Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Thoughts on Winter Gardening

seedlings 1
From left: Flowering Brassica, Hakurei Turnips, Salad Greens
What to grow and harvest during the long winter months - I came across a great article in the New York Times the other morning on this very subject. I have a stockpile of hardy Asian Greens in my seed box waiting to be planted out this fall. Hopefully they will fair better than the ones currently growing in my garden, which tend to resemble Swiss cheese these days. (One added benefit of winter - fewer pests!) I've already sown my winter carrots and the special package I ordered from Johnny's Selected Seeds just arrived in the mail today (more on that later).

winter carrots
Winter carrots
I'd mentioned in a previous post that I have a fascination with growing and harvesting food during the winter months. If someone were to ask me why, I don't know if I'd be able to give a definitive answer, especially since in my opinion there are many compelling reasons for doing so. For starters, I appreciate the fact that this practice has had a long and rich history particularly in Europe, and the stubborn Luddite inside of me wishes to preserve this dying tradition. Also, I think this idea lends greater credence and meaning to a piece of advice being widely dispensed these days by foodies, gardeners and even physicians -"eat according to the seasons" - a concept that is generally more acceptable in parts of the world where winters are mild or where access to the global food trade is still limited. In my case, this particular piece of advice also begs the question - are seasonal eaters living in cooler climates (New England, for example) limited for 6 months out of the year to what's stored in a root cellar, processed in a jar, or bagged in a freezer? Or is it possible to add some variety during these lean months by starting a winter garden, while at same time lessening our dependence on produce shipped from California and South America?

Having never grown a successful winter garden myself, I'm approaching this endeavor admittedly with a bit of trepidation. I can't help but wonder- if winter gardening is possible in this part of the world, then why aren't more people doing it? This I can't be sure of. But what I am certain of is that it indeed is worth an earnest effort.

Winter Seeds
Back to my package - earlier this week, I placed an order with Johnny's for the seeds I intend on growing in the coming months, crops that are particularly known for their hardiness. Those who have read Eliot Coleman's books will find some items on this list rather familiar:

Spinach - Smooth Leaf Space (F1)
Wild Arugula - Sylvetta
Green Oakleaf Lettuce - Tango
Minutina (Erba Stella)
Mache (Corn Salad) - Vit

As you've probably noticed, this list is limited mainly to the traditional salad crops. In addition to what's here, we hope to be eating some Napoli carrots, Hakurei turnips and assorted varieties of Asian greens. A year from now, and if all goes according to plan, I hope to add on to this list some kale, leeks, chard and other salad greens such as claytonia and bulls blood beet.

Finally, I'd like to give a BIG thanks to Kelly from How My Garden Grows for filling me in on a special offer that was advertised in Johnny's newsletter this month. I also happily received today free packs of Johnny's all lettuce mix (1200 seeds) and Easter egg radishes! YES! I love free stuff! THANKS KELLY!


  1. Oh, you are welcome! I just placed an order as well, maybe we should do some seed sharing? I have a spankin' new packet of Bright Lights Swiss Chard!

  2. You know I was just thinking that you are in MA, are you aware of the NOFA Bulk Order? It is usually done once a year (in time for Spring), but I heard a rumor they were doing one this Fall as well, but their web page is not reflecting this.

    Anyway, pay a yearly fee to support organic gardening, receive some good literature, and take place in the bulk order. Things like seed potatoes, row covers, plastic mulch, soil amendments, organic fert.'s and bug killers etc...all at a decent discount, and no shipping fee! If interested google NOFA MA Bulk Order to see last year's catalog.

  3. Kelly, that is awesome! How did I not know about this?

  4. kelli is an excellent ally - gotta love when community is born . . a beautiful thing to witness

    Thomas you will be so delighted with the success of your fall and winter gardens - my summer beds are always iffy due to pests and heat but my fall and spring gardens are always produce abundantly. For years now I have food until December and am picking something in March, in Canada that is not the norm. Can't wait to see what develops here, peace for all

  5. Hi Thomas - re your earlier comments about the Japanese garden .... you'll be fine providing you choose clumping bamboo rather than running bamboo. Black bamboo 'Phyllostachys Nigra' is a good bet - it stays in a nice neat clump, takes about 10 years to fully mature and looks great in winter with its black stems!

    I think a Japanese themed shadey garden would be lovely next to your plot. Go for it!

  6. My seeds are in, (I sent you an e-mail the other day) so I can send some packets up when ever you would like them!

  7. Winter gardening. I like the idea. I always end up with a living room full of seedlings in the spring time, so why not try winter gardening. Please post more on how things grew. I'm interested to see how you did.