Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Grow your own salad leaf mix

growing salad in boxes

Imagine being able to pick your own fresh salad - fresh, unchlorinated, tasty leaves - within 8 weeks. Without a garden, without masses of space, without great investment.

Salad leaves are one of the simplest things to grow, they are undemanding, expensive to buy and crop for ages - but like many simple things we seem to be put off by how easy it looks, as though there was a catch somewhere.

This is my 4 step process.

1. Find a suitable container/patch of ground.

Your container should be at least 10 cm deep, it should have holes in the base of drainage - things I have used successfully in the past are polystyrene fish boxes, mushroom boxes, crates (line with plastic and make holes through the plastic), compost bags (turn on side, cut the front of the bag completely off and use a skewer to pierce through the compost right through the plastic so there are drainage holes) as well as more conventional decorative pots.

Fill your container with peat free compost and water it well, leaving to drain.

If you have a garden, your ground should be free of weeds and raked so that the soil resembles crumble topping.

2. Choose and sow your seeds.

The fastest and tastiest baby leaves are mibuna, mizuna, rocket, mustards, spinach, and salad bowl type lettuces - these are all plants that are happy for you to pick a few leaves at a time, they will keep growing, giving you a much better harvest than if you were picking the whole plant at once.

Pour a bit of seed into the palm of your hand, each of those seeds is a plant. Each seed will grow into a plant that is eventually 8-10 cm square when fully mature. The most common mistake people make is sowing seeds too generously - because the correct spacing looks really miserly. What then happens is that too many seeds germinate, they get crowded and the plants grow really weakly. It is also a waste of seeds and money.

Instead of scattering the seed, draw lines with your finger 5 cm apart on the surface of the compost/soil. Then carefully place a single seed every 3 cm along these lines. This gives you enough plants to be picking from without them getting crowded.

Carefully cover the seeds with a fine layer of compost/soil.

Keep gently watered.

3. Growing and harvesting.

Salad seeds tend to germinate in 4-10 days. They can be harvested when each plant has 8 leaves (just take 1-2 leaves from each plant at this point, you always want to leave at least 3/4 of the plant to grow on).

Make sure you keep them well watered as salad leaves are mainly water. It is also best to pick at the beginning or end of the day when the leaves are cooler and crisper.

If the lettuce begins to grow a flowering stalk it is finished - the leaves will turn bitter - so remove from your container.

Mibuna, mizuna, rocket and mustard all continue to taste good when in flower, and the flowers themselves are edible too adding a little punch to salads.

4. The main secret to growing salad

Keep sowing every 2-3 weeks - that is it.

Most people get very enthusiastic at the beginning of the season, but then forget to sow any more crops. If you sow a small amount of salad seeds every 2-3 weeks from April - September (September sown crops need some protection in the northern half of the UK) you can have freshly grown salad leaves for most of the year.

When you sow your first crop mark your calendar 2 weeks ahead as a reminder to sow some more.

packets of salad

Comments: 1 (Add)

Sarah on April 25 2020 at 13:01

I love this Jane. Thank you. When you say ‘every 2 weeks, sow more seeds’ do you mean in a different container, or adding to your current container? Question might sound a little silly, but I don’t have a very green thumb. Keep trying though :)

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When I was at University it was the time of the Poll Tax, an unpopular tax made even more unpopular by being implemented in Scotland a year before the rest of the UK - 'Thatcher's guinea pigs'.⁠⠀
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It was a time of demonstration and violence with 50,000 marching in Glasgow, 1 million Scots refusing to pay. ⁠⠀
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It was a time Sheriff's Officers and poind sales of possessions. ⁠⠀
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Coalition student groups were formed - Socialist and Feminist and Anarchist and so on - there were big meetings in the Union, debates about a name and a logo and a manifesto. I remember lots of young, middle class, white men talked at length.  I remember that very, very little got done - a bus was organised to take students to Glasgow for the protests. ⁠⠀
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In the meantime, up the hill from the campus, three women (I thought of them as old at the time but I'm sure they were the age I am now) simply stood outside the auctions and asked nobody to attend.  They stood by the front doors, they explained their reasons, they prevailed.  They possibly looked randomly menacing in that way middle aged women can.⁠⠀
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People calmly bought back their possessions for 50p and their debts were squared. Action, meaningful results, a recognition that the personal is political - all while the student groups still debated their slogans.⁠⠀
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I've been thinking about those women a lot recently. If they were the age I think they were, they will be queuing up for their vaccines this month.
In my happy place.⁠⠀
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In the winter months The Studio is the centre of my working life. ⁠⠀
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This was yesterday.  Trimming pieces of vintage velvet fabric for the Studio Club shop; alpaca socks drying in the dispatch room behind me (we now have size 8-10 in stock too); a roll @scottishlinen seconds to experiment with hogging the cutting table.⁠⠀
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Bright and light and inspiring.
Starting the week with a photo from last year (simply because I lost a lot of this weekend to fatigue, so didn't take a new photo.)⁠⠀
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Budgie, my beautiful and psychotic cat, with a windowsill of white amaryllis. ⁠⠀
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Worth a second outing.
The proposed airstream conversion is in for planning permission approval at the moment, so that we change change its use from (neglected) artist's workshop into beautiful holiday accommodation.⁠⠀
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In my vision for this we get to use the paid holidaymaking element to subsidise some artist's residencies - painters, writers, musicians, makers coming here to soak up the landscape and be inspired.⁠⠀
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At the moment though I'm still at the stage of answering environmental health questions about quite how loud I am in my Studio and how we will light the path to the compost loo.
Yesterday my elder daughter, who lives in London, messaged me to say that our local DPD driver Slav was being given an award by @official.dpd.uk for his outstanding service. 

It was because of the hundreds of messages that they had been sent commenting on his helpfulness, incredible good cheer, and parcel based problem solving.⁠⠀

Slav has been an important part of my lockdown life here. ⁠⠀
When roads look like this, good delivery drivers are a vital (and hopefully appreciated) part of life.⁠⠀
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As my younger daughter chimed in “Go Slav!
This photo is from last week - but I see through the gloom that it has snowed overnight .⁠⠀
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This part of the garden is outside our bedroom, the beech hedge borders the road, it used to be a drive when our bedroom was a garage.⁠⠀
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Now it has a birch tree (symbolic for me of my miscarried babies, as I had to leave their actual birch trees behind when we moved here) surrounded by lots of box grown from small plants and cuttings.⁠⠀
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We buried Jasmine, my scruffy miniature schnauzer, here in the summer, so in some ways it is becoming a garden for sitting on the bench and remembering and watching the birds.  I shall ask my ever generous  friend Nadja for some snowdrops to plant in the grass.⁠⠀
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In my mind, eventually, the box balls will become like the ones on the front of @arnemaynardgardendesign book Garden Design Details - but this year they remain unclipped. ⁠⠀
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I suspect box blight in the back garden and @jekkamcvicar points out that unclipped box does not get blight.⁠⠀
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I love old gates - particularly old gates that stand in the middle of old unused spaces, leading to nowhere, keeping nothing in.⁠⠀
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A memory of another time.
Last year - while I was dyeing socks out on my Studio deck, I was also dyeing wool yarn. ⁠⠀
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Wool dyed with docks and nettle, gorse and meadowsweet, onions and plum bark all from the garden and lane.⁠⠀
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Over the winter I gathered the wool skeins together - all the soft bright colours - and knitted myself an oversized stripy jumper. ⁠⠀
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@rhiannonconnelly described it as wearing 'a hug from my garden' and I think she was spot on. ⁠⠀
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The pattern is the 'After the Rain' sweater by @heidikdesigns but with random stripes as I wasn't sure how much of each colour I had. #aftertherainsweater
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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