Growing winter greens
Green vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but it takes a bit of planning to ensure that you have them readily available in the home garden over winter. Especially the ones that can be eaten raw. But if you have a warm, frost-free area in your garden, or are able to provide a bit of shelter (as simple as some frost cloth or microclima draped over the bed, or you can grow the greens in large containers on a sunny deck or even indoors) then it is still possible to plant mesclun (aka ‘baby salad greens’), to provide leaves to be snipped for salad from late winter through to early spring. The same goes for corn salad (aka lamb’s lettuce). It is also worth experimenting with rocket and loose-leaf lettuce varieties that are winter hardy, as they provide the best supply of large-leaved salad greens over winter. Seeds for all these greens are available on-line from Kings Seeds. They have nine different blends of mesclun, including a special winter blend. They also have a slow-to-bolt variety of rocket, which is useful. (But stop the usual kind going to seed early by cutting off the flower stalks as soon as they form, and the plant will stay in leaf longer.)
Winter salad leaves team really well with roasted vegetables and a bit of cheese to make a hearty salad that can be a satisfying lunch. I team roasted beetroot chunks with rocket, feta or grilled haloumi cheese and avocado with a balsamic vinegar vinaigrette dressing, and roasted parsnip sticks with mesclun, blue cheese and pear with a lemon juice vinaigrette.
The other winter greens (cabbage, silverbeet, broccoli, etc.) should have been planted two-three months ago in order to heart or leaf up, and then they will generally stay in suspended animation in the garden over winter, to be harvested as required. However, I sometimes have success with pak choi and sprouting broccoli plants that go in later in a warm spot, and silverbeet/perpetual beet will keep growing (slowly) if it is grown under shelter or in a container in a sunny, sheltered spot. Do you have any other tips on growing greens over winter? Let’s hear them!