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The Winter Garden

December 29th, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about what’s going on out in the gardens of Chiot’s Run. We’ve had a fairly mild winter so far, although the ground is starting to freeze. We woke up with a dusting of snow on the ground yesterday morning and temperatures dipping down into the low twenties. I have a few overwintering items this year, not as much as usual since I was gone in August when most of them should have been planted.

There are leeks that will be harvested soon and most likely be used in potato soup. I’m trying to eat up all the potatoes before they start to sprout in the basement. There’s also a ton of kale. A few years ago I planted ‘Red Russian’ kale and each year I let a plant go to seed in the summer, which provides me with enough kale plants that pop up around the garden to last us through the winter. I also have some ‘Rainbow Lacinato’ kale growing in a raised bed in the back, it’s quite beautiful with its deep dark purple and green leaves that have only gotten more beautiful now that winter has arrived!


There are also a few other greens like lettuce, spinach and arugula. I have found through some trials that ‘Catalina’ spinach from Renee’s Garden overwinters much better than many of the other spinach varieties I’ve tried. I’m also trying some ‘Even Star Winter’ arugula this year as well since arugula is one of my favorite greens. There are a few random lettuces left in the garden that were seeded with the little dibs and dabs that remained in a few old seed packets, this red lettuce sprung up from one of those!

There are a few other random things growing, like some Japanese bunching onions, which grow all year long multiplying slowly. They provide green onions all year long, but especially in winter. I use them for making kimchi and cooking.

There’s not quite as much going on as usual in my winter garden, someday I hope to have a lot more going on including a big hoop house. Each year I learn more and more and with each experimentation.

What’s growing in your garden? Anything making it to you plate?

Getting Ready for Fall/Winter Crops

July 25th, 2011

Now’s the time to start thinking about your fall/winter garden. I have tiny seedlings of: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and leeks in my basement seed starting area. They will be moved out into the garden in August. Hopefully by then the weather will have cooled down a bit.

I’ve also started a flat of zucchini and cucumbers to plant for a late summer/early fall harvest. Often plants like zucchini and cucumbers will languish in the summer heat and quit producing. If you want a long season of these vegetables it’s wise to replant in July. If we don’t have an early cold snap I’ll be eating zucchini into early October.

In a few weeks I’ll also plant peas in my mom’s garden in the location the potatoes will be harvested from. Our spring pea harvest didn’t do very well, the overly wet spring did them in. We only managed to eek a few cups of peas out of our 4 short rows. Hopefully we’ll get a good fall harvest so we can fill our freezers with tender green peas for winter soups and stews. I’ll also be seeding a lot of beets, lettuce, spinach and other quick greens the first week of September for overwintering. Each and every year I try to experiment with more cold season gardening. One of these years I’ll finally get the hang of it and we’ll be able to eat homegrown vegetables all year long.

Are you already planning for the upcoming seasons? Any fall/winter gardening?

Taste Testing Carrots

January 6th, 2011

On Tuesday, Mr Chiots and I tried one of each of those carrots that I harvested on Monday. It was very interesting to be able to try so many different kinds at once. The only problem was that it was difficult to tell which was which on some of them, some of my labels had disappeared from the garden, and we didn’t keep them all separate at harvest. So I was going on shape and size based on the description on the seed packets. *note to self* I must find a better labeling pen

The ‘Muscade’ carrots were probably the best when it came to size of carrots and uniformity, they did very well. They’re a shorter fatter carrot, which are the kinds I like. The ‘Atomic Purple’ did well for size also as did one one yellow variety. The best tasting ones were probably the ‘Napli’ I grew (these are the variety Eliot Coleman calls “sugar carrots”). If you like those little baby carrots from the store you’ll love ‘Short n Sweet’ as they taste exactly the same, they’re small, sweet and very crunchy and had a great texture. The ‘Little Finger’ carrots also were great, nice and orange and with great texture.

The white ones we didn’t like much at all, and one of the yellow varieties didn’t do so well in the cold weather as the texture was off. I grew both ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Amarillo Yellow’, I’m not sure which was which at harvest. I won’t give them the thumbs down because they might be very delicious if grown and harvested in warmer weather. I have a few seeds left so they’ll be sown this spring and we’ll test again then. I also wasn’t super impressed with ‘Chantenay Red Core’ the carrots didn’t size up as well as the other varieties and they were more difficult to peel because they were highly textured on the outside. Perhaps these are also more of a warm weather carrot.

I still have seeds left for most of these varieties so I’ll grow them again and keep better track and do a better break down for you in 6 months or so. For my fall planting I’ll definitely narrow it down to 2-3 varieties. I think trying new carrots is more for the spring/summer growing season.

Have you found a type of carrot that works well in your climate/soil/garden? Do any of you have a great labeling pen you’d like to recommend that will go the distance in the harsh weather?

Harvesting Winter Carrots

January 4th, 2011

Eliot Coleman talks about his trouble with voles in The Winter Harvest Handbook. This was the first year we’ve ever had trouble with voles, remember my sweet potatoes? They also ate a lot of my winter beets and were moving in to the carrot patch.

I was planning on leaving the carrots in the ground and harvesting them as needed, but with voles threatening our harvest we decided we should get them all out of the ground. We happened to be having our annual New Year’s sauerkraut family meal yesterday (a few days late), and I thought it would be a perfect time to harvest the carrots (since they’re growing in my mom’s garden).

My niece Hannah was thrilled to help, she wanted to save all the tiny baby carrots and the carrot tops for her guinea pig “Patches”. Every time she’d find a carrot she’d squeal and show it to me. She was super happy when she found a nice hand full of large ones.

These carrots were planted way back in August and have been waiting in the ground. We harvested a yellow one in November to see how they were growing. It was sweet and tasty, but needed to size up a bit.
We had them covered with a floating row cover to protect them from the cold, I meant to cover them with greenhouse plastic but never got around to it. They didn’t seem to mind though. We only lost about 15-20% of the crop to voles, not as bad as we thought.

We planted 10 different varieties of carrots, most from Baker Creek. Some varieties did better than others with the purple ones doing the best of all. We grew both ‘Atomic Red’ and ‘Cosmic Purple’. The ‘Muscade’ carrots did very well, other varieties included: ‘Parisienne’, ‘Little Finger’, ‘Chantenay Red’, ‘Blance a Collet Vert’, ‘St Vallery’, ‘Kind Midas’ and a few I can’t remember any more.

We ended up with a pretty decent harvest, my mom and I both got a tub full of carrots, and Miss Hannah got a HUGE container of greens for her little guinea. I’ll be pairing mine with all those potatoes I harvested this year and venison roasts from the 3 deer Mr Chiots got during hunting season. My mom will most likely do the same since she has venison in the freezer from my dad’s 2 deer.

What’s your favorite way to eat a carrot?

My Winter Garden in Late December

December 30th, 2010

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and relatively warm (around 30). After Mr Chiots and I took the dog on a walk, I decided to head out and uncover the low tunnels to see how everything was doing.


Our temperatures have been much colder than usual here, so I figured things wouldn’t be doing as well as they should be. Usually our temperatures in December are in the 30′s. This December our temperatures have been in the 20′s and the teens. The days have also been very cloudy, which doesn’t help warm up the low tunnels.

I have 2 different varieties of spinach growing in my low tunnel ‘Catalina’ and ‘Giant Winter’. So far they both seem to be doing well, I think the ‘Catalina’ might be doing slightly better. We’ll see which variety starts producing faster when it warms in the spring.

A few things were slightly frosty, but the good thing is that the new growth is still doing well. This means that I’ll be able to harvest very early next spring once the weather warms regularly.

Winter gardening definitely has a learning curve, and the weather greatly affects what the outcome will be. I think if our December was “normal”, I’d be harvesting spinach and arugula right now. With each year I’ll gain knowledge and figure out the planting schedule for my particular climate. I should be doing pretty well in a few years!

How’s your garden growing?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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