Making a welcome return to our salad mixes this week are claytonia (winter purslane) and corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce. However, there is a very pleasing aspect to their appearance from the gardener’s point of view. The plants yielding those succulent and healthy leaves were not planted directly by ourselves.
They have occurred in polytunnel 2, amongst the cucumber plants. Here we grew claytonia and corn salad during last winter, and late in the season the plants flowered and set seed. Those seeds have lain dormant in the soil throughout the spring and summer period, during which time we cleared those winter salads, manured and rotavated the beds, planted the cucumbers, watched them grow until they were ready to harvest. Now the cucumbers are about finished, soon to be cleared to make way for winter crops, and the seeds of winter purslane and lamb’s lettuce have come out of dormancy, germinated and grown in thick, luscious swathes of green.
I must confess they look healthier than their parent plants did, and are producing loads of quality leaves for our salads. This is the beauty of self-seeding plants; The progeny of the plants that you originally set can come back to give you the sweetest of pleasant surprises. No doubt natural selection is in operation here and the fittest plants have made healthy seed and returned fitter plants for the new winter season. Had we adopted a more ruthless approach to weeding, this happy accident would not have occurred.
Soon the cucumber plants will be cleared and we will prepare the beds for planting of winter salads. But we will be sure to work carefully around these wondrous gifts of nature, and keep them alongside this year’s cultivated plants.