Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Year's Winter Veggies - An Overview

I thought I'd do a quick overview of my winter veggies this year in order to plan for next year's garden. Here is what I've observed so far:

winter spinach
Spinach - This is probably one of the hardiest crops I have in my garden right now. I have two partial beds of the Space (F1) variety- one under a double layer of protection and the other under a single layer quick hoop. Both are doing very well. The issue I have with spinach is that it is more prone to excess heat than it is to freezing temperatures. Next fall, I will reserve an entire bed for it and apply permanent coverage only at the very end of the fall growing season, maybe sometime in late November. Also, I think I got the winter sowing date just about right this year. 2010 winter sowing date: Sept 1.

winter kale
winter chard
Red Russian Kale and Bright Lights Chard - Both are doing very well under a double layer of protection. I sowed the seeds in early September only because I didn't have a bed ready until then. In 2010, I will try to extend the growing season of my spring-sown kale for as long as possible and attempt to overwinter a later summer sowing. 2010 winter planting out date: Aug 1 (start indoors).

Carrots - I grew two varieties this winter - Napoli (under double layer) and Nantes (under single layer). I sowed the seeds a bit late this year (mid-August) and the Napoli took longer to size up. I will stick to these two varieties next year since they seem to withstand freezing temperatures very well. I can still pull my Napoli carrots but the soil around my Nantes carrots is frozen solid. Next year, I will place both under a double layer and spread a few inches of straw in late fall to help keep the soil from freezing solid. 2010 winter sowing date: Aug 1.

tango lettuce
death of lettuce
Death of Rouge D'Hiver Lettuce

Lettuce - My Rouge D'Hiver lettuce was killed off when temperatures inside the hoop house dipped down into the low 20's. Also, my lettuce mix fared better but is a bit too damaged to be worth eating. My Tango lettuce on the other hand seems to be holding up well under current conditions. Next year, I will be sure to harvest all of my lettuce mix by the end of November or early December at the latest. 2010 fall/winter sowing date: Lettuce mix - Sept 1, Tango lettuce - Sept 1 and Sept 15.

minutina 2
Wild Salad Greens (wild arugula, minutina, mache) - Ironically enough, I sowed my wild arugula a bit too early and my other wild greens a bit too late this year. The mache and minutina seem to tolerate the winter temperatures better than the wild arugula but all seem to be pretty hardy. However, the wild arugula was very quick to grow. 2010 winter sowing dates: wild arugula and mache - Sept 1 and Sept 15, minutina - Sept 1 (at the latest).

winter pak choi
Asian greens - I grew several varieties of Asian greens this fall but neglected to do a proper winter sowing. Also, they were greatly affected by pests this year, specifically caterpillars, cutworms and slugs. I will have to have a plan in place to deal with these buggers. Also, placing my white stem pak choi under cover prematurely caused the plants to go to seed. Like Spinach, I should wait until November before applying permanent coverage. I currently have some pak choi seedlings that seem practically unfazed by the frigid temps. Next year, I plan on doing several fall plantings of tatsoi and pak choi. 2010 winter planting out dates: Sept 1, Sept 15, Oct 1 (start indoors).

Winter radishes and Hakurei turnips - these crops did well for me this year. Aside from applying cover to the radishes in late November, the only other thing I'd tweak next year are the direct sowing dates. Winter radishes - Sept 1, Sept 15, Sept 30. Hakurei turnips - Aug 15, Sept 1, Sept 15.

I will continue to play around with these sowing dates in order to get them just right. My goal is to have a steady harvest throughout most of winter (something that can be very hard to master). In addition to these crops, here are few that I'd like to learn more about and grow next winter: scallions, leeks, mizuna, Bianca Riccia endive, Bull's Blood beet (greens) and claytonia (miner's lettuce).


  1. I’m thinking about having small hoop houses next year, just like you have. The main reason is that you can sow in September out in the open and then apply cover when needed. In my greenhouse I can’t do that (September is too hot in the greenhouse).
    Another thing is that you can move your hoop houses from bed to bed and have a crop rotation every year. Crop rotation within my greenhouse is pretty limited.

    There are few more advantages of your winter gardening... well its true what they say: grass is always greener on the other side :-)

  2. Thomas, I'm so impressed at how beautiful things look in your garden up there. Now, soon you'll be able to start that summer garden in earnest.

  3. I believe you will soon be harvesting year round. I hope the little houses withstood all that wicked wind.

  4. Those plants are just so pretty. I'm surprised the Rouge d'Hiver didn't do so well. Usually plants with winter in their name are bred to handle the cold.

  5. Thanks for the overview. I'm making notes like crazy for next year's hoop houses.

  6. Gorgeous veggies! Thanks for the sum up, it is very useful information. I just need to figure how it applies to me a bit further north.

  7. Love the overview. You’ve done so well with your garden that I sometimes forget that you started late. I can’t wait to see how your 2010 garden grows. Neither spring nor fall spinach grew well for me. I may try Space

  8. Beautiful greens, thanks for the overview, I'll have to start ordering some seeds and get a new seed starting schedule written down so I don't forget.

  9. Thomas - everything looks impressive! I really like all of the different varieties you have, and they are colorful, too!

  10. Brilliant job Thomas! Your winter crops are fabulous. I was a bit lazy this year and did not get as many greens going in the greenhouse or under cover as I normally am apt to do - so our selection is lower as a result. Kicking myself now because I am really craving fresh versus preserved but I am having to pace myself on the fresh so as not to over harvest.