Posts Tagged ‘salad leaves’

Urban Gardening: Growing Lettuce & Salad Leaves in Containers [video]

August 2nd, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Urban Gardening - Mixed Green Salad (Nation of Gardeners)


With smaller gardens it can be tricky to fit in everything you’d like to. Cut-and-come-again salad leaves are quick and easy to grow and small enough to fit into almost any container, making them perfect for gardeners with limited time or space. This video offers advice on doing urban gardening well.

You will need;

  • Good quality potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Container with drainage holes

The best salads for containers are loose leaf or mesclun salad varieties.

  1. Fill the container with potting soil, up to 1 inch/2cm below the rim and pat down to ensure a level surface.
  2. Sprinkle the seeds thinly and evenly over the surface of the compost, then cover these over with a fine layer of potting soil.
  3. Pat down the potting soil to ensure the seeds are in place.
  4. Water the container carefully using a watering can, fitted with a rose to avoid washing the seeds out.

To care for your salad seedlings:

  • Move the container into a bright space, or if you’re gardening in a hot spot, such as on a balcony or roof terrace, dry to choose a cool and shady corner.
  • Check daily and water as necessary dependent on weather conditions.
  • Once the seedlings begin to germinate, you will need to thin them out a little to ensure those remaining have at least an inch between one another.
  • The leaves are ready to cut about 4 – 6 weeks after sowing, harvest little and often by using a sharp knife or scissors to cut away the largest leaves every few days. This will in turn stimulate new leaves.

These are just a few tips on getting started with urban gardening and growing salad leaves in containers. The video below offers further advice to taking care of salad and lettuce leaves. You can also browse Mr Fothergills salad seeds here on the online shop. If you have any tips for urban gardening, do let us know in the comments.

Urban Gardening: Growing Lettuce & Salad Leaves in Containers

Nation of Gardeners November planting update: fresh salads in the depths of winter

December 11th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

The winter truly made its presence felt in November with winds, rain, first frosts and generally colder temperatures for many of our Nation of Gardeners.  Most gardeners in our group experienced a hard frost in November with the UK-wide frosts that most residents of the country saw on 24/25 November.

Arrived parcel

For some of our gardeners this was not the first frost though, with the earliest frost being reported in the Peak District on 27 September and Buckinghamshire seeing first frosts on 5 October.   For the rest of our group, it was not until November arrived that they saw their first frosts with Pontypridd leading on 4 November and most of the rest of the gardeners reporting a first frost on 6 November.  Our Devon based gardener experienced no frost at all last winter, but finally was able to report a frost on 24 November.  This winter looks set already to be colder than the last.

November and December is always a quiet time in the year for growing as we enter the true depths of wintry short days, cold overnight temperatures and much reduced light levels.  However, these are perfect conditions for testing seed sowing to its limits!  And so that is what we have asked of our group in November.

 

A round up of November’s planting tasks

Winter Pak Choi - RenfrewshireLast year we asked our Nation of Gardeners to sow winter salads in the cold, dark days of December.  We saw some mixed results from these trials.  The low light levels caused problems for some of the herbs and salads sown – especially the sensitive varieties like basil, or the red salad leaves that needed much more light to develop.  Although some windowsill leaves did well last year, others showed a lack of healthy development of leaves, damping off issues and in the case of the basil, simply a lack of assured germination.

Interestingly for those gardeners who elected to sow salads under cover outside there were better results seen.  Salads sown into pots in coldframes germinated a lot more slowly than their indoor counterparts, but the leaf development was better than the ones sown onto windowsills indoors.

So this year we have brought this task forwards a month with some different varieties to see if we can push the boundaries a little and get better results by asking our gardeners to sow all the salads outdoors under cover.

lindsay_late-sown-salads_7dec2014In the parcel this month, our gardeners found several packets of salad leaves that we asked to be grown as ‘cut and come again’ crops under cloches or other protection over winter.

  • Pak Choi Colour & Crunch F1, which strictly speaking is less of a salad and more of a vegetable.  Although it can be eaten as salad, it can also be used like spinach as an accompaniment or it can be cooked in stir fries, soups and oriental noodle recipes.
  • Mesclun MixedMixed Spicy Salad Leaves and Mixed Mild Salad Leaves were all varieties sown last year indoors on windowsills in December.  Of the few Nation of Gardeners who also elected to sow outside under cloche protection, these did well and so they have been sown outside under cloche or coldframe this year too.
  • The Mixed Oriental Salad Leaves supplied can be used as baby leaves in salads.  More mature leaves can be cooked like Pak Choi.
  • Lettuce Winter Density is a hardy ‘cos’ type lettuce that will produce heads from March, but can also be grown as a cut and come again during winter.
  • And finally we supplied Lettuce Vailan (Winter Gem) – a ‘little gem’ type for greenhouse and cold frame growing.

Pontypridd Winter saladsEveryone sowed their seeds and many saw good germination very quickly for many of the varieties.  Pictured to the right above are the salads grown by our gardener in Devon who has not protected the seedlings yet in an open raised bed, and pictured to the left here in our Pontypridd’s gardener’s seedlings that emerged a week after sowing.

A range of methods were employed with some sowing straight outside to open ground or under cloches, into pots in coldframes and on windowsills to get germination going before transferring outside.  The Winter Lettuce varieties Vailan and Winter Density were slowest to germinate, and for some, showing no germination at all.  As the pictures below show of our gardeners’ sowings in Elgin, Renfrewshire and Cheshire, good germination was seen shortly after sowing.  Our Bristol gardener found that there was peril for her small seedlings however, as she caught birds in the act of pulling them up by their roots and flying off with them, and our Pontypridd gardener reports that something is eating the Vailan and Winter Density seedlings though it is leaving the other varieties alone.

Winter salads

Renfrewshire Woodland Strawberry

We also sent out an unnamed Woodland Strawberry that we received at Mr Fothergill’s from BBC Gardener’s Question Time’s Bob Flowerdew.  Though not a variety in commercial production, we wanted to find out more about these plants and how they performed. Each gardener received two of these plants to try out.

We don’t really know much about this strawberry and so this will be a voyage of discovery for us all!  We believe it to be an ever-bearer type which will crop from July to October (earlier in the south) and we also think it will perform in pots and containers as well as the open ground.   We asked our gardeners to plant the strawberries in a pot and give some winter protection so that we can monitor this variety and formulate an idea of its performance, fruiting habits and flavour next year.

 

October 2013 through to October 2014 updates

Godetia Pontypridd

There was certainly a lot to report earlier in the autumn, with flowers and harvest time crops keeping our gardeners busy.  As we have slipped into the colder months, there is a lot less vigorous growth being seen in the plants we are tending, and harvest time has drawn to a halt.

There are still splashes of colour to be found if you look carefully though such as this handsome Godetia that seems to be undiminished despite being hit by frosts in November.  This picture was taken on 2 December by our Pontypridd-based gardener.

Cheshire Antirrhinum Purple TwistOur Cheshire gardener also posted us this picture to the right of her Antirrhinum Purple Twist making a comeback in late November, long after she thought it might have exhausted itself.  Many of the gardeners have reported how well they think this plant has performed, giving a continuous display of blooms throughout the summer on tall flowering spikes.

The perennials supplied as bare roots in autumn 2013 have put themselves to their wintry beds during November and early December.  We have had some wonderful displays from the Papaver Place Pigalle, Eryngium, Sedum Xenox and Astrantia Moulin Rouge all summer.   Some plants have now faded away entirely such as the Cimicifuga, of which there is no trace once again, whilst plants such as the Sedum Xenox and the Astrantia Moulin Rouge (pictured below) have left their summer ghosts in flower beds that have a faded beauty in their own right.  The group now have to wait to see if these plants will return with even better displays next year.

Fading Astrantia

Our gardeners have been asked to sow winter salads in November, but they are also still munching their way through the leaves they were asked to sow in September.   The ones shown here in Cheshire to the right are still producing baby leaves at the end of November.  If this month’s winter salads grow well, there will be an almost continuous supply for our gardener’s kitchens this year!

Cheshire late sown salads

Of the other crops being grown by our group, the Pea Meteor planted out in October is having very variable results. Many of our gardeners have lost their plants entirely, whilst others still have a good proportion of the plants they put outside the previous month.  The winds the UK has been experiencing has made these surviving specimens look rather ragged, but they are still soldiering on.

In October 2013 we asked our group of gardeners to plant out garlic and broad beans for overwintering.  Some were so impressed by the performance of these varieties planted at that time of year that they have decided to do this for themselves again this year. So, not only do Mr Fothergill’s get to learn from the results by our gardening group, the gardeners themselves are receiving an enrichment to their usual gardening habits.

Nation of Gardeners December planting update: Who needs the shops at Christmas when you have Mr Fothergill’s?

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The Nation of Gardeners' gardens are getting very fullAs we enter 2014 and pass the three month mark, it is safe to say that the Nation of Gardeners project is well and truly underway.  The gardens, coldframes and greenhouses of our gardeners are starting to get very full, and so in December, Mr Fothergill’s decided to fill up their windowsills for them as well!

December is a good month for sowing herbs and salad leaves for growing on a sunny windowsill.  Fresh leaves can be picked for up to 4 cuts in as little as 6 – 8 weeks.  Mr Fothergill’s were very interested to know if this could be achieved successfully in all parts of the country.  During milder months it is expected that the first cut can be taken at 6 – 8 weeks, and so this growing task was to test how long they take ‘out of season’ when light levels and ambient temperatures inside and outside are low.

 

A round up of December’s planting tasks

With the winter weather setting in, the December parcel took our gardeners indoors for windowsill sowings of basil, coriander and four types of salad leaves; mild, spicy, red and green.

The salad leaf varieties were as follows and were suggested to be sown in 25cm pots and to then be placed in a sunny position either indoors on a windowsill or outside in a frost-free greenhouse or coldframe:

It was the salad leaves that surprised many of the gardeners and had them racing for the quickest results. Some salads were seen to be germinated within 48 hours, and all gardeners had sturdy seedlings within a couple of weeks of sowing.

Our Pontypridd gardener decided to test indoor versus outdoor sowing in a frost-free greenhouse in this trial across each of the seeds he was sent.  He reported back that his outdoor salads looked sturdier and less leggy than their indoor sown counterparts.   Our Devon gardener also tested the Spicy Salad Leaves in a coldframe outside – whilst sowing the other three varieties inside – and she too reported back that the outdoor sowings looked much healthier than her indoor specimens.

The ‘legginess’ of the indoor sown seedlings was widely reported back – due to lack of good quality, long periods of daylight perhaps – and so time will tell if the salads respond well to the lengthening of the days now we are past the winter solstice.

Salads grown in December 2013

Two varieties of herbs, Basil Piccolino and Coriander Calypso, were also sent out in the December parcel.  Both of which were suggested to be sown and grown in 9cm pots and then placed on a sunny windowsill and kept moist.

The ambient temperatures both inside and outside was recorded by the gardeners at time of sowing and the gardeners were also asked to record the aspect of windowsill the pots were placed to gauge the effects of the low light levels of winter on the seedlings’ progress.

Coriander seedlings in Scotland

Temperature seems to have been a deciding factor in getting the basil to germinate successfully.  Although some basil sowings for some did germinate within 3 days.  For others it took decidedly longer, with radiator heat being used to warm things up a bit where windowsill temperature could not provide.   Subsequent successful sowing into heated or even just covered non-electric propagators from the same batch of seeds seemed to prove the point that basil needs heat to get going.

Coriander showed itself to be slightly less fussy about temperature, though for some was slow in coming.  Our gardeners with the ‘quickest’ Coriander were in Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire with a 7 day germination rate, although our Pontypridd gardener reported back germination in 6 days.  Otherwise the general germination rate for Coriander showed itself to be 10 to 14 days.

A new dimension to the trials project emerged over Christmas, when the Mr Fothergill’s parcel became a Mr Fothergill’s festive food parcel, when many of the gardeners were able to use their first Fothergill’s batch of produce to garnish their meals over the festive period.  One gardener used their salad leaf micro-greens sprinkled over a prawn and smoked salmon salad on New Year’s Day, and another chopped their baby spicy salad leaves to use in a tomato salad and used their mild leaves as a garnish on top of egg mayonnaise.   The salad leaves had the gardeners discussing recipes and uses from sandwiches to salads, which led one gardener to question “who needs shops”!

October and November planting update

Autumn-sown garlic in DevonOctober and November’s plantings have now fully established and the gardeners have been noting some significant progress lately.   Least magnificently – but most significantly for our group of gardeners perhaps –  is visible progress with the Garlic Solent Wight which was received in the first packages sent out in October.  Many of the gardeners were reporting no movement on their garlic plantings all through October and November, but now the colder weather has arrived most are seeing shoots of green emerging, which has been welcomed with some relief.

The bare root perennials planted in November have shown variable results depending on the variety.  Varieties such as the Papaver  have settled into their new homes very well with lots of new top growth, and the planted Sedums are also looking well settled.  For some, the Astrantia and Eryngium still have top growth intact, but for others the leaves have faded away, leaving a patch of bare ground with a marker the only evidence that something is planted there.  For most, the Cimicifuga appears to have all but disappeared entirely, although this shy-to-show-itself plant is showing minuscule evidences of growth for some observant gardeners who have seen slight growth of only millimetres, or a change in colouration of the growing tip just poking above ground level.

October and November plants for Nation of Gardeners

By far the most robust performers in the trials so far are the autumn planted Broad Beans, the Strawberry Buddy and the  Strawberry Sweetheart, and the Blackberry Reuben.  All gardeners are reporting back strong and healthy growth of these varieties.

Storm damaged blackberry plant in Scotland

Some plants, such as the Broad Beans planted in more southerly areas are continuing to grow right through the winter without check, to the extent that their caretakers are worried they are growing too far, too soon.  In early January, the first flower buds have also started to form on the strawberry plants for our gardener in Devon.  She has nipped these off to strengthen the plant.

Sadly, the storms that have ravaged the country have created plant casualties for the Nation of Gardeners, with both the Renfrewshire and Peak District gardeners losing their Blackberry plants to the high winds.  The stump shown in the picture to the right here is our Scottish gardener’s blackberry plant, which due to where it has snapped, may never recover.

 

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

 

Looking forward into January

The next package has just been sent out to the group of gardeners who will be receiving their parcels within the couple of days.  For this task, we give them some more crops to grow and a new variety of flower that will be introduced in 2014 for general sale to see how they fare with this new variety.

Nation of Gardeners results: Mixed Green Salad Leaves

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Mixed green salad leavesThese Mixed Green Salad leaves can be grown all year round and are quick to grow in containers, on the windowsill indoors or outside during winter in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.  These leaves are perfect as a cut-and-come-again crop or for growing on to full lettuce heads.

As long as the plants have plenty of light and are kept frost-free, they will grow successfully to provide salad leaves year-round.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Mixed Green Salad Leaves in December 2013 as part of a windowsill growing challenge during the colder months of the year.  The table below charts their progress.

 

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 December 20 December Sown on North East facing windowsill. Very quick growth, etiolated seedlings moved to greenhouse after 10 days. Tastes like cress.
Renfrewshire 28m 16 December 20 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 31 December: Fairly good germination but several seedlings collapsed so not many surviving
North Devon 30-50m 12 December 15 December Sown indoors on South East facing windowsill. Although quick to germinate, they haven’t established into full leaves, still thin seedlings.
Worcestershire 55m 28 December 3 January Sown indoors on a South facing windowsill.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 18 January 23 January Sown on North facing windowsill.
Ceredigion 131m 6 December 9 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.  1 January: first picking, good flavour.
Bristol 55m 10 December 14 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 26 December: first picking
Suffolk 6m 7 December 10 December sown in propagator and then placed on West facing windowsill once germinated. Very leggy seedlings.
Hertfordshire 150m 8 December 14 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.
Surrey 58m 27 December 30 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 4 January 2014: Seedlings looking very strong & healthy
Pontypridd 157m 15 December 18 December (indoors)23 December (outdoors) Indoor sowings on North facing windowsill were quick to germinate, started to get ‘leggy’ so cut back. 31 December: first picking. Not bitter – tastelessOutdoor sowings were slower to germinate but the seedlings looked much stronger.
Buckinghamshire 66m 27 December 29 December Sown indoors on an East facing windowsill.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 31 December 2 January Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill, overshadowed by trees.
Derbyshire 241m 14 December 17 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill. 30 December: thick mat of seedlings by end of month, but not big enough to pick.

Nation of Gardeners results: Mixed Red Salad Leaves

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

mixed red saladThese Mixed Red Salad leaves can be grown all year round and are quick to grow in containers, on the windowsill indoors or outside during winter in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.  These leaves are perfect as a cut-and-come-again crop or for growing on to full lettuce heads.

As long as the plants have plenty of light and are kept frost-free, they will grow successfully to provide salad leaves year-round.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Mixed Red Salad Leaves in December 2013 as part of a windowsill growing challenge during the colder months of the year.  The table below charts their progress.

 

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 December 20 December Sown on North East facing windowsill. Very quick growth, etiolated seedlings moved to greenhouse after 10 days. Tastes like cress.
Renfrewshire 28m 16 December 20 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 31 December: Fairly good germination but several seedlings collapsed so not many surviving
North Devon 30-50m 12 December 15 December Sown indoors on South East facing windowsill. Although quick to germinate, they haven’t established into full leaves, still thin seedlings.
Worcestershire 55m 28 December 4 January Sown indoors on a South facing windowsill.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 18 January 23 January Sown indoors on a North facing windowsill
Ceredigion 131m 6 December 9 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.  1 January: first picking, good flavour.
Bristol 55m 10 December 14 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 26 December: first picking
Suffolk 6m 7 December 10 December Sown into propagator at 22 degrees C and then moved to went facing windowsill once germinated. Very leggy looking seedlings.
Hertfordshire 150m 8 December 14 December Sown indoors on North West facing windowsill.
Surrey 58m 27 December 30 December Sown indoors on South facing windowsill. 4 January 2014: Seedlings looking healthy but slightly behind green & spicy seedlings
Pontypridd 157m 15 December 19 December (indoors)23 December (outdoors) Indoor sowings on North facing windowsill were quick to germinate, started to get ‘leggy’ so cut back. 31 December: first picking. Not bitter – but plants very youngOutdoor sowings were slower to germinate but the seedlings looked much stronger.
Buckinghamshire 66m 27 December 29 December Sown indoors on an East facing windowsill.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 11 December 16 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill, overshadowed by trees. Got very ‘leggy’ indoors so moved them to a south facing lean to greenhouse, with full sun when it’s not raining most of the day.
Derbyshire 241m 14 December 17 December Indoor sowings on South facing windowsill. 30 December: thick mat of seedlings by end of month, but not big enough to pick.  23 January: started to damp off. 2 February: All lost