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Journal

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.

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Flowers picked, stripped and plonked in a jug. ⁠⁠
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I was planning to do a fancy arrangement but then they looked so light and pretty as they are.⁠⁠
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Simple so often the best.
The tansy is about to flower in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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When I arranged flowers for weddings I always thought that the best thing about having properly seasonal flowers was that you would remember every year as plants came into bloom. ⁠⁠
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I got very involved with weddings, couples became good friends and I still associate plants in my garden with specific people. ⁠⁠
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Tansy would not be a good plant for a wedding though really - its history is a dark one, tied up with abortion and despair - but it is the plant I associate with my first attempt to dye fabric with plants.  Every year it blooms I realise how far I have come.⁠⁠
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For that first attempt was was a failure - too big a piece of fabric, not enough scouring and then a hissy fit at the lack of colour, which ended up with chucking too much ferrous sulphate into the pan and ruining it further into a blotchy grey.⁠⁠
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This weekend I go to Gartur Stitch Farm @katgoldin to learn more about dyeing with local plants and indigo with Julia @woollenflower . ⁠⁠
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Then, after that, I shall harvest this year's tansy . . . .⁠⁠ 
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A sunny evening in the studio.⁠⁠
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The fabrics I have been dyeing over the weekend rinsed and drying on the clothes horse.⁠⁠
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Maybe it is the heat, maybe its the perfect ripeness of the plants - I don't know - but this batch of foraged colour is particularly mouthwatering. Lush and soft and perfectly balanced.⁠⁠
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This is the last lengths that I am dyeing for the summer sampler sets of plant dyed fabrics, ribbons and threads that will go into the Studio Members shop at the end of the week.  I will email out the link when they are live.⁠⁠
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Making things like this is small scale and slow - so much love and care goes into these sampler sets, from the picking of the plants to the hand drawing of the gift cards.  I wouldn't have it any other way.⁠⁠

If you aren’t already a member of the Studio Club and would like to join -  to see behind the scenes, get the monthly journal and access all the members only blogs, courses and shop - the link is in my bio.
'You have to be fast to get the sweet peas'.⁠⁠
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This is what I was told last Sunday at Drymen Community  Garden Open Day. ⁠⁠
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They were talking about the dozen or so bunches I've been taking down to the Crop Swap outside the Village shop on Drymen Main Street each Saturday morning for the past couple of months.⁠⁠
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They are first things to be snapped up from the table.  I was delighted to find that many were being taken to neighbours, dropped off with the newspaper on the way home.⁠⁠
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If feels right for this most generous of flowers.
Did you have a spirograph as a child?⁠⁠
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The dahlias have started blooming and I'm thinking I could use one to draw them.
This is my Studio - where everything happens. ⁠⁠
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At the moment it is surrounded by a bright and jazzy mix of loosestrife and buttercups and poppies - teasels, tansy and sanguisorba rising up, ready to carry on the next act of the show.⁠⁠
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This little patch of land - really just a bank of spoil from building the studio - is different every day, an ever changing inspiration.⁠⁠ A reminder that things ebb and flow, bright and muted, high and low. 
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The heart of the Studio Club.
This was a new thing for me. ⁠⁠
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Mass rather than lines.⁠⁠
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An applique cushion made from pieces of my natural dyed fabrics, a still life of shapes - some hand quilted, some machine embroidered.⁠⁠
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Strawberry moon and vases.⁠⁠
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I'm currently spending time sitting in the shade most days, working on more pieces a little like this, aiming to put together a little collection for the Studio Club shop in the next couple of weeks.⁠⁠
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There will also be some more sampler boxes of plant dyed fabrics as the last ones sold out so fast!⁠⁠
A close up of the Studio shelf. ⁠⁠
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The white allium is from a garlic bulb in the poly tunnel - stressed and desperate to seed - snipped from the spread of drying bulbs that scent the hot air.
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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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