Growing Winter Salads
Growing Winter Salads
Winter salads and flowers, long-season crops and tropical delights
Winter salads are more valuable than summer ones as there is less other fresh food available. Most perennial such as rosemary don’t need, or like, protection, while others, such as thyme, winter savory, tarragon, chives and sage, are usable much longer if potted up and taken under glass. Any cover, even a humble , can allow many more green any day of the year.
It is the wind and weather protection that helps most, and there are often bright, sunny days in winter. Even under cover, theseneed sowing in autumn while the soil is warm. Thereafter, they make slow growth but can be cut, carefully and on a regular basis, to provide lots of tasty and healthy fodder. Of most value in my estimation are rocket, claytonia, , , , , spring , and .
Winter flowers are luxuries you can afford once you have a light, frost-free place. There so many to choose from but my favourites are:cyclamen, gardenias, almost any , primulas and pansies. If you want to be impressed, sow Schizanthus in mid to late summer in cells. Pot up under cover, and in the late winter you will have many ‘poor man’s orchids’.
Bonus crops under cover
Longerare the productive gardener’s reason for wanting more covered space. Growing under glass or plastic simply adds weeks to both ends of the growing season. The first advantage comes from having somewhere to raise many plants that will finally mature out of doors. Without such early protection they could not be started in time and would not be ripening before the autumn frosts. You can also grow plants that would require a much better growing season by keeping them indoors throughout. This means that many things you just wouldn’t dream of can be grown in colder climates, and others become easy. And not just .
Neware, to my mind, one of the most delicious and valuable crops. When most people are only planting theirs on Good Friday, as is traditional in the UK, I am eating mine. Most of my effort and heated growing space is taken up with new potatoes forced in pots. I plant ‘ ’ and other very early varieties as soon as the days lengthen after mid-winter’s day. I grow these first in pots and move them up to black bags of compost. The yields are not terrific, but they are worth it. More batches are started every week or so until early spring when more batches can be started under and in my unheated tunnel. Late crops are also easily had by starting earlies off in big pots after mid-summer, these are brought under cover before the frosts and kept dry once the foliage dies, the ‘new’ potatoes are superb for festive winter meals.
Sweet potatoes are actually an easy crop to grow if you start them off in late winter in aand grow them on in a plastic tunnel.
However, I find the tubers are hard to get to sprout, and any that do form are then best detached and grown on rather than left on the tuber. From then on, propagate by overwintering young layered plants. They crop at the end of a long season and do best in mounds or in very large pots, so their compost or soil is warm. I prefer the orange-fleshed large varieties, often from North Carolina, to the yellow or white-fleshed thinner varieties — though these latter are easier croppers. The foliage is a rambling vine with pretty flowers.