Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Friday, 24 May 2013

Salad Days: Off Experimenting Again

As you can see the windowsill grown lettuces have come on in leaps and bounds over the past month and I've been harvesting them over the past couple of weeks. It's just as well I've been growing these, as the lettuces outside - whilst under various cloches and cold frames - are still shivering away and haven't put on much growth.

The one exception to that is 'Black Seeded Simpson'. Bren said it's a hardy variety and she's right! I'll be starting to harvest those leaves sometime next week, after I've finished with the pictured batch of 'Amaze' for the time being.

Just before I started harvesting, I realised I have the ideal conditions for a little experimenting. There are at least 3 different methods of harvesting: whole plant, cut and come again and picking. It wasn't until last year  that I realised cut and come again and picking are different harvesting methods. The above picture shows you the difference: the picked lettuce in the foreground is left with a central core of intact leaves, whilst the cut one to the rear is cut completely across and left to regenerate.

Both methods are deemed to be superior to the whole plant harvesting method because the yield and/or harvesting period can be extended substantially. Cut salads will regenerate leaves about three times and last year I was able to pick 'red salad bowl' leaves from July until the first frosts in November. It was perfect for growing salads in small spaces. However, I've yet to find any references as to which method does indeed have the highest or longest yield, so I'm off experimenting again - using my windowsill grown lettuces this time :)

I also have some oca to experiment with. The tubers are teeny tiny and Thompson & Morgan have seen fit to issue a notice admitting they're small (owing to huge demand this year), but they should still grow OK. Owing to the cool weather I've chitted them first, which showed one of the tubers isn't viable. The rest are now planted into modules with some coir and are awaiting the warmer weather (at the end of the month - in theory) and planting out time. Oca can be used in salads, so I've added it to my Challenge for this year. NB if you're growing oca (or achocha), you might like to help Emma Cooper out with her M.Sc dissertation project by filling out a short questionnaire.

This month I've also learnt:

  • The pictured mustards, pak choi and mizuna were indeed ready as estimated last month. However, they're going straight to seed! Even though the weather is still cool, they're still flowering at their usual time. Luckily the elongated stems and flowers are also delicious in salads. I wonder if this means daylength is the trigger for flowering?
  • The difference between hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics is growing plants in water without soil, or with a vastly reduced amount (like my windowsill planter). Aquaponics is the same, with the introduction of fish into the system. This reduces the amount of nutrients needed as the waste products from the fish provide them instead. More on hydroponics to come...
  • Putting spiky pruned rose twigs on veg beds (as shown in Veg Street) really does stop cats using them (the veg beds that is) as a loo.
How's your salad this month? Add the link to the URL of your salad post in Mr Linky below, or leave a comment...

The 52 Week Salad Challenge is sponsored by Greenhouse Sensation.

Note to readers: sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs and does not affect my independence.


  1. Hi Michelle,

    I hope that I'm back, after I've been away due to having to look after a family member. However, I'm really far behind at the minute due to never being at home for the last few months. I'm going to try and forage for a post for the next roundup, but I may have to watch from the sidelines until my seeds have caught up.

    I tried the plucking method last year. the Big Guy, the guinea pigs, and I ate like kings from only a few plants. Of course, I cannot compare this to cutting, but it certainly was successful in terms of crops. It works well in a no-dig situation as well.

  2. My best salad so far this month (and year!) is the self-sown chickweed which I'm eating every day. I also have a small amount of mizuna and rocket in amongst the weeds, and some radishes nearly ready to harvest. #mustryharder

  3. I'll be interested to hear how your OCAs do. I bought some at a local potato fair, chitted them, put them in pots, and they are doing rather nicely, even the tiniest most shriveled one. I'm just a little wary of where to plant them out so they don't take over the plot!

  4. Thanks for hosting Salad Days!
    I very much enjoy reading and learning about growing lettuce and other salad ingredients. I've added my post on growing onions.
    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea's Menagerie
    Mississippi, USA

  5. I'll join in on the first Monday in June when I do my garden veg bed with lettuces has been thwarted by I am growing micro greens in shallow containers

  6. Have you met aerponics? Touted as a vertical gardening solution for the future. The plants are misted. I dunno, sounds a bit utopian to me.

  7. Mel - great to see you back and I hope all's well with your family now. You're quite right, the picking method works really well with a small number of plants over several months. I did really well for the 2 of us with just 9 lettuce plants last year, supplemented with various herbs, rocket and nasturtiums. It's a great way of having a productive yet tiny space :)

    Colleen - yes, they do seem to need quite a bit of space! It'll be interesting to see how they do compared to potatoes.

    Lea - thanks Lea - it was interesting to read about your experiments, especially as I haven't done much with salad onions so far :)

    Donna - I'll look out for you then, thank you :)

    Diana - I have, but haven't tried it. I've started reading up on it in earnest in preparation for my hydroponics post...

  8. Hi Michelle, I have been lousy at blogging this past month, but thanks to "Black Seeded Simpson", "Marvel of Four Seasons" and the rather over named "Maravilla De Verano Canasta" I have ample salad despite my mustards and rocket going to seed a couple of weeks ago. I sowed them in mid February and have been picking them for over six weeks now, in fact I could have been picking earlier but I kept forgetting about them. Marvelously robust, all three. Will be fascinated to see what your trials say about picking vs cut and come again, though for me picking always works best as I am usually picking just for me. I felt really good at being able to deliver lush colourful salads to visitors for the past two weeks though, best lettuces ever, thanks to the strange lack of slugs...


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