Are My Plants Sad Or Is It Just Me?

, written by Jeremy Dore gb flag


‘Make a Windowsill Salad Farm’ proclaimed the alluring headline of the gardening magazine that dropped through my letterbox in November. And I have to say I was taken in, despite the voice of reason in my head … Yes, I sowed two trays of seeds just before Christmas to get that summer salad taste.

I should have known better. Living in Northern England we get under seven and a half hours of daylight in mid December. Not that you can really call it daylight – on a bleak overcast day it sometimes feels brighter indoors. But I reasoned that with a mild start to winter the leaf crops wouldn’t mind a bit of ‘shade’.

I still have rows of carrots, beetroot and leeks to harvest but somehow there’s something about fresh crisp salad that becomes compelling as the new year starts. Winter-warming stews are all well and good but prepare a plate of nutritious raw leaves and you can almost feel the vitamin rush. Of course I do have some oriental salad in my garden, sown in September, which is over-wintering well. But, come January, the various leaves it’s comprised of get progressively tougher and more bitter and passing them off as fresh salad becomes harder.

What is the cause of this longing for fresh food? Seasonal Affective Disorder(with the rather apt acronym SAD) is believed to affect large portions of the population causing varying levels of depression and hibernation-like symptoms. When it’s dark during your journey to work and back and you sit in an office all day, it’s not really surprising. And I like to blame SAD for my new year yearnings for fresh vegetables.

Rocket seedlings

Plants suffer it too, I’m convinced. I’m not trying to argue that vegetables have feelings but it’s well known that day-length is a factor in plant growth – determining whether spinach is likely to bolt (run to seed) or strawberries will flower.

So, did I ever get my fresh crisp salad of microgreens? Well, the seeds germinated though they certainly took longer than the glossy photos promising ‘rocket in 9 days.’ But salad leaves? Not really – perhaps just about enough for a garnish on another of those winter stews – so I’m still pursuing the elusive winter salad. One year I might get some plant lighting, if I can convince myself that it’s not too ecologically unsound. But the lesson is probably to not fight nature too much and enjoy making soup!

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