a lot of water, which will keep your salsa flavorful. They are also easier to peel after blanching. I’ve learned so much about planting tomatoes from Earl May Garden Centers here in Iowa. Did you know that the hairs on the tomato vine can turn into roots? Check out the video with this article to learn more!

Onions and peppers:


Select varieties that grow well in your climate. We like to grow onion sets (small bulbs) because they are so easy and readily available!) Jalapeno peppers are classic for salsa and grow abundantly! My favorite variety is El Jefe which combines the power of early production and bountiful yield. I’ve also grown and enjoyed Jalafuego and Jedi varieties.


Cilantro lovers unite when it comes to classic salsa. I typically buy plants and also start cilantro from seed because it matures and bolts so quickly under the stress of the hot weather that tomatoes and peppers love. I also enjoy growing chives and basil to add to various types of salsas and marinades.


I started my first garlic last fall. In the past I’ve purchased this from our local farmer’s market in Prairie City. It all seems the same to me.

Here’s a classic salsa recipe for you to enjoy, even if you don’t have tomatoes ready to be harvested off the vine.

Small Batch Salsa Garden Salsa

Against a background of soil, the words "salsa garden + an easy salsa recipe cristen clark food & swine" stand out in white. Also in the photo are garden utensils, a green plant and a compostable transplant pot.
Contributed / Cristen Clark

Makes around 2 cups

4-5 fresh tomatoes, cored, X slit cut in base, boiled 2 minutes, cooled
(or 1 can 14.5 oz peeled whole tomatoes and their juice)


1/4 cup roughly chopped red onion

1 handful of chives, roughly chopped

1 handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, smashed

½-1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons citrus juice, lemon or lime

1 pinch table sugar



Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved. Taste test. Refrigerate for several hours for best results. Store the prepared salsa in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at or at

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