Many people are surprised to know that you can grow salad in winter very successfully without needing too much space or even a greenhouse. A sheltered spot and a little bit of care and attention and you can enjoy a healthy harvest all year long.
Although we tend to associate salad with long summer days, there's nothing like the taste of a fresh green salad at any time of year. Often winter lettuce is actually slightly sweeter than the summer varieties. Choose hardy varieties of your favourite summer lettuce or try something with a bit of heat such as a mustard spinach.
A few healthy plants will probably be all you need to see you through so that you can pick leaves as and when you need them. Vigoroot Balcony Garden will give you strong healthy plants in even the smallest space. It will also allow you to cover your crop up if the weather turns really nasty.
For a continuous supply, sow a few seeds every four weeks. Some lettuce varieties, such as 'Arctic King’ and other winter salads are fine to grow all year round. They just need a little extra protection during colder months. The cut-and-come-again crops are loose-leafed and you can pick a few leaves from the plants every few days.
Ideally sow seed up until mid November- earlier rather than later to avoid frost damage to seedlings. But if you’ve missed the chance to sow, then supermarket bought trays of living salad will do well if planted now. Easy Seedling Tunnels or a Baby Victorian Bell Cloche will protect young plants during cold weather, especially frosty nights.
Sow short lines of winter lettuce seed every couple of weeks or so. Water well afterwards; winter rainfall will probably be enough to keep plants watered. Thin out plants as they start to crowd each other – you can eat the thinnings in a sandwich!
Keep seedlings warm and watered and choose a sheltered area if possible. To protect your plants from cold winds as sharp drop in temperature may kill off seedlings and young plants.
Keep an eye on the weather and protect crops with a cloche or cover overnight. Remove the covering in the day to keep a good circulation of air and avoid rotting.
If you have to leave the cover over the plants, remove it every day or so and check them. The soil may need a little forking over to avoid it getting compacted and wet. A Vigoroot Easy Table Garden is ideal for growing winter salads and can be moved to the sunniest spot and the cover removed easily on warmer days.
Winter lettuce crops can be used as and when the plants are big enough. Varieties that produce a firm head are best left to fully mature. Although a taking a leaf or two once in a while won’t hurt. The cut-and-come-again varieties should be picked regularly after they are about 2in high. They will produce more leaves if you pick some. Or you can allow the plants to grow to about 8in and cut the whole head off, leaving a stump – a new plant should soon re-sprout.
Whatever you grow it will give you a little reminder that Summer is never far away!