As autumn draws to an end, many gardeners are looking forward to putting their vegetable garden “to bed” until the coming spring. But before you start putting away your tools, why not consider extending your garden into the winter months? In Georgia it is possible to grow something year-round, and it is enjoyable to garden in our mild winters when temperatures are cooler and pests are gone.
If you are a new gardener or just want to extend your harvest through the winter, try growing a salad bowl container with a mix of baby greens. It’s a great learning project for a beginner gardener and also a great project for the advanced gardener who wants to enjoy a fresh salad crop in December!
To get the DIY information on growing a salad bowl of mixed baby greens, I spent time with local organic farmer, Mike Cunningham, who with wife, Judy, is owner of Country Gardens Farm in Newnan. According to Mike, baby greens, including lettuces, Bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, and arugula are “come and cut again” plants that grow quickly, can be snipped when about two inches tall, and will then continue to grow again for additional harvests until about February.
Mike’s Tips to Create a Winter Salad Bowl
- Shallow containers (salad bowls) that are about 12” in diameter
- Potting Medium –Pro-Mix Potting Soil (a peat-based mix) or Lambert All-Purpose Potting Mix (a blend of coarse Canadian sphagnum peat moss, coarse perlite and medium vermiculite)
- AZOMITE® – a broad spectrum natural mineral product mined in Utah and distinct from any other mineral deposit in the world.
- Plant-tone, an organic fertilizer by Espoma
- Baby Leaf Greens Variety Seed Mix by Johnny’s Select Seeds – order online
Fill containers (salad bowls) with dampened potting mix and stir in Plant-tone organic fertilizer according to package directions. Sprinkle 3-4 seeds per inch in the containers and tamp down for good seed to soil contact. Keep the soil damp but not soggy during germination. You should start seeing seedlings coming up in 4-5 days. Plants should be mature and ready for first cutting (two inches tall) in about four weeks. Cut them back, and they will come again! If temperatures are due to be in the 20s, move containers to a sheltered spot in your garage. If you are planting in a garden bed, cover with a row cover material during freezing temperatures.
If you still aren’t inspired to plant a fall and winter garden, Mike suggests you plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden bed. Sow a cover crop of legumes, like Hairy Vetch or crimson clover, and these annuals will help keep out weeds and add much-needed nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil so your plants will thrive next spring.
Check out Mike and Judy Cunningham’s vegetable gardening classes at countrygardensfarm.com. On the website you can find Mike’s blog with steps to growing baby greens (countrygardensfarm.com/growing-baby-greens), and Judy’s salad dressing recipes (countrygardensfarm.com/category/salad-dressings). For more information on vegetable gardening, pick up a copy of Mike Cunningham’s book, Seven Steps to an Organic Vegetable Garden at the farm stand at Country Gardens Farm on Hwy 154 in Newnan or order a copy on Amazon.
Judy Cunningham’s Simple Salad Dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash cumin powder
Sea salt to taste
Combine and toss with salad. Change it up by adding different herbs.