Get the most from your Autumn Salads

With the mild autumn we’ve been having, autumn planted salad leaves will probably have grown fairly quickly, so we are off to a good start. Here are a couple of things to note for a longer cropping time…

  1. Keep them well protected from slugs and snails – beer traps are very effective placed in between rows of lettuces, and well worth topping up every week or so with cheap lager!
  2. Pick the outer leaves of lettuces regularly – you’ll find that the older outer leaves can tend to rot, and this in turn attracts slugs and snails, and also leaves the plants somewhat soggy. By picking off the outer leaves frequently you’ll be able to keep the plants in better shape.
  3. Use a cloche on lettuces, purslane and wild rocket – these will benefit from a little extra warmth.
  4. Make sure plants have good drainage and don’t become waterlogged. This can be tricky in heavy clay soils over the winter months, but if you can mulch with compost, or dig a small drainage channel, and raise pots off the ground, the plants will do better for not being too soggy.
  5. Cut mizuna and mustard leaves regularly – they grow fast, even at this time of year, so by harvesting often as cut & come again, you will keep them going for longer.
  6. Cover endives with fleece in January/February – endives will keep going for a long time, providing lots of crunchy leaves, and it is fairly hardy. However, if your plot is prone to hard frosts in the depths of winter, then it is worth protecting it.
  7. Keep greenhouse windows clean – the more light you can let in at this time of year, the better indoor grown lettuces and leaves will do.
  8. Don’t give up on wild rocket – it tends to grow very slowly, but will suddenly burst forth as soon as the temperatures begin to rise. If yours look as if they are not growing much, just leave them to it and when it starts to get warmer, you’ll be able to harvest plenty.
  9. If you’re growing all lettuce varieties, harvest Arctic King last – this one tends to mature in March, when you can harvest it whole, so if you have a choice of lettuces, we’d recommend picking more from the Marvel of Four Seasons and Winter Density varieties.
  10. Some will sprout in spring, but the little florets are edible too – you’ll find mizuna starts to sprout and flower, as well as landcress, and frills mustard. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch the plants – the little shoots can be thrown into stir-fries etc quite happily which will give you longer to use your crops.