Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Gardening - Successes and Failures (Part Two)

winter wild greens
I experimented with a few wild greens this winter, namely mache, minutina and wild arugula. The wild arugula eventually succumbed to the recurring hard freezes but the mache and minutina have proven to be virtually indestructible.

winter mache
One of my big mistakes this winter was sowing the seeds too late (mid-September). In all likelihood, these greens won't be ready for harvesting until early March, which isn't a big deal if this was what I was aiming for. This year, I will start the minutina in early August and the mache in late August. I will also sow the mache more densely and harvest the thinnings. Finally, I will be adding claytonia (miner's lettuce) to the list of wild greens to grow next winter.

tango lettuce
Tango lettuce was supposed to be my hardy winter lettuce for this year. As you can see, it still looks pretty good. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of hard frost, this lettuce started tasting incredibility bitter. I sampled it again last weekend and some of the bitterness has subsided. I'm hoping that as the weather warms up a bit, it will become edible again.

rouge d'hiver lettuce
I also had some Rouge D'Hiver lettuce growing well into December. As expected, it faded as temperatures inside the mini hoop houses dropped into the high 20's F. Interestingly though, the color has turned a brilliant burgundy wine. I did notice that it's starting to put on new growth. I've never tasted overwintered lettuce before. I wonder if it will be any good. Next winter, I will try to grow lettuce again, only with different varieties. Dan has had success with Little Gem this year and Winter Density also looks promising.

winter chard
The Bright Lights swiss chard is still hanging in there. I may look for another variety to grow next winter. Like the kale, I will plant my winter chard closer together next fall and harvest the leaves at a young stage.

winter carrots
Finally, the carrots have been a great success this winter. I'm sticking with the Nantes and Napoli varieties as they continued to put on size well into January. Not only are they extremely hardy, but also taste really good. I will say that it is absolutely necessary to hold them under a double layer of protection, something I neglected to do with my Nantes carrots. Doing so prevents the soil from freezing solid and makes harvesting much more manageable.

24 comments:

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Lucy
    http://dataentryjob-s.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great job, Thomas! You've got a lot going! I've started loving your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mache is such a great winter green to grow. It invariably ends up being my ultra early spring crop of fresh greens because it is such a pokey grower and I NEVER get it started early enough to be a true winter crop. It's all good though - as come March and April the return of some fresh greens is welcome indeed.

    Your winter gardening efforts (particularly since this is your first one) is outstanding. Just imagine what you will be able to accomplish after many more years of experience under your belt! Most impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are right; mache should be sowed in August. I have sowed it in September also.
    When did you sow carrot seeds? I see you had a lot success with it and your winter carrot harvests were all lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love the look of those carrots. Fantastic

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for posting about your experience with over winter gardening. It really helps give others ideas when to plant etc. as long as we take in consideration the zones.
    You've had a pretty amazing fall and winter garden here in your new place. Can't wait to see what your spring and summer gardening will be!

    ReplyDelete
  7. A great winter Thomas when all is said and done, I will have to take note of Dan's winter lettuce myself.

    My Rouge under the coldframe is all gross, it froze during one of those cold spells. Maybe I will try double layered hoops next year since I will have them on hand. Then again, I may not have free space to sow in August again.

    Oh, and I ordered a variety of that Chinese Kale, a burgundy thin stalked variety if you are interested in compairing it to what you have. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I too, struggle with getting those planting dates just right so I am never without a good salad. Unfortunately, mine went in too late as well this year, and then were killed off by the intense weather we had this year. We will all try to remind each other about those greens plantings and CARROTS, right? right? :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great pictures, Thomas. I hope my carrots do half as well as yours did.

    ReplyDelete
  10. One would think Rouge D'Hiver would be good in the winter, but I guess it is true to its name and just turns red.

    I'm trying a new chard this year. I really loved the look of Bright Lights, but Ruby Chard is sweeter so better tasting. I'm also going to grow a green one I haven't tried before, Argentata. Fedco claims it is much milder than other chards. I guess I'll find out if that is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love both your posts about your winter garden. Who would have thought that excess cold would make lettuce bitter, I always thought that heat was the main culprit. Do you like the minutina? I grew it a few years back but my husband wasn't crazy about it and now I don't even remember what it tasted like. He does love mache though so I'm going to try a spring sowing of a different variety.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My grandmother always left her carrots in the ground through the winter (no hoop house), but she covered them with bales of straw. The bales kept the ground from freezing beneath them, and she'd simply roll the bale off to dig carrots as needed. In the spring, the bale was opened and scattered as mulch. She also kept cabbage the same way, by digging a trench, putting the cut heads of cabbage in, raking the dirt back over them and then covering with the straw bales. They did have to be dug out when needed, although I'm wondering why not leave the root attached and bury them upside down. Then one could just grab the root and pull.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Always thinking Gran...hahaha...that's what I love about you.

    vrtlarica - I sowed my carrot seeds in early August. This year, I'm sowing them on August 1st.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Michelle- I like the texture of the minutina and the fact that it seemed so fresh and mild. I've yet made up my mind as to whether it's worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My worst crops this year was wong bok & kale, Both needed a much sooner start. I am thinking of seeding most things in July inside and then plant them outside in Aug. Things that don't transplant well will be direct seeded when ever space is available and the temp is not to high.

    I made your pot stickers a couple days ago. I almost went mental making them all but they are so tasty. Next time I need to make them when I have helpers available! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  16. You winter garden looks good.
    I'll have to try mache later this year, I've heard so much as about it.

    I struggle with timing when to plant what so that we don't have to eat the same greens all winter long.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Very interesting series you've got going. For those of us who never gardened in the winter, it's quite useful info, and it gives me some ideas, for sure. I'm trying mache for the first time in the early spring garden, and I hope it lives up to its reputation.

    How quaint that Rouge d'Hiver turned red in winter! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dan, I'm glad you decided to make the pot stickers and that you enjoyed them! That makes me happy. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. gald to see you at farmhouse, Thomas...

    i am so ready to start planting..

    putting in forget-me-not seeds tomorrow..and i'll be thinking of you, my friend

    kary

    ReplyDelete
  20. Once the dormant season is well and truly upon us, this is the time to take stock of the year’s successes and failures, and to get on with planning for next year.This is a really a very important post for all who loves to do gardening in winter specially.All the tips suggestions are very easy to follow.
    Ration packs

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Interesting post. Well when there is so much a new. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks! This is what I really needed. No books that I bought gave me so much useful info than you did!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for a nice post! I’m glad that your blog gets better and better! I’ll bookmark it!

    ReplyDelete