As frosty mornings start welcoming us into winter, here’s a quick guide to getting the most from your salad leaves and keeping them protected.
Which salad plants need protecting?
It is mainly Winter Lettuces (Arctic King, Marvel of Four Seasons and Winter Density) that need protecting from frosts, however there are a couple of others that will really benefit from a cloche or some fleece and you’ll get much better results from them if you protect them. These include Wild Rocket, Winter Purslane and Corn Salad. As temperatures get much colder in Jan/Feb, you could fleece Endive and Mizuna as well.
How do I protect them?
You can simply drape a sheet of horticultural fleece over the top of them, You can buy this from most garden centres, by the metre. It is ideal if you can prop it up with some short bamboo stakes topped with jam jars or yoghurt pots so that the fleece doesn’t sit on the plants, but it’s not strictly necessary. Make sure you weigh it down at the sides and corners so it doesn’t blow off!
Alternatively, you can use a cloche. Again you can buy these at garden centres – either individual cloches, or a hoop tunnel cloche. If you want to save money, then we’d recommend cutting some plastic lemonade bottles in half and jamming them over the top of your plants. It’s good way of re-using them, and you can keep them to use again and again. However, they’re not great once the plants get too big!
When can I expect to harvest my salads?
If you planted in early September, you may well be able to start harvesting some leaves around now. If they’ve only been planted in the last couple of weeks then they’ll take a little longer, but hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy some winter salads by Christmas.
Can I harvest them as cut and come again?
Yes, definitely, and you’ll get much more from them if you do. Just cut off the larger leaves, leaving just the smaller baby leaves in the centre of the plant to grow back (you can literally cut with a pair of scissors across the plant about 5-8cm from the base as long as you’re not cutting through those baby leaves)