Growing salads is easy in the spring when their leaves are at their most tasty and sweet, but needs more thought and effort at other times.
Lettuce are the backbone of our salads throughout the year. They are tricky in the autumn, often rising to flower and attacked by an invisible root aphid, at which time radicchio and endive come into their own. In the winter a few lettuce varieties can survive outdoors if well established by winter, from an August sowing.
With all salads it is best to pick smallish leaves on a regular basis before slugs start chewing holes.
In the winter the best place to grow is indoors. We love Little Gem lettuce for its crispy leaf and strong winter hardiness, and get much better results from our own saved seed. Little Gem is sold by so many companies that there is now considerable variation in its leaves, so we have been saving seeds from plants with the crispy crinkly leaf we prefer.
True spinach is a favourite for its thick and meaty leaf, and varieties Lazio and Medania are good through the winter, particularly tasty in April, best sown in July for outdoor and August for indoor growth.
Rocket and Mizuna are productive, and further flavours come from chervil, dill, coriander and the pretty red frills mustard. Swiss chard also grows fast although with a coarser flavour. All these will survive outdoors, but more productive indoors.
There are many other mustards to grow indoors or out, but the leaves can get a bit hot, especially when big. Mibuna, pak choi and Tatsoi are productive, but their flavour too cabbagey for us.
The RHS recently proved that the use of coffee grinds, copper tape etc to keep slugs at bay doesn’t work. Well most of us knew that already, it simply emphasises the fact that certain plants grow in certain seasons. Growing salads in the winter is tricky—I wouldn’t want to grow at this dull and dark time of year, so planting times and soil health are critical. And how many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? Ten tickles.
What to sow this month
Aquadulce broad beans are the main outdoor crop this month, for harvesting next June. Our feathered and furry friends love them, so we sow them indoors and transplant later.
Indoors we will be sowing lots of early Douce Provence peas for harvesting next April and May.