Tag Archives: Winter vegetables

Winter Vegetables

Getting Ready For Winter

There is not much left in the vegetable garden especially after temperatures dropped below 20º F.  I didn’t have time to cover the plants outside the cold frame: Mizuna, Broccoli Raab, Scallion, and Mustard Green.  But they perked up a little bit once the temperature climbed above 50º F.  Heavy snow is predicted for today so I harvested some Mizuna and Swiss Chard and steamed them with fresh tuna yesterday before they got buried under the snow.

This winter will be the second year we put up a cold frame.  Last year was our experiment in growing vegetables in winter under a cold frame without extra help from a heater.   We started the whole process very late last year and the winter was extreme, but we still had salad when it was freezing outside.  The frame nearly collapsed from heavy snow piled on it but it was very encouraging to be able to have fresh greens from our own garden in March.  We have assembled everything early this year.  We also added supporting bars to the hoops so we won’t have to hold our breath during a heavy snow fall.

Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo.  The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo. The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
This year's cold frame with three additional supporting bars.
This year’s cold frame with three additional supporting bars.

I’ve sown Chinese Broccoli, Kale, Swiss chard, Chinese celery and Arugula in this plot in early September.  They’re growing quite nicely.  Mustard Green ‘Dragon Tongue’ sprouting up from fresh compost I added to the plot is a pleasant surprise.  Pac Choi seeds sown weeks ago also sprouted but turned out to be Mizuna instead.  This mislabeled seed package has become my problem lately since I frequently forget to label the seed pod packs when drying them.  Unfortunately they all tend to look alike.  Too late to sow another Pac Choi in there for this winter; they wouldn’t sprout until next spring.

Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October

Slugs have eaten all lettuce seedlings.  My second batch will have to be in the house as baby greens instead of full grown lettuce.  I put a beer filled container in there but only two slugs took the bait.  I think they only go for fresh beer, not the one that their comrades have already drowned in.  I picked off a few more fat slugs yesterday and don’t know when my next chance to check inside the frame will be, hopefully it will be cold enough to slow their metabolism down.

Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Swiss chard among Mustard green 'Dragon tongue' and Edible Chrysanthemum
Swiss chard among Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ and Edible Chrysanthemum

Now the slugs have moved on to devouring the Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ seedlings (above image).  Surprisingly enough they won’t touch the Edible Chrysanthemum sowed since spring.  It’s a vegetable worth growing because I can sow it once in spring and keep harvesting it until late fall.  I cut them again yesterday but left enough stems to see how they will weather this winter in the cold frame.

Snow is coming down today and expected to be around a foot by its end.  Hopefully I can make a path to the cold frame and pick some salad tomorrow.

 

Great references for growing winter vegetables:

  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from your home garden all year long by Eliot Coleman
  • Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic growing from pot to plot by Charles Dowding

 

 

Cold Frame Unveiled

It worked!

Last year was the first time I grew vegetable in a cold frame.  It was an experiment in extending the growing season without using a heater.  I started late in autumn so the seedlings didn’t have much of a chance to build up strength.  The winter was also brutally cold with temperatures dropping below 0ºF for several days at a time.  Two feet of snow completely blocked the path to the cold frame and turned it into an isolated igloo-like structure.

I didn’t expect anything to survive in there.  The weekend before last when it rose above 40ºF, I decided to open the plastic cover for the first time.  To my surprise, some red leaf lettuce, kale and broccoli raab I had sown last fall survived.  The parsley I transplanted there also survived.  The cold frame actually works.  If I had started it early in the fall and had access to it I would have had a better outcome.  I still have more to learn as well as adjustments to this system.

Almost three months of no watering and most of the soil was still damp though parts of the top layer had dried up in places.  The plastic cover is not just to keep the cold air out but also to keep the heat and moisture in.  After opening it, I kept the plastic cover open on both ends to allow fresh air to flow through and for me to be able to water the soil inside.  Then I sowed Pac choi, Arugula, Chinese celery and Mizuna inside.  The Pac choi sprouted first, six days later.

I opened the cover again this weekend and kept it open for most of the day as it wasn’t very windy and the temperature stayed above 40ºF.  I also put in spinach, French radish and Cherry belle radish seeds.  If everything works right in the cold frame, I won’t have to wait much longer for my first backyard salad.

This is the cold frame looked in winter
This is the cold frame looked in winter
Broccoli raab in the cold frame
Broccoli raab in the cold frame last weekend
To my surprise, some Red leaf lettuce also alive in there
To my surprise, some Red leaf lettuce also alive in there
Kale seedling from last winter
Kale seedling from last winter
Pac Choi seedlings from seeds sown a week ago
Pac Choi seedlings from seeds sown a week ago