"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Undercover Fall Garden

During the last week of September I set up my row covers in preparation for the nastiness of November, a frigid month that often denies us and our plants a chance to adapt before bringing forth a maelstrom of cold and wet. This year we were faced with an extreme chill early on that quickly subsided into the much milder temperatures we have been experiencing of late. The snow has been melting as quickly as it arrives and many of our undercover winter greens seem to prefer this environment, finding the cool temperatures a welcome relief to this past summers abnormally hot weather, now but a fading memory.

I picked a grand salad last night, full of hearty greens that become all the more flavorful in the coolness of Autumn. In this years winter gardens we are growing Tuscan, Russian, Blue Curled, and Lacinato Rainbow kale the first being the least hardy of the bunch.

Underneath the row covers one will also find Treviso radicchio, a plant that performs marvelously in the late fall and early spring gardens in part, I believe, because of its long tap roots that help to give it staying power...as long as the voles don't find them.

Parsley, another true "superfood," makes up a fair portion of our winter salads with its extremely nutrient dense foliage.

Red Veined sorrel may be on of the least flavorful additions to the garden but given its beauty and enduring nature how can we possibly resist growing it? Once established this plant will readily re-seed itself...everywhere.

We love to grow turnip greens as they seem to thrive and even grow a little in the extreme cold weather, we plant both leaf and root turnip seeds in the fall and are often rewarded with little turnip bulbs in the very early spring.

Two of this years cold frames have transplanted radicchio and seeded arugula in them, we have quite a bit of luck getting arugula seedlings to overwinter and provide nice greens for late February salads.

A couple other plants that have recently surprised us with their cold hearty nature are the liquorice flavored chervil and Ruby Streaks mustard. Both are rather feathery and fine without much bulk but do impart a nice combination of flavors.

Outside of the row covers and cold frames the Bulls Blood beets and leftover Giant Red Celery are still providing us with a nice amount of greens or reds in the case of the beet leaves.

I planted a bed of "experimental winter density lettuces" that I know will not grow too much under these cold conditions but am hoping will put forth enough root to allow them to possibly spring forth when the weather finally warms. I did this because I had a few of these lettuces overwinter under cover of snow last season. If they fail it will be not be a wasted effort as I interspersed the row with time tested bunching onions that I know will manage the cold and provide for us in the spring.

We are also growing Swiss chard, salad burnett, various mints, oregano, and spinach. This post is dedicated to my wife who has been away for the past few days and has been inquiring about our "salad bar."


Anonymous said...

Mr. H.,
I brought Bat into the computer room and showed him all the neat things you've done with your winter garden. Wonderful ideas and we can't wait to try them next year. The pictures were wonderful -
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know you'll be enjoying some great fresh greens.

melissa said...

it's amazing how refreshing and heartwarming it is to see such greenery in the winter.

It's me ...Mavis said...

Wow... your poly tunnels are amazing... It's a pretty amazing thing to grow your own food isn't it? :)

Ruralrose said...

Wow you could feed a whole neighborhood! Awesome! peace

Stefaneener said...

Sounds like a fantastic salad. Your greens appear very cheerful.

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, you also have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Mr. H. said...


Yes it is, one of my favorite things is seeing all of the green against a winter backdrop, especially as the season progresses.

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, it is kind of like finding out that you have what it takes to participate in a marathon...very empowering.

Mr. H. said...


Maybe not a whole neighborhood but certainly a couple of funky semi- vegetarians.:)

Mr. H. said...


They would be much happier if the slugs weren't eating holes in them but all in all I think they are quite content.:)

Naomi said...

Just look at all that lush greenery! Ours has wilted in the heat, and we will be starting our greens again :( And snow on the ground - it always amazes me to see things we grow in our garden surrounded by snow in someone elses...

Hope your wife enjoyed her peek at the "salad bar"!

Heiko said...

This is just putting me to shame! we have such a mild climate compared to yours, but I'm just not yet organised enough to have sufficient food all year around. My excuse is the difficult terrain (steep terraces), poor soil and the many fruit trees vying for space. I must get more donkey manure on it, but because of the terrain it's not easy. Weel barrows are not an option!

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

Once again you give me inspiration for how I would like my garden to be in the winter. You may have to do a more detailed post on how you time things to have your plants at just the right stage of growth when the growing season ends.

WeekendFarmer said...

very nice...

about that hut rental in your garden...lets talk : )

So - no heating in these lower hoop houses? Will they survive the winter? I guess its diff for our zone.

Sylvie said...

How beautiful, how refreshing, how inspiring!

It's been a mild fall for us here in the northern Virginia foothill, and we are harvesting lots of plump greens - mostly salad and chard, as I never got around to plant the brassicas in August. For which I now - of course - kick myself. But as i say very year, "Next year will be better". This post surely drives home the possibilities.

Mr. H. said...


It is pretty amazing how versatile some plants can be. Some of our greens endured almost 100°F weather this summer and will continue to survive in temperatures averaging between 10°F - 30°F this winter.

My wife liked the pictures enough to come home and dine on a salad with me tonight.:)

Mr. H. said...


You guys are amazing! I can only imagine how hard it must be to travel to your site and then garden on a terraced landscape. I was talking to my wife about terraced gardens the other day and how much more work would be involved. "I" am impressed with what you have accomplished.:)

Mr. H. said...


I will keep your thoughts in mind, there is a definite sequence of dates in which each plant must be started.

I am not sure what zone you are in but as you have witnessed in your own garden there are many plants that can survive numerous freeze and thaw cycles. It's really quite amazing.

Mr. H. said...


The hut rental is free providing you are willing to pull weeds and help harvest the veggies.:)

With a little luck, most of the greens will survive the winter in our zone 5 gardens and the only heat is the occasional bit of sun that filters through the trees.

Mr. H. said...


"Next year can be better," is or motto around here.:) Our fall has gone from harsh to mild and I am hoping it stays this way for a while as I am never quite ready for the full onslaught of winter.

LynnS said...

Beautiful, beautiful!! Your late-fall salad fixin's put ours to shame. I simply love all of the variety, and of course the colors -- no wonder you got your woman back! You picked a fine salad, Mister! ;-)

Here in VA, our mild fall has been a blessing because we've not put our hoops up yet (it's today's work). We've been using cheater half-hoop gauge wire to support the cover-cloth. The weather report is calling for a freeze tomorrow so we can't procrastinate anymore now.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, I knew she could be lured back with a nice salad, her favorite food. If it was up to her that is all we would ever eat.:)

We had our really cold spell in early November when the temps fell into the mid teens for a few days but since than it has been rather nice, even managing to stay above freezing the last few nights. I hope you also have an excellent Thanksgiving.

A Farmstead Pilgrimage... said...


Love seeing your hard work!

Keep at it!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Mr. H. said...


Thank you for your kind words and have a most wonderful Thanksgiving.

Robbyn said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous greens! I think of your garden so much now that I'm trying to transition to a lot of raw and a higher percentage of veggie. Your greens inspire!

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, I think you will be very happy with your new raw food diet.:)

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