Cold Frame Grow Bags Vegetables Winter Gardening

Getting Ready for the Winter Season

After being able to plant crops for fall in August this year — a first for me because of the rainy weather —- I ended up loosing a lot because drought conditions that arrived late and prevailed during September.  The good news is just as many things made it.  Now I have lettuce and various greens in 5 stages of growth because of 5 succession plantings.

I’ve been trapping rodents intensively for the past few weeks and think I have — at least temporarily —- removed them from rows with my winter/spring crops.


Far left top corner is dandelion green.  Bed to left shows cover crop of purple tansy.  Middle bed of lettuces and greens is now covered with hoop tunnel.  Upside down flower pots are where I was trapping.

Some leaves are in the garden, but most still need to be raked.

I planted Lacy Phacelia (purple tansy) as a cover crop in various beds in August.  After it winter kills, I’ll add leaves and straw on top.

Even my grow bags have a cover crop in them.  (Alfalfa.)  I’ll cut it very close in late February or early March and lay the biomass on top of the root stubble.  Then I’ll add thick layers of leaves and straw on top of that.  Should make a very nice home for some warm weather crops next May.


Alfalfa in grow bags.

The forecast called for high winds and night time temperature in the 20s off and on throughout the month starting last night. So I knew I’d loose some things if we didn’t get the hoop tunnels up.

Bill spent about 3 hours Friday afternoon placing and securing the hoops for 5 hoop tunnels. While he was doing that, I picked enough lettuce to last for more than a week.  Also various greens.


I’ve been picking the lettuce and greens in this bed since September.  More than likely this is where most of the winter pickings will come from.

We both worked 3 hours on Saturday to cover the hoops with greenhouse plastic and secure it with clips and bricks to weight the sides and ends.  When I checked Sunday morning – everything had made it through just fine in spite of the high winds.


The three tunnels at the lower end of the garden. Garlic bed is between the one of the left and right.  Garlic is up about 6 inches.

Uncovered Crops

I still have some things uncovered that will probably do just fine through winter: chard, tatsoi, russian kale, mache, cress, cutting celery, some cultivated dandelions, and few other hardy greens that I don’t know the names of. Also have a few beets under the cover of straw.

 Cultivated Dandelion greens. No room for this in a hoop tunnel. The plant will make it, but green may have to renew itself.

Cultivated Dandelion greens. No room for this in a hoop tunnel. The plant will make it, but green may have to renew itself.



Alice, a reader out West, put me onto cutting celery.  I started it via wintersown in February last year, transplanted it in various places in May, and ended up with several gorgeous plants.  I’ve mulched it heavily and hopefully it will make it through.  It’ll stalk and seed like parsley does and I’ll save seed.  In the meantime I’ll plant more this February. Great for cooking when you want the flavor but don’t want to buy celery.



My Mache that I planted in flats did not germinate.  The Mache above reseeded from last years plants and I was thrilled.  Never can get enough of this delicious winter green to suit me.  Its leaves are tiny, so you have to pick a lot.  Really great in salads.



This Tatsoi Bok Choy has been in the garden since last spring!  When I harvest – I pick EVERY leaf and it’s renewed itself at least 5 times since I’ve been picking it.  (It was so beautiful I didn’t want to pick for a long time and was sure happy when it almost instantly renewed itself.) I’ve fall planted ones in other garden beds.  Very nice when sauteed with olive oil and garlic.

Still Eating Fresh

  • I’ll be out of red peppers tomorrow.
  • Have enough green peppers to get through another couple of weeks.
  • Should make it into the first or second week of December with fresh tomatoes. (Usually I get through Christmas or longer with fresh tomatoes.)
  • Still have radishes under the hoop tunnels.
  • Picked 8 beautiful Hakurei turnips Friday.  Have that many more growing under the cover of the hoop tunnels.
This is what remains of my Hakurei turnips planted in September.

This is what remains of my Hakurei turnips planted in September.

I’m out of onions except for the spring onions planted this fall.   (Usually I get through until January with fresh onions)


Most of my parsley plants have been “flatened” by the cold by are still ok.  This one looks so great and it was greatly positioned to fit under the long hoop tunnel shown in the picture below.



These hoop tunnels are at the upper end of the garden.  The long tunnel houses the greens I’ve been picking since September, the parsley and also some new plantings of lettuce.  The green “stuff” in part of two beds is Phacelia (purple tansy). The end of the middle bed has spring onions in it.  You can barely see them in the picture, but they’re up a few inches



This bed has 4 varieties of lettuce, spinach and baby swiss chard.  Its under the short hoop tunnel to the left in the picture above this one.

More to Plant

I started several more varieties of lettuce, some spinach, onions and beets a couple of weeks ago in jug bottoms rather than flats.  I put those under the hoop tunnels this morning.  When we get a warm day or two I’ll transplant in beds with the protection of the tunnels.  This planting and the previous planting probably won’t do a lot of growing until early spring.  Then they’ll grow quickly and tide me over while I’m waiting for other spring plantings to mature and the August plantings are about finished.

Plastic Left Off when Conditions are Good

Expecting rain Tuesday and temperatures in the 40s.  I’ll roll back the plastic on the tunnels and let the rain get into the beds. Then will cover again for the freezing temperatures.  When it’s nice weather and moderate at night I’ll leave the plastic off.

Final Thoughts

Hope your enjoying a fresh-from-the-garden salad on Thanksgiving along with other fresh or preserved bounties from the summer and fall.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Looking at the garden from the lower end.



Looking from the upper end.


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • Oh My Gosh Theresa! You have such a beautiful winter bounty. I wonder if you are starting your plants in a green house? I need to find some winter crop seed and get going. I do have some lettuce, carrots, beets, parsley, artichokes, jurusalem artichoke, Leeks, and walking onion. I would like to find some other things too, such as Tatsoi Bok choy. That looks beautiful. I have never tried Mache. You once again have inspired me. Where did you find the cultivated Dandelion seed?
    Back to the uncomposted cow manure, I have covered it with some dirt, about 1 foot of leaves and about 3 inches of compost. I hope that works. Maybe I won’t feed friends out of my garden this summer 🙂 Just in case


  • Sue – Thank you Sue! Sure glad you find my gardens and site inspirational. Sometimes just seeing
    what a fellow gardener is doing can really make a difference.

    Lisa – Thanks! Want you to know that I’ve enjoyed your garden updates via email. I’ll be anxious to know how things progress and what changes in your garden please you the most.

    I do NOT have a green house.
    I start all my plants outside either in flats or jugs. (See all the wintersown posts.)
    And yes Tatsoi Bok Choy is a gorgeous plant.
    Do try Mache. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
    I’ll have to find my records on where I got the Dandelion seed and get back to you.

    In all probability – you are going to be fine with the cow manure now that you’ve covered it thickly. In my opinion that would do the same as incorporating it into the top 6 inches of the soil. But your idea about not sharing with others is probably a good one.

    In the spring you’ll probably find that the worms have worked through the manure and pulled it into the soil and you won’t recognize it as manure.

    Sounds like you’ve got a great start on your winter bounty. Glad I’ve inspired you to go even further. Mache and Tasoi Bok Choy should be nice additions. Claytonia is a good winter plant that you may want to try. It doesn’t suit my taste buds — but it’s worth a try just in case.


  • Theresa,
    Happy Thanksgiving. I’m out in California so it’s always interesting to see how other parts of the country garden. We just came off of a couple of days of rain and things are beginning to dry out. They expect more rain perhaps along the coast this week. We are looking at warmer than normal temps for the Thanksgiving week. The weather for this week-end will be near 70 degrees in the warmest part of the day. I planted more lettuces yesterday and my garlic is up about 1 inch. I am growing 5 different varieties. It finally got cold enough to put them in. I live in the city and I have begun removing front lawn and adding garden beds and removing non-fruting trees and putting in fruit trees. I look at your beautiful big garden and I’m so happy and thrilled that you have such a beautiful and abundant garden. For thanksgiving I grew a couple of sweet meat pumpkins for the annual pumpkin bread and pies. I make those in the next few days and distribute to the neighbors. The pies are for my husband! My hubbard squash will go into a pasta dish and my lettuces will go into green salad and leftover turkey sandwiches along with various veggie pickles I made. Dried herbs grown during the year will go into everything! I really do love cooking what I grow! There is a satisfaction that comes with cooking my own home grown produce that I don’t get with almost anything else. I can’t explain it. It seems to really ground me. What are you making for Thanksgiving?

  • Nice hearing what you’re doing out there in California Rachel.
    We stopped having “traditional” Thanksgiving meals more than 20 years ago. For many years — we were lucky if we got to eat on Thanksgiving day. We are so thankful we now have an abundance of food and enjoy almost every meal as if it were a special Thanksgiving event — because indeed it is to us.
    Thanks for commenting and again, Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Your husband Bill did a wonderful job with your hoop tunnels, mine are not as professional looking. I use them mostly for my beds of Swiss chard and leeks. I was surprised to see mache in your garden, which is a typical European winter salad that grows wild in the vineyards. I always keep a patch free near my tomatoes because it sows itself out whenever the growing conditions are fitting. Otherwise, we usually sow it in little pots in August, which can then be replanted in the garden when the space is free from the harvest of other crops like broccoli or late carrots. So far we have hardly had any night frosts. Who knows what the winter will bring after such a crazy 2013 growing season all over the world?

  • Thank you Millard. I will pass the compliment along to Bill.
    After he put the hoops up and secured them, I was in such a hurry to get the plastic on before nightfall that I did not roll the sides and pull as tightly as it should be to really look nice. Nonetheless, it stayed in place in the 35 to 40 mile an hour gusts of wind we had that night.
    As long as hoop tunnels stay put and protect your crops — that’s the main consideration. 🙂

    I love the mache. Never seem to get enough of it, but I love it. As I mentioned in the post, mine volunteered — much to my delight. Actually they’re in inconvenient spots but I’m not disturbing them. I can certainly understand why you keep spots free for mache to self sow.

    By the way, Millard I’ve been very excited about the Phacelia that you told me about last December.
    It was late summer by the time I had a chance to use it. It’s in several beds right now — as you may have seen in the pictures in the post. I’ve been very pleased with it’s performance thus far. After it winter kills I’ll mulch on top of it.

    I’ll use it in some beds this spring and hope to leave it long enough to see bloom.
    Sure appreciate your telling me about it.
    Have a great winter!


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