Grow Your Own Autumn Salad – Tips For Beginners

What constitutes an autumn salad is not defined botanically, but derives from its use in the kitchen to refer to the appropriate seasonally available leafy vegetables. Although the latter can be obtained in supermarkets throughout the year, it is often difficult for the self-supporter to have the vegetable in stock in the fall. The reason is almost always that there is only a small window of opportunity for the sowing seasons of late crops. If you have missed it, there is no harvest and, in addition, comes that you can not get these special seedlings in the garden markets factually.

Another reason for the fairly rare cultivation of autumn crops is that the average gardener is initially deterred by the abundance of many species and varieties. Thus, there are head, pluck and cut lettuces, and among them the group of romaine lettuce forms. There are endives, chicory and radicchio.

With these different types and varieties, there is another main problem and that is the attached growing instructions of the vegetables. My experience on this is that in a good 90% of these growing instructions, the sowing dates of the garden vegetables are given too late. Because the main cultivation areas of the autumn lettuces (and the seeds) are in Southern Europe and North Africa, the cultivation instructions, which work there, probably also come from there – but not here.


The third reason why the autumn vegetables are generally difficult to grow is simply that in the allotment garden the growing areas, which are to be cultivated from the end of June to the beginning of August, are occupied with summer vegetables at this time. Therefore, for the planned autumn cultivation beds, so-called precultures are needed, which are harvested at the latest at the beginning of July in order to then plant the seedlings of the late lettuces there.

These precultures are quickly mentioned below. But we should get into the habit right in the spring, when we plant, for example, a bed of early potatoes, the same subsequently for planting sugar loaf chicory lettuce. On a cleared bed of sugar snap peas we could sow romaine lettuce habitually every year, etc.
Suitable precrops are: Early potatoes, early peas, capuchin peas, early bush beans, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes and early radishes.

Another option is mixed cropping with strawberries, for example, which I describe below. With this I will begin to describe the different autumn varieties and their peculiarities in cultivation, each with a practical and concrete example:

Picking lettuce and strawberries in mixed culture.

To have plenty of fresh lettuce in the garden until frost, the simplest and my recommended method of cultivation is the following: Sow the time-honored ‘American Brown’ pickerel lettuce variety on an outdoor seed bed on June 15 and then transplant it on July 15. From August 15, the lettuce can already be harvested. Since only the lower large leaves are ever picked from this lettuce, harvesting is possible until the end of September/beginning of October or until the first frost.

I like to plant ‘American Brown’ on July 15 between two rows of freshly set strawberries, making the most of this free space. As I wrote elsewhere, you should also have the new strawberries in the ground by mid-July, because this early date gives higher yields than later plantings. At the same time, I sow another set in mid-July, which can then be harvested from early October, weather permitting.
‘American Brown’ is an old, true-to-seed variety. To propagate it yourself, sow it in early spring and then allow a few plants to flower and go to seed. Then in August the seeds can be harvested in dry weather.

Lettuce in the fall and late fall.

I found this growing method in an old gardening book [1]: Common lettuce sown* between June 15-30 and planted in late July/early August will continue to produce magnificent heads until fall. Before the frost, the bed is enclosed with a temporary cold frame (for example, boards + windows). I took a temporary foil tunnel for this purpose and covered the planted bed with it in the fall (picture). However, the foil greenhouse or cold frame must be ventilated a little in mild weather. Otherwise, it remains closed and you protect it with increasing cold from the sides with shaken leaves. This is usually done in early October.

The lettuce heads will hardly grow now, but they will last a very long time this way, at least until Christmas, and can be harvested quite conveniently by then. It is also possible to dig out the individual plants with soil balls and knock them in the empty greenhouse or cold frame. This transplanting must be done in dry weather and before the lettuce plants have frost. Do not water the lettuce after planting, otherwise it will rot.

Sugarloaf lettuce (meat cabbage) and radicchio.

Both are chicory lettuces (Cichorium intybus ssp. foliosum), which are much less sensitive to frost than the garden lettuce varieties, only they are somewhat bitterish in taste, but this is exactly what is expected from an autumn lettuce. “Sugarloaves” are sown around June 10*, radicchios better already on June 1 and transplanted as soon as the seedling has two leaves and beds are free. Then until autumn develop healthy lush lettuce plants, which can withstand even the first night frosts. Ready for harvesting first specimens are often as early as the end of September – growth stops only in November, and until then harvesting.
Growing instructions for sugarloaf chicory (fleshweed) are here.

Sources and tips:

You can use a portable lightweight foil greenhouse/tunnel in the summer for growing cucumbers, use it in the fall for lettuce (see above), and switch it again at the end of the year to a bed of winter purslane sown in October. The latter then brings decent salad harvests in March under foil.
In my experience, condensation inside the foil tunnels causes problems in early winter, as it condenses on the inside of the foil and then drips onto the plants, damaging them. For this reason, special heat-insulating films with an anti-condensation effect are provided for the foil tunnel.

In addition below the picture. In October, a temporary cold frame is erected on the lettuce bed with boards and glass windows. If deciduous trees are nearby, it is essential to protect the plants from the falling leaves.