Posted: Monday 18 August 2014
by Adam Pasco
Growing your own salad leaves can certainly save you pounds when you consider how much those bags of mixed leaves cost, and they’ll be far fresher and crisper as well.
We’ve now reached one of the most productive times of the year in my garden. Dwarf French beans are cropping well, courgettes have gone into overdrive, and tomatoes are delivering the gluts I relish for eating fresh and cooking into sauces and soups.
Last night, with pizza dough mixed and left to rise, I walked down my garden to pick a tasty selection of salads for supper. I love both flavour and colour on my plate, so my lettuces of choice include ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (pictured above) and other brilliantly coloured leaves rather than just boring green ones. I’ve left rocket and watercress to self-seed around my veg beds in previous years, so seedlings pop up in any space they can find, which is fine by me.
Chives do the same thing, and I’ve both the usual oniony one, Allium schoenoprasum, and garlic chives too. These have just started flowering, and beneficial insects like hoverflies love them. Salads can always be improved with a few herbs, and I sow plenty of parsley each year to replace older plants that have started to bolt.
There’s still time to sow pots of coriander now, and these can be brought into the greenhouse or grown on a windowsill later in autumn. Just a few coriander leaves added to a salad always add interest, and I also use it virtually every week in curries and Thai dishes.
If you enjoy salads then growing your own can certainly save you pounds when you consider how much those bags of mixed leaves cost, and they’ll be far fresher and crisper as well.
To ensure further salad pickings well into autumn it’s important to continue sowing seeds during August and September. If there are any gaps on my plot I just sprinkle a few seeds of my favourite salads over the area, cover lightly with compost, then water.
Many salad seed mixes produce baby leaves ready for picking within weeks, but left to establish they’ll provide a longer cropping season. In addition to baby lettuce leaves I love sowing spinach, beetroot, pak choi, chard and corn salad, plus a few radish.
Slugs can often be a nuisance on the plot, so I do sow plenty of salads in large patio pots, which they usually avoid. Pots can be positioned in any warm, bright spot, but moved closer to the house when mature or under cover as weather turns cooler.
Seedlings can be raised in small pots or modular seed trays too, then planted out later in autumn. And if you choose hardy varieties like mizuna, corn salad and winter lettuces they can be covered with cloches to give occasional pickings through until spring. Now those salad leaves really will be welcome!