Last week was definitely a week for wellies. We had so much rain when I went up to the plot to pick up a leek the paths were squelching under my feet. It’s in weather like this that I’m so glad I put in the paths between my beds on the plot. No need to walk on sodden ground to pick my leeks and kale and because I haven’t damaged the structure of the soil I won’t need to rotivate the soil next Spring.
With little to do on the plot and plants still flowering in the garden so the post-frost tidy-up is still to come, I decided on a new little project. I love trying new ideas or ways of growing plants. This autumn I sowed some cut and come again lettuce, rocket and red pak choi in troughs and put them in my coldframe at the front of the house.
They’ve worked really well, providing me with a good supply of salad leaves through the autumn and being just by the front door I can pop out on a morning and pick a handful to make up Wellyman’s packed lunch. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep them going though. Damp conditions and low light levels are the perfect conditions for botyrtis, a fungal disease that rots leafy tissue like salad leaves.
So I thought I’d give some microgreens a try. Microgreens are simply leafy edible plants such as salad leaves, brassicas and herbs that are picked when they are about 5cms high. They are more of a garnish really, a bit like a multicoloured, multiflavoured cress. Microgreens became really popular a couple of years ago, especially in fancy restaurants. I have spotted some bags of them in my local supermarket and in delis but they are expensive to buy, so I’m not sure whether they have taken off or not.
I spotted an already blended packet of seeds at the garden centre at the weekend so I thought I’d give them a try and if they work and we like them I’ll make up my own blend. You can use all sorts of seeds – chard, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, radish, coriander and basil to mention just a few. The packet does say you shouldn’t sow them between November and February but the RHS website says this is the perfect time of year for microgreens. So bowing to the RHS, and what I hope is it’s superior knowledge, I went ahead and sowed them.
I filled 2 seed trays with peat-free compost, sowed the seed liberally on the surface and then lightly covered with compost. Finally, I stood the trays in some water and then let them drain before placing on my kitchen windowsill. I’m hoping there will be enough warmth and light for them to germinate and then once they have produced their seed leaves and then their first true leaves you can snip them off and eat them. Although the cuttings are small they have a really intense flavour. The RHS suggest you can even grow them like you do cress, in a tray with some wet kitchen roll. Unlike cut and come again lettuce though, once you have picked these they won’t continue to grow. So to have a good supply it is best to sow every 2 weeks. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be able to report back and say whether microgreens are a worthy winter project.