Monday, September 18, 2006

The winter garden

Petunia's Gardener asked what other folks were planting in their winter gardens. I started to leave a comment but quickly recognized a blog-hijacking-in-progress, so I retreated to my own space where I can babble on ad infinitum.

Because the nights are so cool on Tiger Mountain, some portion of my winter garden gets sown in the springtime. Sown in April, but not yet ready for harvest, are brussel sprouts and parsnips. The brussel sprouts are just forming and should be ready by November. They'll stand all winter as I pick off the largest ones from each stalk and leave the rest to grow. Ready for harvest, but left for the cooler weather are winter squash (delicata and butternut varieties) and kale. Kale seems to need at least a light frost to sweeten up and the winter squash keeps so well, I like to wait until other things are finished before bringing it in to cook.

Things we've been enjoying all along, and will continue to enjoy for at least the first part of winter are carrots, beets, and swiss chard. Last year I left beets in the ground to harvest until they started new top growth in early spring.

I sow lettuces continously throughout the summer and right now I have baby romaine, arugula, purslane, and a crinkly green leaf lettuce. Lettuce seems to survive the worst winter weather here, including getting snowed on, but it gets so beat up outside that it's not very appetizing in a salad. My outside lettuce is under a slight overhang, but I grow most of my winter lettuces inside the greenhouse.

In early August I planted out new seedlings of sprouting broccoli. This is a new one for me, inspired by the Allotment Lady's success last year. The purple sprouting variety is a true biennial. It won't begin producing florets until April or May of next year. Another variety, Rudolph, is claimed to produce sprouts in time for Christmas. I'm not holding my breath on that one. I do have about a half dozen Rudolph plants started inside the greenhouse, but they are actually not as far along as the ones growing outside, owing to either flea beetles or a brassica-loving mouse having stripped the leaves down.

In October I'll plant garlic. Last year was the first time I've tried growing garlic (or rather, the first time I did it correctly instead of trying to grow it in the springtime from sprouted cloves from the pantry) and it was a rousing success. I got a nice head of garlic from each clove I planted, the presence of the garlic seemed to have discouraged all the burrowing rodents from that bed, and absolutely no effort on my part after planting.

Inside the greenhouse I've started some more swiss chard and kale. When the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and melons are done producing, I'll put in more leafy greens, both for salads and for braising--chicories, mustard greens, tatsoi, mizuna, and arugula. I'm thinking I might try to get some more carrots growing under cover as well, maybe the Thumbelina variety.

The greenhouse is unheated, so it's really more like a walk-in cold frame. During our recent cold snap it got down to 44 F 4 feet above ground, and 48 F at the soil level.

So, that's my winter garden. I'd love to learn what other people are growing and/or wintering over.


Blogger shannon said...

Thanks for commenting Molly - I'd been looking for your blog address to add to my blogroll. :) E has tried to add chicken back in his diet (he's only been vegetarian for about 6 years) but it has only made him sick so far.... we shall see. We certainly need some sort of sustainable solution to all these roosters! Our brussel sprouts are on the same schedule....

20 September, 2006 20:42  
Blogger Petunia's Gardener said...

Thanks for the great information! I had heard brussel sprouts were good for winter too but had no idea how long they took. I do have parsnips that are probably more happy now that the zucchini and other plants that covered them up all summer are being trimmed back. Sounds like I should prepare for garlic!

20 September, 2006 20:53  
Anonymous Allotment Lady said...

How wonderful to have a greenhouse to plant so many things over winter.

I am ordering garlic, and am sowing winter salads with fingers crossed!

I really enjoy your posts - and apologise for not commenting as often as I would like.

But I do read it - and others - and just get carried away!

29 September, 2006 12:34  
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