Project P.R.F. (Perpetual Rabbit Food)


...or the other way 'round...

Keeping ourselves in salad greens this year thus far has been pretty darn easy. Lettuce, which can disappoint with bolting, wilting or just plain refusing to grow has actually loved this cool, wet weather which we've been having. The next step, keeping all this abundance up during winter is doable, it just takes a little forward planning in the months ahead. Bearing this in mind and with Charles Dowding's How to grow Winter Vegetables in hand (my new BFF, who joins Francis Rose and David Attenborough as BFFs who as of yet may not know that I exist.) I have just begun the initial sowings of my autumn/winter/painfully-early-spring salad mix.

A selection of winter-hardy(ish) greens to keep us in salad all winter. Mustard, mizuna, lambs lettuce and rocket will grace our salad bowls after they've spent a few months outside under a cosy blanket of fleece, beyond which will be the hardier plants: cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts, already in place and growing away in the main veg bed. If you haven't sown any yet, quick! Do it now and you might just get them to size before the winter frosts arrive.

Good, green tasty things to provide relief from the total domination of cabbages and brussel sprouts- also good, but at some point between Christmas and Valentines, I suspect I will say 'enough is enough'. In my lovely leafy selection are a range of mild and peppery things which will -Charles assures me- probably survive the winter, eeking out precious little when compared to the gluts of summer but enough to keep me out of the imported salad section of the local Tescos. I shall also sow leeks, leeks and more leeks (I luva leek), beetroots and - in early spring- lots of little black violas, which will peep out from all those leeks like little full stops, peppering the ground to form a carpet of beady-eyed cheer in the leek forest. The variety of leek is 'Musselborough', not the 'Bandit' or 'Atlanta' which Charles recommends, but they are still hardy and should pull through just fine.

In the meantime, while all this green tastyness is growing I can finally start appreciating my self-saved black poppies. These are Papaver somniferum, and can be found growing in a variety of forms throughout the countryside, most often a varying pink or lilac shade with darker purple sploches at the base of each petal. Last year, I bought a pack of double red and double black seeds and when they produced their seeds, I saved them and then sowed them this past spring. They've been slow coming on, not helped by the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad weather and their bottom leaves have been looking more and more ragged and mildewy, tempting me to rip them out before they infected something else.

One of last year's more typical volunteers

Patience has begun to pay off however, as now each nodding head has begun to lift and slowly the two half-shells covering the tissue-thin petals have just started to split, revealing shining, inky tones of deepest purple and reddest red. Hover flies have already begun buzzing around, which is great. They're excellent things to attract as they and their larva love nothing more than to munch aphids, of which no garden ever seems to have a shortage. Really, planting single-petals varieties of flower is best as the pollen and nectar is much more accessible without a froth of petals in their way, but they do seem to be able to push past the soft floppy poppy petals and several seem to have nestled themselves inside already.

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  1. I see our sowings have a lot in common :)

    You're in good hands with Charles Dowding. I have a liking for Francis Rose and David Attenborough too!

  2. I find watercress grows really vigorously in winter here - I know we are a lot milder but it might be worth a look too.

  3. I've got some landcress, which will hopefully help satisfy the watercress cravings. How do you grow yours? Please don't tell me you have lovely milder weather And a babbling brook... :)


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