Monday, 26 October 2009

Winter Salads

Can it really be possible? Salad leaves all winter through? Well it has to be worth a try.

A quick scan of the seed company catalogues will give you more choices than you can shake a stick at. I decided to plump for mostly 'cut & come again' leaves with one heart forming lettuce - the king of winter lettuces - Lettuce Valdor (seeds shown above).

I filled four Home Allotment Willow Planters with John Innes no 3 and topped off with a couple of inches of no. 2. The John Innes compost system is a long standing favorite of gardeners - they are soil based composts which unlike peat ones (or peat substitute) are much easier to 'wet' again if you have (shock horror) let them dry out. There's a different 'number' for each stage of growing - I picked no.2 to help the seedlings get off to a good start and layered it on top of No. 3 which the established roots will grow down into.

The no. 2 was sieved through a potting riddle to get rid of any big bits - imagine a tiny seedling trying to push one of these boulders out of the way.

At last the sowing - I broadcast the seeds, sprinkling them all over the surface of the Planters, rather than planting in lines as you might in a traditional veg patch.

A firm growing platform is best for seeds - I used a tamper to gently compact and level the surface of the soil before covering the seeds with a thin layer of riddled compost.

Labelling (variety and date) - almost the last thing on the list - and so important for tracking which varieties do well and how long they take till you can start eating them.

Finally, watered my new crop-to-be and with a bit of luck, Bob'll be my uncle.

For the record, this is what went in the planters:

Herb Burnett: Will grow to 30cm and has a fresh cucumber taste. Leaves can also be used as a tonic tea, said to be good for the skin.

Lettuce Valdor: Actively loves the cold. A butterhead variety said to be the King of winter lettuces - should be ready for harvest by early spring.

Land Cress: I've never even heard of this before - apparently tastes very much like watercress but with a smaller leaf. Likes cool, moist conditions and should be ready to eat in 8 weeks!

Golden Purslane: Green leaves on beautiful red stems. Use as a salad leaf when young (8-10cm high) or allow to grow bigger and use the stems in stir fries.

Corn Salad: A lamb's lettuce that should grow prolifically over the winter. Pick a few leaves at a time from each plant.

Texsel Greens: A fast growing leaf developed from Ethiopian mustard. Tastes a bit like spinach - actually can be cooked like spinach if you let the leaves mature a little.

The Great Burgon & Ball Staff Marrow Growing Competition

to grow the heaviest marrow

Kit bag provided to all staff:
1 x Home Allotment Planting bag
seedling labels
marrow seeds
simple instructions

Friday 4th September 2009

1st £75
2nd £50
3rd £25

After much rivallry between the 2 Burgon & Ball offices with the Sheffield entrants moaning and groaning that the sunny south would have an unfair advantage, it turned out that the rainy north stole the day - winning 1st and 2nd places.

1st Place: John Osowski, Shear Bender, 3.6kg

2nd Place: Mac MacFarlane, Shear Grinder, 3.15kg
3rd Place: Peter Jackson, Chairman, 2.72kg

and the best of the rest.....

Julie Short, Engineer
Tim Vine, Company Secretary

Carol Hartley, Accounts
Stuart Turner, Foreman

Maria Bevis, Sales Administrator
Barbara Oates, Purchasing

 Nicola Reed, Design