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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.

Tags: gardening do

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Every year the sudden sink in light catches me by surprise. ⁠⁠
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Usually I first see it when I fail to take a photo. When I can't get my camera to capture what I want. When all the advances I've made in my photography get swamped by not knowing what to do to make a difference to something so ethereal.⁠⁠
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Yesterday - taking a photo of the Studio windowsill with its seed heads and berries - I hit a problem of grain.  All my images looked dull, in focus but somehow lacking light.  I randomly changed camera settings and lost half the morning peering at a screen foolishly trying to edit light back in.⁠⁠
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In the end I messaged my friend Rebecca @poshyarns - whose photos capture light in the most beautiful way. She called me back and talked me through, and even gave me the confidence to ditch my tripod. ⁠⁠
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And suddenly the light came back into my photos and the murk was gone. ⁠⁠
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If Rebecca ever decides to teach I will be right at the head of the queue.⁠
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#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
Kat @katgoldin took this photo of me a few weeks ago on a photoshoot that consisted of her telling me to 'just do the things you do and ignore me'.⁠⁠
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Despite having been friends for ages, she had never seen me embroider - the buzz and shimmy of the needle on fabric. ⁠⁠
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Sometimes seeing things through other people's eyes helps you see them anew yourself. Kat's joy in the emerging lines helped me see that what I've created here in the studio is a very special and precious thing.⁠⁠
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The doors to the Studio Club - which is basically a seasonal exploration of all that goes on here - open again in a few weeks time.  You can sign up to get a personal invite via my profile. ⁠⁠
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You can see how good I am at 'ignoring' - my face is quite clearly mid laughter.⁠⁠
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This is perhaps a bit of a downbeat photo for my 1000th post. messy faded daisies in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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But I think it pretty much sums up what I hold dear - imperfect, natural, wild.⁠⁠
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Today my elder daughter graduates from drama school (a year late), in two days time my younger daughter turns twenty one. ⁠⁠
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A weekend of reflection, celebration and joy lies ahead.
The last of the dahlias. They are declining with the light. ⁠⁠
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Though you can't see in the photo the doubles all have that mucky chicken bum at the back and the singles have dropped their petals.⁠⁠
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The best things in the garden at the moment are the sanguisorbas - bought from @quirkybirdgardener in the summer - and settling in so well that one is now as tall as me.⁠⁠
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They've always been one of my favourite cut flowers - these white ones remind me a little of of lambs tails.
Home⁠
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After an incredibly inspiring couple of weeks. ⁠
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We ended up our holiday at Camp Goodlife @thegoodlifesoc - where it seemed that every single person we spoke to was making a positive change in the world. From creating new ways of running restaurants to connecting people to the land to making beautiful clothes to teaching children about growing food. 
And for everyone, these changes were centred around joy. ⁠
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I loved our trip but I’m so excited about getting back into the Studio this morning. 

📷 @katgoldin
Thistledown is so beguiling. ⁠
The soft cream catching the light, waiting for goldfinches to alight. ⁠
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I’m heading to Hawarden today to join the lively people at @thegoodlifesoc and teach about foraged colour and dyeing socks with all kinds of plants. I’m hoping to be able to harvest some thistles as they give a particularly beautiful mustardy yellow.
Though I grew lots and lots of straw flowers for Christmas wreaths back when I had a proper commercial flower business,  it was only this year that I slowed down enough to really see them. ⁠
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I’d assumed that they wouldn’t be good for insects until fully out - flat dulled daisies, past the point of picking - but actually wasps seem to pollinate them when they are still tightly furled. ⁠
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This patch was wasp central for weeks. ⁠
A few butterflies flitted about, but mainly wasps⁠
I am somebody who needs distance to see a bigger picture. ⁠
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For the past couple of months I’ve been really struggling with where Snapdragon Life is, and how to get from here to where I want it to be. ⁠
I filled books and books with notes but was going round in circles - unable to commit to anything with the kind of conviction a small business needs. It was all too fuzzy somehow. ⁠
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Now I am away from the Studio. ⁠
Right in the middle of two weeks of walking and eating and photographing gardens and meeting friends and suddenly it is all much clearer. ⁠
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I now have 5 sentences written in my phone notes and a high clear soaring route to take. ⁠
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The multi talented @katgoldin took this photo of me in the Studio before I left - part of a photo shoot that took almost three years to actually schedule because I will do almost anything to avoid being in front of a camera.
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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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