Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Friday, 6 January 2012

The 52 Week Salad Challenge Begins

Hurrah - lots of you have said you're up for the 52 Week Salad Challenge and lo, here we are in week 1! We have people from the UK, France and the USA all eager to have a go, so our salad is fast taking on an international flavour :)

Quite a few of you asked questions on how this is going to work, which is where today's kick-off post comes in...

The main idea is that we all grow and/or forage some salad leaves to eat every week this year. What and how much is entirely up to you. We're in completely different locations, have different tastes, levels of skill and resources available so devising something more specific to suit everyone would be very hard and might not be what you'd really like to do.

Over the year I'll be posting every Friday with ideas of what to grow, techniques to use and anything else I can think of that's salad related. I've already got oodles of ideas, but if there's something you'd particularly like me to post about, then let me know.

The fourth Friday of each month is designated as Salad Days. January's will be on the 27th and I'll list the rest of the dates then. I'll be posting on how my own personal challenge is progressing and you're invited to join in to tell us how you're getting along. I'll put up a Mr Linky for you to add your blog's URL so we can all come a-visiting. If you don't want to write your own post, you're most welcome to leave a Comment instead.

I've been thrilled at the response to my announcement post last month and also over on twitter. It's highlighted something I'd like to work really well this year: the opportunity for us to share hints and tips; pool our knowledge and to generally help each other out. I've learned loads already and I'm sure you and this challenge will help me to crack successional sowing at last!

It sounds like you've all been chatting away about this already! How do I join in?

Lots of people left comments in last month's post, so that's a good place to catch up. My Friday posts will also form a weekly meeting point going forward and I'll use Mr Linky on Salad Days to hoover up anything else I can find from your blogs. You're also welcome to use the picture at the top of this post to show you're joining in. It'll make it much easier for me to look out for you if you do - please copy and save the image rather than linking to it as the latter can slow down blog load times. I can email it to you if you'd prefer.

We've also been chatting away on twitter and I've favourited quite a few tweets I've seen so far with ideas and useful information which I'm aiming to link to or mention in future posts. If you're on twitter and would like to join in there, it would be great if you could use the #saladchat hashtag, so that we can easily find your tweets and join in. Who knows? We could even have a specific #saladchat time on there if you want one!

OK, I'm raring to go - what can I do right NOW?

There's loads you can do and it makes such a nice change from just poring over seed catalogues and dreaming about how wonderful the garden or plot will be this year :)

Like @GillyinAriege, you can start sprouting seeds which will be ready in as little as 2 days if you use the jar or tray method. This will be a staple crop over the next few weeks for those of you like me who are starting now. The above link will help you get started and I'm also putting a Fact Sheet together. Gilly is trying mung beans and alfalfa and I'm trying a newbie (for me) from the store cupboard: puy lentils.

For the longer term, you can also start indoor sowings of e.g. peas (for trendy pea shoots), rocket (nice and peppery leaves) and mizuna (a good lettuce substitute) in trays of growing media on brightly lit window sills. Mark at Vertical Veg heartily recommends growing broad bean shoots as well as peas.

You can also try growing super trendy microgreens on your windowsill like You Grow Girl shows in her very clear post. Try basil, broccoli, celery leaf (aka parcel), mustard, radish or rocket for starters.

NB Both indoor sowings and microgreens are a good way of using up some of those half finished packets of seed you may have from growing them last year.

There's also the possibility of foraging for edible weeds or flowers. I'll be trying hairy bittercress and Viola flowers (thanks for the idea Jane!) in my salad this week as I have both growing just a few yards away on my patio. If any of you have suggestions for other foraged goods to try now, do add them to the Comments below. I'll be looking at foraging in more detail in a later post.

Er, if I start my seed sprouts today, I won't have anything to show for Week One!

Don't worry, the key thing is to get started this week using any or all of the techniques outlined above which appeal to you. If you can't find anything to forage, then you can grow something to eat in as little as 2 days.

Has anyone jumped the gun and got started already?

Oh yes and they're a great source of inspiration and ideas!

Gwenfar got cracking and sowed lettuce Bronze Arrow, my fave HSL [Heritage Seed Library - Ed] variety, plus 2 Franchi green & red cut/come again lettuce, in unheated propagator & inside on sill a few days ago (via twitter, hence the quote rather than link); Mags has given me polytunnel envy with her first harvest of the year and Jono is picking a great array of some unusual varieties for us to try sowing later.

Note: if any of you are thinking about using up some of your old seed for this challenge (now or later on in the year), Gwenfar has written a very useful post about seed viability with a couple of downloadable references she's put together showing how long various vegetable and herb seeds remain viable for.

I've also found a couple of great salad related posts from Jekka McVicar (more ideas for what you can do now) and Noel Kingsbury (mainly inspirational and observational) this week. Jekka has persuaded me it's not too early to have a go with sowing some Nasturtiums :)

I'm using another technique/growing something you've not mentioned/add something clever of your own choice

That's great! Do tell us about what you're doing in the Comments below, or write a post on your blog, ready for inclusion in the Mr Linky for this month's Salad Days. We want to learn from your expertise :)

Remember, you might have been ultra good and started your winter crops last October (like Mags and Jono for instance) so you need to make it clear whether this is something we can do now, or if you're providing inspiration for what can be done later this year.

Um, what's Mr Linky, I haven't come across him before?

It's the clever widget used at the bottom [usually - Ed] of a host post for people to add their blog post URLs to when we're all posting about a common theme (aka meme). It makes it much easier to visit lots of other blogs in a quicker fashion. I use it for Out on the Streets (public planting examples) or collecting together everyone's posts about the Malvern shows over at Meet at Malvern. Carol for instance uses it for Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, so you may have come across it there.

I won't be able to post on the 27th but I can a couple of days later...

No problem, by using Mr Linky, it means you can add your post's URL when you're ready to and we'll be able to find it easily.

I've got started and already posted something!

Even better :) It's been great to see your posts and tweets about what you're up to - as you can see I've linked to the posts I've found already to provide some inspiration for us all. Why not tell us about your 52 Week Salad Challenge post in the Comments below? I'll make sure your post's URL is added to Mr Linky on the 27th. And don't forget to use the #saladchat hashtag for your salad related tweets :)

*whispers* I'm a complete beginner and I'm not sure what to do...

Don't worry - the idea is for us to learn from each other and provide encouragement. I'm no expert, so one of my personal challenges for this year is to try new techniques and new varieties. I particularly want to find some new flavours so my salads are less boring. I'll be outlining my personal challenge on the 27th and the idea is for you to find what suits you within the 52 Week Salad framework. Why not start by simply sprouting some seeds this week?

I'm in a completely different part of the UK/World to you

Fantastic. Gwenfar and I are really interested in finding out how things differ in your part of the world in terms of sowing times and the different varieties you grow and the techniques you've tried. This is one of blogging's strength over books as we can pool our knowledge and experience of different soils and climates (as well as varieties). I'll be writing about this in a later post.

*grins and polishes halo* I already grow salads every week of the year

That's brilliant. I'm really interested (so are Sally and Easygardener at least) in learning how you've cracked it. I'm sure you can find your own challenge within the 52 Week Salad framework which suits you. For instance, do you provide salad for every meal you want it for? Are there new techniques or varieties you'd like to try? Or how about adding an extra leaf to your usual mix?

I'd love to join in the challenge but I don't have a blog :(

No problem. I don't want a lack of a blog to be a barrier to you joining in. You're always welcome to join in via the Comments on my weekly 52 Week Salad Challenge posts and you can read about what we're all doing via Mr Linky in the monthly Salad Days :)

Wish I'd known about this earlier, it's too late to start now :(

It's never too late! Why not start your 52 weeks right now? You're in a better position to avoid all the mistakes we've made so far and all the posts you've missed are being collected into the 52 Week Salad Challenge page ready for you to use them when needed.

NB I've put a new Page in the sidebar on the right which will include a summary of all the salad challenge posts and a month-by-month guide of what you can do. You can help me put this together for January by leaving a Comment about any salad leaf varieties you've found work well at this time of the year.

Right, I think that's it for now. If you have a question not answered by the above, do add it to the Comments below.

Next Week: I'll be looking at seed sprouting in more detail, which will include some fab info from @GillyinAriege :)

38 comments:

  1. Yay!! I am so up for this.

    Do you know what, I haven't even sowed a seed this year yet (if you don't count the garlic) and don't intend to till next month. But...

    Just went out in the garden to see if there was anything that might be counted as salad ingredients and here's what I found.

    - young beetroot leaves sprouting from my overwintering crop
    - some baby ruby chard leaves
    - a few radish seedpods, still green (really peppery, delish)
    - chickweed (is there anyone who doesn't have chickweed?!)
    - sorrel
    - little onion seedling leaves to snip (sparingly) and use like salad onions
    - nasturtiums

    Not bad for someone who 'doesn't have any salad', eh?!

    Just goes to show there's more out there than you think....

    Looking forward to the 27th :D

    S x

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  2. This sounds like fun!
    I've never grown my own greens, but I have carrots growing now. I've been able to pull a few several times a week since before Christmas! (I did a Wordless Wednesday post on carrots in December). And when warmer temperatures get here, I plan to grow tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers to add to my salads. Okay, I'll try salad greens this year!
    Lea
    Mississippi, USA

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  3. This is a great idea! I've only tried my hand at herbs and some fruit and veg before, not grown salad, so this is a great excuse to give it a go!

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  4. I am interested in this...I've got leaf lettuce just about ready for picking so I think I'm good to go for now. Looking forward to your posts!

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  5. Looking forward to learning loads and growing some new to me crops/trying new techniques VP. Nipped into Wilkos for one or two odds and ends this morning to get me going. Resisted their new blue cell seed trays :)

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  6. I'm up for this too - I have just picked a winter lettuce -
    Winter Marvel - which I sowed last October, some in a container outside covered in fleece and some in a container in the glass lean-to outside my kitchen. I also have beetroot leaves, chard & nasturtium leaves.

    Linda

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  7. Great idea, I fed chickweed to my chickens today though before I read this!

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  8. I'm so glad I decided last September that I'd need lots of salad for the post-Christmas diet (it's good to make new year resolutions three months in advance!) I hope I can keep it up though. I'm looking forward to picking up lots of lovely new salady ideas.

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  9. sprouting Puy lentils from the store cupboard? I read that seeds for sprouting are not treated, as the for eating ones are with chemicals to prevent sprouting. True? In Switzerland I dutifully bought for-sprouting-seeds at the health food shop (quaintly called Reformhaus)

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  10. A friend in C'ham sent me your link, so here I am. DH and I are snowbirding in Florida this year, so I brought pots and seeds along. Onion sets, radishes, snap peas, and both red and green leaf lettuces are up and doing well. Potted herbs and a bush tomato bought along the way complete the group: rosemary, basil, flat-leaf parsley, chives, and chocolate mint. We are looking forward to some smashing salads, and I will look forward to hearing others' ideas, too! Cheers!

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  11. I have my seeds at the ready courtesy of Wyvale's 10p seed packet sale this week! I bought a variety of salad leaves and lettuces that can be grown in a cold frame or under a cloche. I dont have the former, so wine boxed covered in a cloche will be how I attempt this.

    Ate moussaka with a fresh salad and French bread ( one of my fave meals) to remind myself why I should be growing these as the bag of salad leaves cost £1.50!!!!

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  12. VP, what a fun idea. I'm going to try to get into the swing of it. I might not make it to have salad every week, but I'm shooting for every fourth Friday.

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  13. At the moment I have three containers of salad leaves in the greenhouse that I have been regularly picking, from a sowing in October, plus some container onions that I have been using the tops of rather than chives which have disappeared underground.

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  14. Great Idea, i've been trying to persuade people to grow all year round salad for ages. Feeling rather smug about what i'm harvesting this week at the moment, but a challenge that keeps me thinking about it all year will be great. - count me in

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  15. Hello! I want to join in too - I couldn't use the pic at the top to do so, like you say in the post above, sorry - but I'm here. I haven't focussed on gardening very much before - but I moved house last year, and now I have a little plot thats just right for me, that gets a fair amount of sun too. I've got garlic I planted myself, some herbs I put in, and quite a few herbs and fruits that are already here.

    Since this is the last day of the first week, I'll be either sprouting some mung beans (I have loads of dried mung beans at the mo) or growing some cress. Gulp. Its quite a commitment!

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  16. A great idea Michelle. As I promised on twitter, I've done a photo round-up of what we have available in our plot. I found loads of stuff:

    Carl's salad pictures


    Recipes to come next... :)

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  17. Consider me signed up. This is one New Year resolution I will stick to.

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  18. just seen Carl's post and would love to join in! just been out to see what's about in the garden and am going to start some seeds today :)

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  19. A while ago I declared I was going to give up salad because it was so boring - but to be fair my ideas have changed (as have my tastes). And especially so since we started growing our own. I still have some leaves that have 'gone to seed' but I reckon they taste ok and keep munching on them every time I pass the shed.

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  20. Count me in!
    I did sow some lettuce seeds in a tray in the greenhouse hoping for some December salad but sadly nothing germinated and I had to buy some ready bagged from M&S... However, my greenhouse clear-out didn't happen and so the seed tray sat there for a few weeks. I've now got 2 little lettuce seedlings that I've transferred to pots - hopefully I'll have a harvest for the end of the month!

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  21. Welcome to everyone commenting for the first time!

    Fab - thanks for your replies and joining in! :D

    CG - a good list, but Carl has loads - shows just what we all can do. I went out with my camera yesterday and 5 salad ingredients and that was just on the patio!

    Diana - I've never had any problems with storecupboard sprouting - might be a South African thing? I DO know supermarket garlic is treated though and grows very poorly if used as a crop rather than a cooking ingredient. Is that what you might be thinking of? Also seeds for sowing are usually treated, unless they're organic. Therefore I wouldn't recommend them for jar/tray sprouting - only for shoots grown in compost and just those (not the roots) are harvested.

    SVG - most lettuce needs 10 degrees C for germination to occur, so the recent mild spell's probably why yours has now started :)

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  22. Oh I like this idea. I'm thinking perhaps I will both record the leaves I'm eating (many varieties grow well in Melbourne all year round)and try and come up with a new salad recipe a month for the post.

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  23. Love the idea of this. I must admit that salad doesn't excite me all that much but the idea of it does! I recently saw Clarissa Dixon-Wright adding some leaves to a dish as an accompaniment and she said that salad was a waste of time. For once, at that moment I warmed to her.
    I think what is important here, apart from the wonder that there will be leaves available all year round if we only look or plant a few seeds, is how you mix those leaves to highlight their particular assets, make more of them and how you dress them. That is what makes a salad really worthwhile to me and what I want to explore more of. Really looking forward to following along here.

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  24. this has reminded me to get back into the regular habit of seed sprouting again - I look forward to future episodes!

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  25. I managed 52 week salad ingredients last year and I'm looking forward to it again but with a little more variety this time. I live on the coast and can gather samphire when it's in season. It costs an arm and a leg in posh restaurants but it's free up here.

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  26. Fantastic comments everyone, thank you :)

    Lu - I've just been writing Friday's seed sprouting post - you will have no excuse not to!

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  27. I've only just heard about this, so I've missed the first two weeks, but I would love to join in, as it hits a lot of buttons for me.

    I love growing food, and adore foraging. I want to get more interesting salads and dressings in my repertoire, as I usually fall back on the same ingredients, but have been inspired to do better by a recent trip to Melbourne, where there are some amazing salads to be had. I am also a dismal failure at successional planting, so this should help me to learn.

    I have guinea pigs, who need a lot of greens, so by joining in this challenge, I will also be able to feed them better all year round.

    Luckily, I have a really sheltered garden, which still has some mizuna, endive, fennel and other bits and pieces, so I can get going right away, and then I can get sprouting for subsequent weeks.

    Reporting back will hopefully help me not to flake out on this as well.

    Great suggestion, thanks

    Mel

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    1. Great Mel and thanks for your first post :)

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  28. I just have a coriander plant, coriander seedlings and parsley plants which I use in salads at the moment. May start sprouting some chickpeas and green lentils at the weekend.
    Sandra http://livingin22.blogspot.com

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    1. Those sound delicious! I see you have a very roomy polytunnel just crying out for some salad growing soon :)

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  29. I just stumbled across this challenge and I love it. Writing my first blog post now. (Better late than never.) Looking forward to a year of yummy salads I've grown myself. =D

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    1. Hi Monica - thanks for joining in! I'll come over and get your link for Mr Linky in our Salad Days roundup :)

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  30. Thanks for inviting me to join the 52 week Salad Challenge. Its something that I try to do anyway!

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    1. Hi Giggler and welcome - I think it was Emma Cooper who invited you, but you're welcome to join in :)

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  31. Still sprouting!
    http://miskcooks.com/2012/02/23/and-i-just-keep-sprouting/

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  32. Misk Cooks - thanks and I've added your post to Mr Linky :)

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  33. I'm oh, so late, but I'm in. Prob moving home halfway through year so that will be another challenge to add in. PS this is such a fantastic idea - huge potential for the future - tv series, soon?

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  34. Hi Mark - it's great to have you join in :)

    The best part about this challenge is your year can start whenever you want! Good luck with the house move.

    Psst! I've added some of your posts already to the monthly roundups because you've been joining in on #saladchat already and you've had some very good posts I wanted to make sure got shared.

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