Plastic bags in winter for salad
As daylight disappears for the months of December and January, our plants also stop growing. This poses us with a problem when it comes to eating salad and leaves in the winter and is when plastic bags come into their own.
At the Vale Grocer at the moment we have about 150 feet of salad growing over the winter which is made up of about 125 feet of mustards, rocket, mibuna, mizuna, spinach and various other cut and come again salad, and also 25 feet of lettuce heads. This is all really popular and we love that we can get such fresh green leaves out to people, and grown so locally.
A couple of years ago we decided against doing salad bags due to the amount of plastic bags that it used and instead focused on lettuce head production - so far this year we have harvested just short of 900 heads of lettuce which works out at nearly 300 feet of lettuce bed (30” wide). This works well when the lettuce are growing quickly and we can keep a steady supply of seedlings in the greenhouse to replace those that are harvested… The problem comes when they stop growing like at this time of year.
Three weeks ago we harvested about 50 lettuce heads from our small poly tunnel that were sown in late August - they had grown quite big and what we should have done is harvest all the outer leaves and put them in plastic bags and then put them in the boxes… but we didn’t. What this means is that we now have an empty bed for the next few months and won’t get any harvest from it until at least the end of March. If we’d harvested the leaves - we would have probably got 2 or 3 harvests between now and March… but then we’d still have needed plastic bags.
Yes we could go for supposedly 'biodegradable bags' but there's still work to be done on the whole 'biodegradable' label that seems to be put on so much plastic but can mean lots of different things - more often than not that it only breaks down under very hot temps, much hotter than our home composts.
The way we see it is that either we
a) all need to grow our own lettuce at home; or
c) accept we need to pay a premium of say £3.50 per lettuce (suspect this is the least preferred!); or
c) accept that - during November through to March - if we want salad it has to come in a plastic bag (if this is the case let's reuse the bags as much as we can, and not just use them once); or.....
d) you bring your own container or bag to our shop to pick up some freshly picked lettuce leaves and salad! So many of our shop customers do bring their own reusable bags and tubs, hopefully this will become more and more common.
Most peple tell us their salad keeps the longest when it's stored in a plastic tub with a lid so this is the ideal thing to put the leaves into.