Fall Salad Garden

Lettuce in a cold frame photoWe planted our fall garden last weekend. Several weeks from now, we will have a beautiful variety of baby greens, radishes, spinach, and tiny carrots. I can almost taste that first salad now. If you’ve never had fresh lettuce, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s extra crispy, juicy and flavorful. You will realize that those fresh greens at the grocery store aren’t so fresh after all.

In anticipation of lower fall and winter temperatures, we planted our tender lettuce varieties in cold frames set into our raised garden bed. The cold frames contain approximately twenty varieties of lettuce, each one with it’s own unique characteristics… from sweet to peppery. We won’t have freezing temps for quite some time (I hope), so the lids will stay open for now. Later, when the weather gets chilly, the lids will be partially closed at night and opened again during the day. It gets incredibly hot in a closed cold frame during the day, even in the middle of winter. If you don’t have a cold frame, you can cover your greens with a bed sheet, a light tarp or a piece of plastic on cold nights. If you’re feeling industrious, you can also rig up a row cover using PVC pipe and sheets of plastic.

Hardier salad garden plants (spinach, carrots and radishes) are planted outside of the cold frames. I’m especially excited about the carrots. I’ve heard that winter carrots are extra sweet after a frost. My dogs love carrots, but I doubt they will notice the difference between winter carrots and store carrots.

Even though we sowed the seeds earlier this week, some of them have already germinated! I don’t know which is more delightful, watching the winter salad garden grow or eating the fresh greens.

Hey! It’s not too late to plant your fall salad garden. If you don’t have a garden or raised beds, you can grow lettuce directly in soil bags. Set the bags in a sunny spot, slit them open and sow the seed. Be sure to protect the seedlings on frosty evenings. Here’s another idea… create a soil bag garden in a wagon and pull it indoors when the temps are below freezing.

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8 thoughts on “Fall Salad Garden

  1. I really love your cold frame, very nice. We planted our cold frame about a month ago and will start picking our salad lettuce next Monday. The wife got me hooked on the fresh from the garden salads this summer and it will be tough not having them available in a few months. Oh well could be worse, but winter is coming soon up heah in Maine.

    • Thanks Harold. Enjoy the fresh lettuce while you can! I’m originally from Wisconsin and completely understand your winter weather issues.

    • I ordered the cold frames from a company on the internet. This is their second year in use and they aren’t holding up that well… kinda flimsy. I would have been better off making my own. One easy idea, especially in cold climates, is to make a box using bales of straw topped with a window that can be pulled back as needed.

  2. Really great information, Julie… I felt a smidgen of jealousy as I read your bit about the fresh lettuce. Wisconsin weather does not allow such latitude in growing fresh vegetables. The straw/window idea is an intriguing one though. That’s worth a try. Do you know anyone who has tried it here in the north?

    • I don’t know of anyone who has had a fall garden in Wisconsin, though I’m sure there are some. One thing some northern fall gardeners do is dig a rectangular hole in the ground (6-12 inches deep) for added protection from the weather. Here’s some info about extending the growing season in northern climates… http://onestrawrob.com/?page_id=1612

  3. Must be nice! I’ll be shoveling snow here in WI in a few short weeks. You can send me a fresh, green salad
    in the mail, though.

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