Winter Salad Crops
1) Using frost protection outdoors
If you’re prepared to use some form of protection for your seedlings and small plants, you can extend the growing season of your existing plants, and might also be able to get in a final sowing of salad crops this year. You’ll need to pick your salad crop carefully, as not all are prepared to keep going outdoors, but mizuna, rocket and spinach are worth trying, especially if you live in a warm area, (click here to our salad plug plant packs). Protect the small plants from cold and frost using cloches, mini poly-tunnels or horticultural fleece. All these are available from garden centres, and not at all difficult to install.
You can also start winter lettuce off now, for use in the spring, sowing it in early September, and protecting under cloches. Other crops worth trying are beetroot, radishes, chicory, dill, coriander, and the like.
2) Greenhouse gardening
Greenhouses are great in summer, for growing tomatoes, cucumbers and other tender salad plants, but had you thought of using them through the winter to grow salad crops? If you already keep your greenhouse frost-free in order to overwinter tender plants such as pelargoniums, you won’t need to make any changes apart from remembering to water your salad crops regularly.
You can grow a wide range of salad crops in a greenhouse or polytunnel during the winter, including all those listed above, so experiment, and see how you get on.
If you’ve been using your greenhouse all summer for tomatoes or other crops, you’ll probably want to add some soil improver or even some new topsoil to provide a bit more nutrition for your winter crops. You can buy topsoil from topsoil suppliers in bulk, which makes it more economical, and you’ll then have a supply for other garden projects as you need it.
3) Indoor salad crops
If you’ve got suitable space indoors, for example in a conservatory, or large windowsill, you can plant up containers with salad crops to keep you going into, if not through, winter. Try chicory, endives, lettuce, spinach, land cress and winter purslane. All of these produce tasty leaves and will grow happily alongside each other either in a single container or in pots along a windowsill. Don’t forget to turn the pots regularly, so each side gets plenty of light, and prevent your little plants getting too leggy trying to reach the light.
Using these ideas, you should be able to indulge your taste for salad all winter without adding food miles to your table!