"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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rambling Thoughts and Speculation on Winter Gardening

"The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on December 31."- Marie Huston

I like Marie Huston's words. Gardening does not really have to come an abrupt halt as nature ushers in shorter days and colder temperatures but can continue right on through with a little thought towards what is being grown and how to protect it from the harshness of the weather. November going into December sets the stage for our ventures in winter gardening, often bringing with it frost, frozen ground, and snow. While much of the garden area lies dormant this time of year we are fortunate to still have a nice amount of tenacious, nutritious, and absolutely delicious edible plants at our disposal.

Experience has allowed us a better understanding of our ability to have a stable amount of fresh food available from the garden, with any luck, 365 days a year. Over time we have added an excellent selection of plants to our winter gardening portfolio, eventually figuring out that, in our gardens, diversity is the key to success. On any given year the winter weather and temperatures (USDA hardiness zone 5b) can fluctuate quite dramatically, some years are cold and dry others slightly warmer with lots of snow or more often it is a mix of both. In the winter of 2008/09 and 2010/11 we had massive amounts of snowfall while 2009/10 left us with none of this insulating coverage, only rain. All of these weather variances seem to affect individual cold hardy plants differently.

Mixed winter greens in the fall through early winter transition of 2008/09.

As mentioned in previous posts, when subjected to colder conditions some plants are actually able to concentrate or increase their sugar content which in turn serves them as a sort of natural antifreeze, helping them to withstand frosty and freezing conditions for extended periods of time..makes them taste better too. The slower the weather cools off the better the plants are able to acclimatize in this manner. It is not so much the chilly weather that will wear on these plants but all of the other elements combined such as cold, rain, snow, and wind that tends to break them down on a cellular level much faster than the cold alone. A simple protective cover makes a world of difference.

We use plastic covered hoops and cold frames over our slightly raised beds to help protect plants in the garden. This is nothing new, as far back as premedieval Rome (in a world without plastic) it has been rumored that linen cloth was soaked in tallow, resin, or linseed oil causing it to become translucent and thus allowing for both light and protection against the cold for both plants and people. Thin sheets of the mineral mica and Selenite were also used to protect plants in ancient Italy.

"Also, if it be worth the while, little wheels may be put under larger vases, that they may be brought out with less labour, and harboured in the house: but, notwithstanding, they ought to be covered with glasses, that in cold weather also, when the days are clear, they may be safely brought forth to the sun. By this method Tiberius was provided with cucumbers almost the whole year." - L. Junius Moderatus Columella AD 4-AD 70 (my take on the 1745 English Translation of De Re Rustica page 495 & 496.)

Some of this year's young red and green Italian chicory

Listed below are plants that we have found to be very cold hardy. Of course, on any given year some of these plants will thrive while others will fail depending upon the conditions nature provides them. The timing of when to plant is also important, too soon and they might bolt to seed or grow too large to fit under our covered rows and cold frames, planted too late and they will not mature to a desired stature. This particular facet has a lot of trial and error involved as each individual garden and the plants contained therein are so very different.

In our garden the plants are grouped in those direct seeded or transplanted in the spring (April-June), summer (July-August), and late-summer (mid August-early September). We do not have set dates for planting as the weather dictates this for us. For example, if it is extremely hot and dry in mid August I might wait for a few cool, cloudy, rainy days before planting my spinach. Putting the seeds in the fridge a couple weeks in advance also helps greatly with warm weather germination.

More early evidence of lettuce, chicory (succory), and other greens being grown all year round -

"After that the Romans began to devise a means of growing them at all seasons of the year, and even preserving them, for they were used in pottage as well as salads." - Hardwicke's science-gossip: an illustrated medium of interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature, Volume 13 page 102

Cold Hardy Greens That We Grow -

Arugula - Including perennial Sylvetta and Grazia. Perennials planted in early spring, annual varieties late summer.

Asian Greens - We used to have good luck keeping Boc Choy well into the winter but have not grown it in recent years. That said, I do hope to focus more on this type of green going forward. Planted mid summer. Kitazawa Seed Company would appear to be a good source for a wide selection of Asian greens...I will be ordering from them for the first time this year.

Beet Greens - Many of the younger beet greens, before the roots ball up, especially those of Bull's Blood beets, are very cold hardy. Planted mid summer.

Blackberry - With leaves remaining green, often throughout the winter, this plant makes for a wonderful tea leaf or medicinal herb...excellent source of easily assimilated calcium.

Borage - Planted in the late summer and used as a salad green this plant holds up surprisingly well to freezing conditions.

Brussel Sprout - While we rarely are able to actually get any decent "sprouts" from our brussels I have noticed that the smaller plants hold up to the cold quite well managing many freeze and thaw cycles...we use them for their greens and early winter chicken food. Planted in the spring.

Cabbage - Savoy cabbage like Melissa are quite cold hardy, easily surviving temperatures in the low 20°'s and well into December in our garden. I'm experimenting with later/mid-summer planting times as I can see the potential for them to survive all the way through the winter. Just yesterday I picked some perfectly fine small headed red Ruby Ball cabbage that were frozen solid just days before. Planted in the late spring.

Calendula - There is (was, it has since melted as the temperatures have warmed) lots of snow on the ground as I write this and we have had numerous 20° something and below nights now...even so there is a calendula blooming under one of our row covers. I should involve them more in our winter garden as the greens are edible and the plant is obviously fairly cold hardy.

Celery - Thinner stalked celery seems to survive the winter under row covers fairly well, we have had luck with Varsity, Giant Red, and Parcel. Last year we kept a whole 4 x 8' row of mostly Giant Red alive all winter under a row cover and some of our Parcel survived with nothing but snow as insulating protection. Transplanted in the spring.

Chard - As with the beet greens we have had lots of luck overwintering younger Swiss Chard plants but not so much with the older/larger ones. Planted mid summer.

Chervil - A wonderful addition to the winter garden, ours get a red hue after a few months of cold but still retain that wonderful liquorice flavor. Planted mid summer.

Chickweed - More than a mere weed this plant is a nice refreshing addition to our winter salads...the chickens like it too. Pretty much plants itself.

Chicory - We have had great luck overwintering Frisée, various radiccio, Belgian and Batavian endive, Italian chicory (Catalogna), and even the common dandelion. For winter greens, Catalogna, Batavian, and Frisée are planted in mid summer all others in the early to late spring.

Collard Greens - The young plants thrive in the winter garden but are, unfortunately, especially attractive to slugs.

Cress- Holds up fairly well if kept under cover. Planted mid summer.

Curly Dock - A fantastic spinach substitute. We are overwintering this for the first time in a covered row this season and have high hopes for it's ability to provide really early spring leaves if protected from the elements.

Herbs - Common household herbs such as thyme, oregano, winter savory, some varieties of sage, lovage for early spring greens, French tarragon (dormant during winter), and many members of the mint family all manage the winter quite well, especially if they are covered.

Hesperis(Dame’s Rocket) - Very hardy plant that we are learning to make much better use of as a winter green. Not to be mistaken for another hardy short lived perennial flowering plant called foxglove "Digitalis" that might, as my grandson says, "kill you to death" if eaten accidentally and in any quantity. Use young plants or pruned older ones. Planted early to mid summer. Read more about this super tenacious plant here.

Kale- Along with turnips this is the plant we count on the most for a steady supply of winter greens. We have had luck with White and Red Russian, Dwarf Curled "Vates", Winterbor, Beedy's Camden, Lacinato (dinosaur), Lacinato Rainbow, and are experimenting with Redbor kale in this winter's garden. We have the best luck with younger smaller/thinner stalked plants. Planted in summer, early to mid July.

Lettuce - Winter hardy varieties like Tango and Winter Density Romaine will often provide greens well into the winter before the leaves are compromised but with any luck many will survive via their roots and come back in the early spring. See Dave's post for more lettuce and Asian green varieties that might be good candidates for the winter garden. We currently use a mix from saved seeds belonging to varieties I no longer keep track of. Planted mid to late summer.

Mache - While we have had mixed results in our garden most people seem to have really good luck overwintering this corn flavored green. Planted late summer.

Mallow- (young plants or pruned older ones) Both pink flowered M. Alcea and shorter stemmed Malva Moschata Alba with white flowers could care less about the cold weather...edible hollyhocks too. Planted early to mid summer.

Mustard - We have mostly grown Red Giant but there are other hardy varieties out there. Planted mid summer.

Nipplewort - (Lapsana communis) Now here is an edible weed that first showed itself in my garden two years ago, at first I fought it, mostly because for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was, now I know, now we eat it.:) Seems to be very cold hardy and something I will be making much better use of in the future. Here is a recipe for this prolific plant.

Onions/Chives/ Garlic greens - Egyptian, scallions, garlic, and various chives will all provide one with more than a few nice shoots during the winter months. Our chives usually fade away in the winter but are one of the first greens to appear again in early spring. Planted early spring.

Parsley(we use curly leaf) - Very cold hardy well into the winter. Sometimes there are issues with mold but most plants provide us with greens all winter long. Planted early spring.

Pea greens - We have often grown fall planted pea greens to serve as an addition to our salads well into mid December as they can often handle temperatures in the low to mid 20's.

Plantain (various) - Not the tastiest green around but they certainly are hardy and resilient.

Prunella - Still experimenting with this plant but it does seem to be quite indifferent to the cold and is another healthful spinach substitute.

- We can't seem to grow a decent root no matter what we try but the greens will hold out well into winter. Planted late summer.

Rutabaga - Left in the garden, rutabaga will often lose its larger leaves but put out new growth during any warm periods. Some of the roots do rot but others manage the winter quite well. Planted in the spring or summer.

Salad Burnet - Needs nothing but a little snow to protect it. Planted in early spring.

Scorzonera - These perennial plants can be used for the roots or greens and are quite tolerant of the cold. Planted in early spring.

Sorrel - Our knowledge lies with overwintering French and Red Veined sorrel, both of which are extremely cold hardy. Planted in early spring and cut back after flowering or planted mid summer. Sheep and Wood sorrel make for nice spring greens but we have not purposely tried to use them during the winter months, although I would imagine that if planted at the proper time, before they are able to set seed, they would also prove to be useful.

Sowthistle (smooth/annual) - While not for everyone we enjoy the purplish colored leaves of this hardy plant in our early winter and summer salads. Planted mid to late summer.

Spinach - The Bloomingdale variety has done well for us, often providing greens all winter long. Planted mid to late summer depending upon the weather.

Turnip - We grow both Seven Top and Purple Top for their greens but are often surprised with small Purple Top turnips come spring as both these plants have an insatiable will to grow given any period of warmth, even in the depths of winter. Planted late summer.

Violets - I'm not sure about all of them but the wild purple flowered ones and violas that we grow can be picked and plucked for their mucilaginous leaves all winter. They are most efficient at planting themselves.

Common garden sage has no qualms about enduring wintry conditions

Most of our winter gardening experience lies in using plastic covered low tunnels and cold frames to protect the crops. Here are some links on various design tutorials that come to mind. More examples of cold frames, greenhouses, and hoophouses can be found on my sidebar.

Our own simple row covers (zone 5b)

Dan McMurray's row covers (zone 6/7)

Laura's row covers (zone 8b)

Thomas's mini hoop houses (zone 6a)

Herrick Kimball's whizbang row cover hoop system (zone 5a)

Eliot Coleman's quick hoops (zone 5)

Susy's garden hoops (zone 5)

Dave's cold frames (zone 6b)

Susan Robishaw's stackable cold frames (zone 4) - Sue also has a booklet out called "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" that I have yet to read.

Another convenience of covered rows in a northern garden is access to thawed soil for planting early in the season. We are often able to direct seed or transplant spring greens even with a slow to melt covering of snow still on the ground. After a continuous 122 days below 40°F (4.44 °C) we started to get a bit antsy to get growing in this March 20th 2009 picture, the ground under the row covers remains warm to the touch while the surrounding earth is still partially frozen and covered in dirty white.

Here is a list of interesting reads on the subject of winter or cold climate gardening. Some deal more with cold hardy summer vegetables for northern gardens than actual winter crops but they all impart valuable information. The first three authors are the ones that focus the most on actual winter crops. I would love to hear any other suggestions for books to read on this subject.

Winter Gardening In The Maritime Northwest: Cool Season Crops For The Year-Round Gardener by Binda Colebrook

Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman - See how Eliot Coleman grows his crops at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBKr9kPrpzU

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live by Niki Jabbour - See more of her at - http://yearroundveggiegardener.blogspot.com/

Successful Cold Climate Gardening by Lewis Hill

Building And Using Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse: Grow Vegetables All Year-Round by Helen and Scott Nearing - See them in person at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czr3iJBY4z0&feature=related

The Solar Greenhouse Book edited by James C McCullagh

The Victorian Kitchen Garden by Jennifer Davis - An inspiring video series on this can be seen at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXO4mAY8tGI

The New Northern Gardener by Jennifer Bennett

Organic Gardening in Cold Climates by Sandra Perrin

Growing Vegetables West of The Cascades by Steve Solomon - See the author at - http://www.youtube.com/user/Padresolvideos#p/u/20/IzNL2chyId4 and http://www.soilandhealth.org/05steve%27sfolder/05aboutmeindex.html

Greening The Garden A Guide To Sustainable Growing by Dan Jason (I love the philosophical aspect of this book) - There is an excellent video series on him at -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMjGg9GeKPk

We begin setting up our hoops in early October just before the first frosts. This one contains Russian kale.

Some speculation. According to various sources increased potassium levels in the tissue of plant leaves "might" help to protect them during adverse weather conditions. Potassium is said to have a beneficial effect on how a plant assimulates or uses water and also aids in photosynthesis. Since frost damage often results from the dehydration of leaf tissue, increasing potassium could lead to better photosynthesis and acclimatization, thus protecting it from frost to a certain degree. While I have found no conclusive studies to back up this "cold hardiness theory" we do supply our garden, especially the winter crops, with plenty of potassium via wood ash as plants deficient in this mineral certainly would be more prone to cold weather damage.

Row of this year's Dwarf Curly Leaf kale

More speculation. Per a local climatologist that I follow, "Climate researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle recently said that their climate models are predicting increasing precipitation in the next decade in the northern latitudes. This should mean more snowy winter seasons across the Inland Empire and other regions of the U.S. near the Canadian border." Also, "European, Russian, and Japanese scientists are each predicting an increase in global cooling and expanding glaciers worldwide by 2014."

Check out this "cool" global temperature chart.

If this is true, both summer and winter gardening conditions will continue to prove increasingly challenging and having a good grasp on how to grow one's own food under these less than desirable circumstances will be of the utmost importance going forward. The snow in the pictures below has since dissipated as the weather warmed a bit last week, but it has once again started to cool off in the 20° and 30° range...I would have prefered to have kept the insulating coverage of snow but nature does not consult with me on such things.:) It will be interesting to see what the next couple months of winter will be like?

Purple and Seven Top turnips are one of our most important winter greens, some of them are already producing little turnips.


Dani said...

Wow, Mr H - you are inspiring! The amount of food you grow in very adverse conditions is certainly an impetus to me to improve on my yer round vegetable gardening :)

Thanks for all the information! (now if I could just move my farm to the northern hemisphere... LOL)

Dave @ HappyAcres said...

Thanks for sharing all this information. I even saw a couple of plants I'm not familiar with. :-) I'm still learning as I go trying to grow things year round. Have you ever grown minutina? I'm trying some this winter. It is so nice to be able to harvest green things in the dead of winter. I'm headed out right now to pluck some spinach leaves to go in a lunch salad.

Mark Willis said...

With you providing all that information, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for any of us to fail to grow at least something during the Winter!
I feel sure that your post will be a very useful resource for many of us to keep coming back to.

Heiko said...

Hi Mr H, we're back in comunicado. What a long and informative post. So many things you manage to get through the winter in your harsh climate. Our winter is yet to start properly. I noticed a chilli plant wanting to flower again today. It's crazy. Thanks for your post on that community in Australia. I feel it may be a bit too far out of the way for us, not to mention immigration issues. Although I quite like the thought of having koala bears... ;)

kitsapFG said...

Your grow tunnels are looking absolutely fabulous! I am battling slugs in several sections of mine this year so my cabbages are looking pretty ratty. Your beds look really healthy though and the contrast of the beautiful green plants to the frozen and snow covered landscape cheers the heart as well as provides nourishing food. You grow so many wonderful plants - always an education to be had from reading your blogs. I think the northwest is definitely in for cooler and more wet conditions for years to come. The climate change models indicate that our area does precisely that in response to what is happening as the poles warm up. I am already in a cool and wet region so my already limited ability to grow tomatoes may be getting even more ridiculously constrained! Oh well, I grow other things very well.

Ms. Adventuress said...

This is SO exciting. I love those words, too. History amazes me and that which you two produce and reap continues to inspire me. ♥

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

That is a lovely list of cold-hardy edibles that can be grow all year round. I found interesting that calendula is very cold hardy. For us that have mild winter but scorching summers, calendula have proven to be very drought-hardy. A very versatile plant! Calendula seems to be self-seeding for us all year round.

Patterson said...

Thank you for this post! I had been wondering which plants would have a good chance of surviving and producing food given a hoop house/ unheated greenhouse environment. I want to learn quite a bit more but you even provided links to more information.

Geno said...

Thanks for such an inspiring post! These are the things I would love to be doing next winter. Maybe I should print this little cheat sheet out eh?

Lrong Lim said...

Educational, entertaining, and very informative! I am amazed at your writing skills and the 'research' you have done prior to writing... my missus and I had a fun time looking up some of the plants you mentioned, among the catchy ones was nipplewort... we think we have them here too...

kelli said...

this post is an excellent resource. thank you!

Stefaneener said...

I really appreciate the "nothing new under the sun" part of your post. Gardeners have always struggled with the same things. I tell people that with vegetable growing, at least you and the plants want the same things! Nice ways of helping them get it.

Dani said...

Mr H - You have been an inspiration to me, and your encouragement of my vegetable garden efforts has been invaluable. Thank you.

I've given you an award!

Thank you, for your generous sharing of your knowledge, your inspiration and your support! Dani :)

Carolemc said...

I agree with everyone else here - incredibly inspiring post. I'm so envious of those greens. What I really hanker for at this time of year are salad greens. I really need to get my act together.

Unfortunately we don't have the same light levels in winter as Eliot Coleman explains. However I've got a new book "Growing winter vegetables" by Charles Dowding which is a great guide for UK growers. Next year I must follow his advice.

thanks again for the inspiration,

Robin said...

Great post Mr. H! This is only my second winter of growing veggies year round. So much great information in this post!

Unknown said...

Wow, Mr H! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with Winter Gardening. I am also in zone 5 and have done some research and reading on winter gardening, but your detailed information really is encouraging me to give it a try next year. I will be referring back to this post often. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mr. H, your wealth of knowledge, which comes from study and practice, is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing with all of us. I look forward to reading every new post. I try to find and order many of the seeds you recommend. I'm in Zone 7 (Hazel Green, AL) and striving to be self-sufficient. I only planted a few greens and lettuce to tide me over the winter, but this new post makes me realize I need to get more serious about what I'm doing. Thank you again ,

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the anonymous identity. Thought I clicked on to the name identity. This is Ida, in Hazel Green, AL.

Mr. H. said...

Dani - It's interesting that we use coverings to keep our plants warmer and you use them to keep them cooler.:) Whether extremely hot or exremely cold gardening is a challenging task. Thanks a bunch for the award.:)

Dave - We do grow minutina, and a wild type of plantain that fairly closely resembles it. Thank you for sharing the information you provide on this subject...hope you enjoyed thta salad.:)

Mark - Thanks...while it's not for everybody keeping something growing during the cold months can be very rewarding.

Heiko - Peppers still flowering...amazing. On the Australian community, that's OK, I hear that they have giant hopping mice like creatures over there that will eat everything you plant.:)

Laura - We also have a few slug issues, I don't mind them too much in the summer but during the winter the plants can have a had time keeping up. Fortunately they seem to hibernate once it gets below freezing in our garden. Hope they don't do too much damage in yours.

Yes, everything I read points towards increased percipitation in one form or another for the Pacific Northwest. The good news is that we are somewhat aware of this and can "attempt" to work on making any changes that might be neccesary to keep the garden productive.

Ms. Adventuress - I think my favorite literature on gardening revolves around those books from the past...because I know, for th emost part, their struggles to provide food were no doubt much greater than mine.

Malay-Kadazan girl - It has not been until recently that I realized just how cold hardy calendula is. Next year I look forward to focusing on having younger plants going into the winter in order to see just how well and for what period of time they can manage the cold.

CarolG - I'm glad you found some of this information useful. It truly is amazing how many cold hardy plants there are and how wel they will do given a little bit of protection from the elements.

Geno - Please do. I highly recommend trying younger Russian and Dwarf Curly leaf kale, late planted turnips, spinach, and salad burnet as the hardiest of the hardy from my list.

Lrong - Thanks, it is always a pure pleasure to jot down my thoughts on those things I love the most, gardening being one of them. You will have to try that nipplewort pasta recipe sometime:)

Kelli - Whatever it takes to keep the fresh greens coming you know.:)

Stefaneener - It is pretty neat to look back so very many years and read about people facing the same types of challenges we do today. Of course I would prefer my own garden over that of being one of the psychcotic emperor Tiberius's subjects/slaves...can you imagine accidently serving him a salad with a bug in it.:)

Carolemc - That book by Charles Dowding sounds like a good one. I was able to go to Amazon and read a couple pages and will add it to my reading list..thanks.:) We do not have the same light levels as Coleman either, this time of year it is often cloudy and where I live the sun is lower than the trees that surround our gardening area. Fortunately the plants still manage to muddle through, I think perhaps they do not really need so much light during the winter when their growth has slowed so much.

Robin - How exciting, I hope everything does well for you. While often challenging it is very rewarding to be able to harvest something from the garden year round.

GrafixMuse - I hope you do and look forward to hearing all about it. As short as our zone 5 summers normally are we need to extend the season for as long as possible you know.:)

Mr. H. said...

Hello Ida - Thanks for your kind words, hope the weather in your part of Alabama is still fairly decent. I'm glad to hear that you are interested in being more self-sufficient. I think, especially when it comes to food, that this will become more and more important in the future. Also, you might take a look at Dave's blog for more information on salad crops that should do really well in your area during the cold months.

Mike said...

I figured out that Parsley is winter hardy about a week ago. I went into the garden after the snow storm had melted to see if anything was still alive. Parsley was about it. Great post, I see my self searching this post out again when we get ready for our winter garden. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Leigh said...

What an excellent post. I always learn something from your posts, but this one really tops them all. What a great resource. I'm doing better with my winter gardening this year and am very encouraged by it. Your lists are very helpful. Thanks a million Mr. H.

Anonymous said...

What an informative post! And it's nice to know we're not the only people who can't grow a decent radish root to save our lives; even if it's supposed to be one of the easiest crops to grow!

You so often have a tidbit of historical info to share - you must read a lot :)

ChrisJS said...

Thank you for taking the time to post such a useful piece.

Mr. H. said...

Mike - Parsley is one tough plant, even if the greens die back it will usually make a comback from the roots in early spring providing lots of new green growth before bolting to seed.

Leigh - Best of luck with your winter gardening this year. I think having fresh food available from the garden during the winter is just another step on the road towards food independence.

Foodgardenkitchen - Ah yes the humble radish that so often humbles me.:) If the worms don't get them they bolt to seed, but planted late for the greens alone they seem to do pretty well.

ChrisJS - I appreciate your comment and am glad you found the content useful:)

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Mr H. you are definitely a book well worth reading!

Tom in Kansas said...

Thanks, Mr. H, for this thorough and useful article. I'm a regular SubPatt reader and always appreciate your good work.

Harriette said...

I am thrilled by the amount of information you have on your blog, but I can't see the pictures on my Firefox browser, only on IE.


Mr. H. said...

Ginny - You are too kind.:)

Tom - Thanks for stopping in and reading our blog. Sounds like some parts of Kansas have been getting quite a bit of snow.

Hariette - I just logged into firefox and they are showing on my screen, maybe it was just a momentary glitch? Anyway, thanks very much for your comment and I'm glad you are finding some of the information on this blog useful.

Jason Dingley said...

That is terrific photo with the tunnels sounded by snow. I can just picture the warm little vegetables tucked inside. It is an interesting contrast reading your blog to living here in Australia. My garden hardly even gets a frost.

Veggie PAK said...

What a treasure of information! I saved this post as a favorite for all the info in it. Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge! Great post!

Unknown said...

Oh.my.goodness. Wow! You spent some serious time on this post!!! I am pinning this for a continuous reference!

This is perfect:) I am seriously loving your post and whole blog! It is so inspirational and informative. I know my subscribers would really enjoy reading this. I would love for you to come share it at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways on Frugally Sustainable (http://frugallysustainable.blogspot.com/2011/11/frugal-days-sustainable-ways-4.html). I really hope that you will put Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways on your list of carnivals to visit and link to each Wednesday!

Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable
Here's the link: http://www.frugallysustainable.com

Mr. H. said...

Jason - You might not have the cold but you certainly have the hot dry weather to contend with.:)

Veggie Pak - Thanks, as a fellow year round gardener I'm glad you found the post interesting.

Andrea - Thanks for stopping by, I look forward to checking your blog site out. Sounds like you have a lot of good stuff going on over there.

Year Round Vegetable Gardener said...

Mr H, this may be the BEST post on a blog that I've ever read.. so thorough! Obviously you should be writing the book on winter gardening, but thank you for the 'shout-out' for my upcoming one (just another week or two!)

Your photos are so inspiring - LOVE the one with all the mini hoops in the snow - such a wonderful winter sight..

Thanks again for sharing..

Mr. H. said...

Niki - I am very excited about your book. I read through the preview pages on Amazon and know it will be an excellent and inspiring book for all us who wish to garden throughout the seasons.:)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I recently found your blog and am learning a lot. After seeing the amazing amount of food you are growing under these row covers, one question comes to mind: what on earth will you do with all that food? It looks like it would feed an army!


LynnS said...

You surely eat well. :-)

We're still learning about winter gardening here and I appreciate your list of winter hardy veggies. Some surprised me! Your tunnel photo is stunning -- what a great view!

Reading about the reasons for needed potassium in plants was interesting. We seem to provide the nutrients and minerals without knowing the reasons to do so. This makes perfect sense though -- we humans require the proper potassium levels ourselves unless we want to face muscular cramps (think charley horse) and dehydration issues. We're not so very different, we humans....

Mr. H. said...

Emily - It does seem like a lot but the plants you see do not grow very much between October and March, so after six months of us picking away at them there is not a lot left come April when everything starts to grow once again. Glad to hear you are finding the blog interesting and thanks for your comment.:)

Lynn - It is interesting to think that maybe we can "strengthen" our plants through nutrition to help them withstand adverse conditions. There seems to be a lot of controversy on whether added potassium really helps or not but even if it gives just a slight advantage it would seem to be worthwhile.

It's been down in the teens at night and high 20°the past week or so with no snow at all and the ground has frozen fairly deep, it will be interesting to see what plants do best this winter. Usually the snowy winters with their added insulation are much easier on the plants. The grandson is happy though as he gets to go ice skating on the lake tomorrow.:)

Kimberly said...

Hi Mr. H.,
What a fabulous winter garden you have.

We moved! To your neck of the woods. The soil here is so different from the sand I have been dealing with...here the soil is dark and rich. I can't wait to start gardening.

Anonymous said...

Really informative post and it's great there will be no lean period for you. I'm fascinated by the Roman habit for soaking cloth in tallow, resin, or linseed oil to provide protection and light during the winter and may have to conduct a mini experiment.

Mr. H. said...

Kimberly - How exciting, I am glad to hear that you found a place with good soil. It's going to be hard waiting all winter to get started with gardening isn't it.:)

Contandina - When I read about that I was very excited because I have often wondered what I would do should we no longer be able to use plastic to cover our garden hoops. I might just do a little experiment with this too.:)

Mavis said...

Ring Ring Hello...
Is the the I am a Gardening Rock Star Hotline? Seriously you two, you are amazing!

Mr. H. said...

Mavis - Your pretty cool too. You know one of those fantastic cold hardy perennial arugula's that grows so good I am having a hard time containing it originally came from you.:)

Unknown said...

Impressive!! I like how your garden rolls :) And am also fascinated by this talk of ancient pre-plastic fleece. I think an experiment is in order...

Unknown said...

In reading back through all your winter veg I saw you listed chicory. I've never grown it before but am seriously interested. I've just bought a roasted chicory root coffee substitute and it's amazing! It tastes so similar to coffee that I'm sure that some people wouldn't notice the difference. Have you tried making it with yours before?

Mr. H. said...

Hi Tanya - Chicory is wonderful, many varieties are perennial and they are quite a versatile plant in the sense that there is a variety of uses for both the greens and the roots. Check out my post on using these roots for coffee - http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blogspot.com/2009/01/poor-mans-coffee.html

Greenside Up said...

WOW!!! My little garden pales into insignificance lol!

Mr. H. said...

Greenside Up - I disagree, not only do you have your own amazing gardens to tend but those of the community to help with and that is a very impressive undertaking.:)

WeekendFarmer said...

Lucky Tiberius! : ) This is such a natural prozac Mr. H!! I will print this post and analyze/read so I can do it next year. I love the work you do...what a labor of love. Happy holidays!!!

Anonymous said...

As you are a big chicory fan Mr H I wonder if you have tried growing catalogna chicory. http://www.growitalian.com/chicory-catalogna-brindisina/

Id never tried it before moving to southern Italy but it appears as a side salad with almost every meal from around October through to April. It can be eaten either raw (the leaves grow into a bulb which you can split and munch on between courses to aid digestion) or you can saute both the bulb and/or leaves in garlic and oil (and anchovies and chillies if you like). It's quite bitter but also very fresh tasting.

Mr. H. said...

Weekendfarmer - I hope you do get a chance to try growing more winter greens. Last night I picked a bunch of kale that was frozen solid, brought it into the house and after it thawed you would have never know it was not picked from a summer garden...pretty amazing really.

Contandina - I have grown a green leafed chicory that was called catalogna but it did not look like the one at your link...that said, I actually have plans to try a few new varieties this year and one of them is called "Chicory Catalogna Galatina " which is very similar looking to your Brindisina variety...I'm very excited to try it.:)

Mr. H. said...

Contandina - Now you have got me looking through the Seeds From Italy online catalogue as well...they seem very generous with their seed quantities and have some varieties I have not seen before.

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

Mike - what an absolutely wonderful summary of your winter garden! So generous in providing a wealth of practical information.

I second the recommendation for Seeds of Italy, when it comes to interesting & hardy greens (provided they are getting some protection from ice and cold in my area (Z6) and yours too.

Great idea blackberry leaves for tea throughout the winter. If you have sage rowing for you, have you tried thyme and hardy rosemary through the winter? As long as they are dry, they can take a fair amount of cold. Besides their culinary qualities,, they have also medicinal virtues (I know you know that!)

In regards to radishes, are you planting "spring" or "winter" radishes? The French breakfast type (like D'Avignon) and the American spring ones like 'Champion' grow well enough in the spring for me, not so well in the fall (unless it's a mild one like this year); but the winter radishes like black Spanish or 'Wintermelon' (aka Red Meat') woirks much better.

May we harvest all year long indeed!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that :-) If any take your fancy I'll happily pass some onto a friend over visiting from New York in January (Franchi seeds only cost €1-2 over here).

Mr. H. said...

Sylvie - We do grow lots of thyme but I have never had luck overwintering rosemary outdoors. I do have some potted up inside hoping that it will survive until spring but have not had much luck keeping it over that way either. So perhaps I do need to find a more hardy variety, I have heard there are some that do better than others but must admit to not experimenting with this herb very much...although I should as we are always using it.

Our biggest problem with radish is that they get root worms and also do not appreciate our sometimes dramatic night and day temperature shifts. I will read up on the varieties you suggested and maybe give some of them a try. Thanks for the great advice.:)

Contandina - You are too kind, while I will probably not take you up on it I certainly will keep your offer in mind...thank you.:)

Lisa said...

You folks are amazing! We have a modest year 'round vegetable garden in our tiny urban backyard.

Our climate is so much milder than yours -- our bees fly all winter.

Mr. H. said...

Lisa and Robb - It's great that you are able to garden all year round. Bees all winter, wow, that is hard for me to imagine as ours are often gone by Late October. Hope you had a nice holiday season.:)

Tim B. said...

Mr. H - I have been following your blog for sometime now and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy and learn from your blog. I really enjoyed reading this post about winter gardening. As someone who has a gardening blog and web site, I have been trying to get gardeners to think about simple ways to extend their gardening season. This post is "spot on." Keep up the good work and happy gardening.

Mr. H. said...

Tim - Thanks for stopping by, I just checked out your blog and website...great videos and information. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures in gardening.:)

Lisa said...

Just find your blog. Wow ! Lots of inspiration !!! Thank for sharing. I´ll be back.
Lisa/Lisas garden, Sweden

JustForDaisy said...

Thanks for posting this information! So useful! :)
We're moving to a slightly cooler climate (0'C-15'C average in winter.) Very interested to try and have 365 vegie supplies from our garden. These are really useful tips. I'm now following your blog! :) Bek @ Just For Daisy

Mr. H. said...

Lisa - Nice to make your acquaintance, thanks for stopping in to say hello all the way from Sweden.

Rebekah - Hope you do get a chance to grow some cold hardy vegetables in your new climate. I think you will be amazed at how tenacious some of these plants really are when it comes to colder weather conditions.

Hidden Pines Family Homestead said...

FANTASTIC article!!!! An absolute must read for anyone wanting to grow in the colder months!!!

Mr. H. said...

Hidden Pines Family Homestead - Thanks for your kind words, I am glad you appreciated this post.

meemsnyc said...

Oh my gosh! This is beyond impressive!!

Clint Baker said...

First time reader. You have a lot of good info here, which I will be browsing in the next few days. Thanks for sharing:


Mr. H. said...

Clint - Thanks for stopping by, I look forward to checking out your blog as well.

Ay and Jay said...

Hello Mr. H! Thanks so much for sharing all this information! My soon to be husband and I are looking into moving to Idaho as well and I've been wanting a garden. Right now though, we are traveling looking for property. Any near you, or any good suggestions as to an area to move to?? :)
Thanks for sharing!

Mr. H. said...

Ay and Jay - Sounds like an exciting adventure, you might check out the listings in the Coeur d'Alene, Hayden lake, and Post Falls areas. Best of luck with your search.:)

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