Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcoming the Winter Garden

winter garden
It's official. The winter garden is finally here. When I broke ground in late July, I really had no idea what to expect from my garden when December rolled around. All in all, I'm really happy with how things have turned out and I'm glad that my crops have made it this far. The real test for them, however, will come during the next three months. I've done a few things this week to further winterize my garden, which I will get into in another post. But for now, I thought I'd mention a few random observations from this past weekend. In no particular order:

I decided to pull up my pea plants finally. The vines were still relatively healthy with only minor signs of mildew, but I figured at this point, they weren't going to be doing much of anything anymore. What I've learned from my fall peas this year is that in all likelihood, I chose the wrong variety to grow. Next year, I will aim for one with a shorter maturity date. Also I noticed that I may have set them back a bit by direct-sowing them in early August when the weather was really too hot to support them. I think next year, I'll start them either indoors or in a cooler/shadier spot and transplant them into the garden in early September. Also, I noticed that by harvesting the main shoot, the plants responded by focusing most of their energy into maturing the existing flowers and pods. The plants also started to produce multiple side shoots. I think I'll do some research on whether pinching the main shoot produces side shoots that will provide a larger pea harvest in the spring.

All cleaned up, the radishes now look a bit lonely in this bed.

I planted out my rosemary this past weekend in a south-facing raised bed behind our garage. It has spent the last year and a half in this pot and was so root-bound that it was nearly impossible to get it out without breaking the pot or ripping the main stem from the roots. I am not hopeful that it will survive the winter unprotected, but who knows, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

supermarket softneck garlic
The supermarket softneck garlic I planted in mid-October is really reaching for the sun. Still no signs of the hardneck ones I purchased from Seed Savers Exchange.

My first sowing of minutina is really starting to take off now. I love the look of their thin jagged leaves.

mache 2
My first sowing of mache is growing pretty irregularly. Germination was about 60% and some plants are really lagging behind the others in their growth rate.

I spaced my second sowing of mache 1 inch apart instead of 2 and germination was a bit better - about 75%.

cranberry foliage
The leaves on my cranberry vines are now completely burgundy. I had underestimated their ornamental value when I purchased them last summer.

starfruit tree
Finally, I've only posted about my starfruit tree once before. It had spent most of the summer outdoors and really suffered when I brought it inside earlier this fall. In fact, it has lost more than half of its leaves. However, I think it's finally starting to adjust to the diminished light indoors and is growing again. I think I'll re-pot and fertilize it soon. The flowers of the starfruit tree are really quite striking. Here is my earlier post on this plant.


  1. You winter garden looks wonderful!
    I have sowed my mache too close, I wanted to use all seed that I have and didn’t have enough room... But I don’t think it will be a problem.

  2. wonderful photos! Your rosemary will love being in the ground, I planted several kinds a couple of years ago that size and they are now hedge-like and gorgeous! If you haven't tried it yet, grab some prostrate rosemary too, you will love the way it rambles along the ground and blooms all year long!

  3. I think the pea pinching requires a good experiment. Maybe I'll try it too on some of the plants and see how they respond.

    BTW I've tried to over winter the "hardy" rosemarys, but have never succeeded. The hardy ones are hardy to zone 7. I'm in zone 6b. I'll wish you good luck, but don't count on an unprotected regular rosemary to live. I tried bringing my rosemary indoors this year. Sadly it died after just three weeks. Rosemary just hates me.

  4. 'Pinching peas' reminded me of when we were kids. Daddy used to have us pick his peas and green beans; great long rows of them, too! We soon learned to pick a pea pod, pick a bloom or two. Pick a pea pod....We knew where those pea pods came from!

    Your garden looks great!

  5. I've never pinched peas, but I do plant them a bit earlier. Usually my spring planting dies off in late July and I replant at the same time I rip them up. This year was so off on the timeline, so I don't think anything went according to plan.

    I've also never been able to overwinter rosemary and you're even farther north than I.

  6. I will also add that there are many different types of rosemary - my prostrate was listed as hardy zone 9-11, which is funny because it is taking over my hedges in zone 7! Rosemary may grow for you if given the right microclimate, lots of sun, and not too wet soil. Looking forward to more gorgeous winter garden pictures!

  7. I've heard the same thing about pinching back the pea vines, but have never had the heart to do it! Often times my fall sown peas will pretty much die back during the winter but resprout with multiple stems in the spring, so maybe an initial pruning would be good. Besides, the pea shoots are delicious!

    Can't wait to read more about your star fruit, I hope it makes it through it's winter retreat indoors.

  8. The cranberry's foliage sure is striking. I always enjoy the wide shot of your garden. Everything is still so green !
    I stumbled upon this page about rosemary which may be of interest.

  9. Thomas, I love the view you have provided us, looking at your little garden "houses", seeing them from outside your window, and knowing that which is growing inside.

    I commend you for extending your season, but I am thankful for a bit of a rest as next month we start seedlings again. Interesting that my body reminds me I'm just not as young as I used to be. ;)

  10. Thanks everyone for you comments. Maybe we can all agree to pinch some pea plants next spring! Now I feel as though I should have just stored my rosemary plant inside one of my hoophouses...hmmm...maybe I'll build a nifty little shelter.

  11. Your growing cranberries, that's pretty cool. Last year half my garlic didn't break ground until the snow came and left. The smart ones stay below the ground during winter :-) I planted so late this season who knows what my garlic will do this time. I'm still loving the look of the minutina, must try that next season.

  12. Thomas, your winter garden is picture perfect!

  13. I'm thinking that the rosemary probably wont over winter but ya never know! Also, I don't think hardneck garlic will send up any greenery till next year will they? I know mine aren't supposed to but then again mine are in z5.

    I'm just so jealous of your winter garden! I'm working on my farm business plan tonight dreaming for the day I own a chunk of land.

  14. Don't despair on the mache - it seems to have a poor germination rate (at least that has been my experience) and it is slow to germinate... but so worth it when you have buttery tasting greens in the cold dark days of winter.

  15. hmmm, this method is really better. it works, works fast and good. and it's great, isn't it?? so grreat!