Plenty of salad crops can grow outside in winter with a little protection – the key is to get them in the ground in early autumn. At this time, the soil is still warm seedlings or plug plants will establish quickly when planted out. You could even sow seeds direct.
Choose hardy varieties of your favourite salad leaves, or experiment with more unusual crops such as winter purslane and salad burnet. One of the most reliable winter leaf crops is corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce, Valerianella locusta. Sow them in late summer, in seed trays. You could also sow seeds direct.
Grow plants in a sheltered, sunny spot, to protect them from cold winter winds. Ensure the soil is free-draining, as plants can freeze if left standing in pools of icy water.
You Will Need
- Plug plants, We used corn salad, land cress, lettuce, wild rocket and mustard
- Hand fork or trowel
- Watering can
Plant out the seedlings to encourage them to put on growth before winter sets in. Space them at 10cm intervals in rows 20cm apart, and water well. If you don’t have seedlings to plant out, you can usually buy plug plants from garden centres and mail order companies.
For best results, cover plants with a sturdy cloche. The warmer temperature inside will encourage strong plant growth in autumn, and protect them from the worst of the weather in winter.
You can also sow seeds in pots or window boxes – sow every week or so from August to mid-autumn for a continuous supply. Keep the pot near the back door so you can pop out easily to harvest a handful of leaves.