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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?

Four Season Gardening at Chiot’s Run

November 15th, 2010

In late September I planted 2 raised beds with a mix of different kinds of winter crops. I covered them with greenhouse plastic to protect them from the weather when it started to turn cold, about 2 weeks ago. This seems to be working very nicely, we’ve had night time temperatures in the high 20’s and the day time temperatures range from the 40’s to the 60’s.

Since this past week was so warm (in the 60’s during the afternoons), I decided to pull the covers back and give all the greens a good watering with some Neptune’s Harvest. This should get them through the winter, I don’t know if I’ll have to worry about watering again after this.

It looks like these mini greenhouses are providing the right climate for my spinach, it’s growing quite prolifically. I can’t wait to have spinach salads all winter long from this bed. I’m also experimenting with a variety of cold hardy lettuces, celery, arugula, leeks, carrots, kohlrabi, bunching onions, and some other cold-tolerant greens.

At the moment I have 2 raised beds with greenhouse tunnels, one with floating row cover, and one with a cold frame. The one with the cold frame is going to be seeded this week with a variety of winter greens for experimentation to see which ones sprout and do best when started late in the season. From here on out it looks like our highs are only going to be in the 40’s, so it looks like winter is creeping up on us here at Chiot’s Run.

I’m hoping that after a few years I’ll have a good list of which varieties of greens overwinter well in my climate. Eventually, I’m hoping to be able to grow a lot more of my vegetables year round instead of relying on someone else’s produce during the winter. (If you want to learn more about four season gardening I’d highly recommend Eliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses)

How’s your winter gardening going?

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.