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Growing winter salad

basket of chard

There is a wonderful book by the American grower Elliot Coleman about growing salad right through winter. In it he talks in great detail about how to protect crops and carry them right through the months of the year that there has traditionally been no fresh produce in colder parts of the globe.

The idea is to create a great walk-in growing fridge that has mature plants in it - plants that will not begin actively growing again until the Spring, but which can be harvested meantime. It is a plan that requires a level of precision - to get the plants to exactly the right point before the cold and dark comes and stops them in their tracks - and a knowledge of your local light levels.

In the middle of Scotland I am sowing and planting all my winter salads and vegetables this week and next - I gather that in more southern parts of the country you can do this through August, Coleman - whose latitude is equivalent to France plants into September.

I grow mainly in my polytunnel - which is a great luxury I know - but there will be hardier crops out in the ground, some shrouded by fleece, and others in pots tucked up near the house. I use fleece and net curtains overnight even in the tunnel - it is important to keep them off the crops with canes or hoops or they will burn leaves where they touch them on a frosty night.

This is what I shall be growing. The asterisks show things outside, our temperatures go down to -10 for significant periods.

  • Turnips
  • Salad onions
  • Kale *
  • Chard
  • Winter lettuce (Arctic King is amazing) *
  • Pak Choi
  • Rocket
  • Winter spinach
  • Winter radish
  • Claytonia
  • Mustards* - lots of different types as these work really well with winter salads
  • Mizuna*
  • Mibuna*
  • Broad beans *
  • Garlic* (planted August/September as light levels irrelevant)

I also have leeks, purple sprouting broccoli already in the ground which will stand outside all winter. Many of the cabbage family salad leaves (like mibuna and mustards) will manage down to -4 with a little protection so tend to be fine with us outside until December, but will not cope with a very cold January/February - That is long enough for it to be worth me growing some outside with a bit of protection.

All of these will grow in large pots - I really recommend the polystyrene boxes you can get from fishmongers and greengrocers, just punch holes in the bottom for drainage - if make a frame from metal coat hangers, you can simply peg fleece or other fabric over them to protect from frost. If you are only doing this overnight it doesn't matter if it lets light though - just remember to take it off again in the early morning.

Other emergency cold snap measures are a well wrapped small hot water bottle tucked under your protection - the more wrapping, the slower it will release its heat.

Tags: gardening

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I took my spring flowers out of the press to make way for summer ones.⁠⠀
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I intend to make ones for each season if I can and then frame them as a set - sweet peas and nasturtiums went in yesterday.⁠⠀
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To press flowers all you need is strong boards and absorbent paper - though you can use paper interleaved in heavy books the result is better if you are pressing down evenly rather than like a hinge. ⁠⠀
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I would therefore use the books either side of the paper, chopping boards work well (if you have any you aren't using).⁠⠀
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You can even put the sheets of paper with their interleaved flowers under a heavy rug. ⠀
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Celebrating the seasons. ⠀
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The garden and meadow are full of circles at the moment - beautiful flowering heads of teasels and globe thistles. ⁠⠀
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They are covered in bees which go round and round visiting each tiny flower, working steadily, following the rows.⁠⠀
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I love this season - the sun a little lower, the evenings a little warmer, the long shadows and sweet hum of the insects. ⁠⠀
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Poised before harvest. ⁠⠀
It is tansy time again.⁠⠀
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For me the wonderful thing about seasons is that they go round and around.  They may move onto something new but I always know that they will come around again.⁠⠀
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A lot of what I have been working on for the past few years is learning how to settle myself exactly where I am, in the place where I am, in the season I am in. ⁠⠀
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To resist looking backwards or hurrying forward - to just be where I am.⁠⠀
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And where I am at the moment is in tansy time.  It marks a year since I began experimenting with using natural dyes.  A time of bright yellow alpaca socks and bags and yarn.
Hattie's pincushion.⁠⠀
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I love the common names of plants. ⠀
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Astrantia grows so happily in amongst the grasses of the Studio Meadow - it has been flowering since May and seems full of intentions to carry on.⁠⠀
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It is probably not surprising really as it grows wild in the sloping meadows at the foot of mountains in Central Europe.⁠⠀
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The perfect plant for a textile obsessed person.
It is the time of year when you can pick sweet peas every day.⁠⠀
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I love my sweet peas best with light and space - like a flock of butterflies caught mid-air.⁠⠀
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These are 'Mrs Collier' - presumably a woman known to the breeders Dobie (or Dobbie) & Sons back in Edwardian Edinburgh. ⁠⠀
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You would think that having a popular sweet pea named after you would guarantee immortality, but seemingly not.  I couldn't find out who she was.⁠⠀
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So as these fill the studio with sweet perfume, I am imagining Mrs Collier into life.⁠⠀
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If anyone has hard facts on her please let me know!
Each month or so, as part of Snapdragon Studio Membership, I put together an e-course.  It is a different topic every time and the lessons go out each Tuesday.⁠⠀
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The idea is to encourage people to try new things.  This month's course is about decorative mending - and this week I am designing a project that will form the last couple of lessons.⁠⠀
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It is a pocket patch, embroidered and appliquéd from scraps of linen and cotton. ⁠⠀
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It has been a new thing for me to try too - a project to use all the precious scraps I have been squirrelling away, not quite sure how to use them.⁠⠀
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The base is a 1950s tray cloth with holes in it, the appliqués from a tattered nightdress, the bag that it will go onto is one I dyed with dock flowers.⁠⠀
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Membership is closed at the moment - but I shall be opening the doors back up for the last week of September. If you want to be the first to know sign up to my newsletter list.
Years ago, actually maybe just last year, I saw a display of ferns in glass laboratory bottles. ⁠⠀
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It may have been at Jupiter Art Land, it may have been somewhere else *. ⁠⠀
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This is my homage. ⁠⠀
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*I think my brain may be broken, so many things seem to have fallen out the side.⁠⠀
Boxes and boxes of A Seasonal Way magazine arrived yesterday and are sitting in the hall here. 
That means that it is the last day to get it at the pre-order price of £8. 

I had this all ready to go to the printers in the second week of March but pulled it - and have then worked for the past few months to make it better. 

It feels good that I can begin packing up Studio Members copies on the day that shielding stops in Scotland.
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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.

Through my communities, both free and paid for, through my writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted activity kits, and through my online and in-person workshops I aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

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