cut and come again leaves

  • Grow at Home: Winter Salads

     

    winter_salad_in_soil

    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.

    Sowing Salad

    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!

    Protection

    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.

    Harvest

    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!

  • Grow at Home: Endive

    Endive

    endive_curly_2_plants

    Endive is a really great ingredient to be used for salads or as greens.  It comes in two types.  An upright Batavian or escarole with larger broad leaves. This type is very robust, crops in the winter and the outer leaves can be used as greens.  And the second type, is a curly or fringed frisee hence its alternative name of Curly Endive.  This has delicately serrated leaves and crops in the summer.

    Sowing

    Endive germinates best at 20-22°C (68-72°F) but can germinate at temperatures as low as 15°C (59°F). Plants tend to bolt if temperatures fall below 5C (41°F) for too long, but bolt-resistant cultivars are around so looks these out.

    For winter varieties. Sow in Rootrainers for best results from mid to late August, transplant and grow in the greenhouse or plant outside and use Bell Cloches from October- November.

    Sow from February to October for ‘cut and come again’ seedlings.  Warm the soil by covering with an Easy Poly Tunnel  for a month before you plant.  Then cover with an Easy Fleece Tunnel to keep out the chill.  Sow in broad drills or containers every three weeks.

    For summer varieties Sow thinly from April to August, 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 23-38cm (9-13in) apart.

    Growing

    Soils should be light, rich and free draining, It is all about getting the water right for Endive.  They don't like to be soggy so make sure they don't get waterlogged.  And dry soil can cause them to ‘bolt’ so try to keep the soil moist.

    If you like your endive bitter than pray for a hot summer as high temperatures encourage the  bitterness.  Water thoroughly before the onset of dry weather, mulch and keep weed free. Liquid feed fortnightly in summer with a general fertiliser.

    endive_3_in_bowlIn order to keep the texture at its best for eating blanch the at about 12 weeks after sowing. This will keep the plant white and tender.  Blanch a few at a time as they need to be eaten soon after blanching.  Make sure the leaves are dry  so that they don't rot and then choose whichever way you find easiest.  Some of the options are

    • tie the leaves loosely together with raffia or soft string.
    • Build up the soil round the plant leaving just the top exposed
    • cover with a bucket or a black plastic pot with the drainage holes covered

    This process takes about 10-14 days, but if its cold may take longer.

    ‘Cut and come again’ crops can be harvested after about five weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they bolt.

    Harvesting

    Cut off the head with a sharp knife when the head is mature and the leaves are creamy white.

    Harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors.

    Pests & Diseases

    Slugs and snails: feed on the young seedlings so make sure you protect your plants with a Slug Buster.

    Aphids:  Greenfly love the soft shoot tips of plants and the leaves.  Pinch them off with finger and thumb or try to encourage their predators like lady birds into your garden by planting wildlife friendly plants.

     

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