How to Grow Quick Late-Season Salad Crops

Reader Contribution by Mother Earth News Editors
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Many hardy salad leaves are fast-growing and will give a harvest before winter if sown in late summer. If provided protection from the cold, they may even continue cropping right through winter and into spring.

Reliable salad leaves to try include: mustards, tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, winter varieties of lettuce, American or land cress, kales for salad and mâche (otherwise known as lamb’s lettuce or corn salad).

Sowing Late Salad Leaves

Grow late season salad leaves in the sunniest area you have available. Lightly dig the ground over and rake it level. Most salad leaves should be sown into drills spaced about 12 inches apart. Sow your seeds thinly, cover them over with soil, and water them. Germination will be quick in the warm soil. Thin seedlings in stages until they’re about 3 or 4 inches apart.

Sowing under cover into plug trays or small pots makes slug damage less likely. Sow about two to five seeds per plug tray cell or pot. Once the seedlings have filled their cells, transplant them outdoors about 9 inches apart in both directions.

Planning Late Salad Crops

Our Vegetable Garden Planner will help if you’re not sure what can be sown now in your region. To find out what can be sown now, simply click the “Filter” button and select the “Suitable for Fall Planting/Harvesting” option, or a specific sowing and planting month. Click “OK” and the selection bar will show only those plants, including salads, that are suitable for sowing at that time.

Another handy tip is to use the succession planting feature. Double-click on plants in your plan, mark which months they’re in the ground, then view your plan month-by-month to see where gaps will appear, making it easy to decide where to grow your fall salads.

Growing Late Salad Leaves

Water your late salad crops if the weather is dry to encourage plenty of leafy growth. Harvest leaves regularly once they’ve reached the size you need, picking just a few outer leaves from each plant at a time.

As light levels and temperatures begin to fall, place row covers or cloches over your salads to keep them growing for a few weeks longer. Alternatively, sow into cold frames or a greenhouse border.

Salads in Containers

Leafy salads are great for growing in containers. Pack containers with rich potting soil and keep them watered in dry weather, particularly terracotta pots, which tend to dry out fast. Raise pots off the ground to reduce problems with slugs.

Get More Tips with These Great Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

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