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How’s Your Winter Garden? – Comparing Notes

My mulched garlic looks good.  It’s not quite as tall as it was before the cold temperatures.  Looks as if about an inch of the tips were browned by freezing.  Otherwise, it’s fine.

I’ve just used the last garlic bulb from last year.  I planted more this year in the hopes of getting through next fall, winter, and spring with my garlic rather than any store-bought.

Lettuce

The first few days the temperatures remained in the 20s day and night, all the lettuce was wiped out under the hoop tunnels.  Had hoped that maybe some of the small stuff would stay alive to be the first lettuce of spring.  There are a few pieces out there that look “rough”, but still might make a turn around when conditions are right.

Also there is a plant out there that must have come in a mix of greens.  (I don’t know what it is. That’s one reason I’m not found of mixes.) I call it a lettuce because it looks like a lettuce. But the leaves are very thick and unlike any lettuce I’ve experienced. It looks really good and I’ll probably be eating that within a few weeks.

Mache

My favorite winter green is mache (also called corn salad).  It’s delicious and just laughs at cold temperatures. In our normal winter temperatures of freezing at night and above freezing in the day it seems to grow even when day light fall below 10 hours in winter.  The two self-seeded patches have been uncovered and exposed to the extreme temperatures the entire time. Although it stopped growing it still looks green and lush.

I tried to pick some today but the leaves were just too tiny.  But then to my delight I found 3 thriving, growing plants when I uncovered one of the hoop tunnels. The leaves were a little bigger than quarter size.  (That’s large for mache.)

Spinach

I had one hoop tunnel that was protected by two layers of plastic.  That was the last hoop tunnel we “made.” By that time we had two pieces of plastic remaining and neither was really big enough to fit properly, so we used both.  Although spinach is very hardy and probably would have done fine under just one layer of plastic, I’m sure that second layer contributed to how robust and wonderful it looked.    One layer of green house plastic is said to make a difference of 1 1/2 zones to the south.  Therefore, two layers would be 3 growing zones to the south.  I don’t think this happened with these two layers because they were not put on that well.  But it certainly has me thinking about doing better next year.

I had thought to take a picture of the little patch of spinach under one of the hoop tunnels, but forgot about it until it was picked and in the house.  Below is a picture.  We were having guests for dinner and I was fortunate  to have enough spinach to make a salad for 4.

Spinach is so much sweeter in cold weather. I added cubes of roasted beet, walnut pieces, and feta cheese.  Drizzled with my vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of dijon mustard and honey, and about 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. It got rave reviews!

xxxxx

Spinach made it through the cold just fine under the double hoop tunnel.  This was harvested February 20th. The smaller lighter green leaves are mache.

Rosemary

Just too cold for Rosemary this year.  I lost my oldest plant which is about 6 years old and the two newer plants put in year before last.  Disappointing.  I use lots of Rosemary for cooking and don’t think I can get a new plant to grow fast enough to keep up with my demand.  Fortunately, I have some frozen which should last until mid summer if I ration. (It’s chopped and mixed with a bit of oil.)

Blueberries

My blueberry bushes look fabulous.  I guess they enjoyed the cold.  The stems are turning that “new” red color that shows when spring is almost upon us.

Cutting Celery

Alice, a reader out west, told me about cutting celery.  2013 was my first year for growing it and I really enjoyed having it in the garden and using it for soups and such.

I mulched it heavily and it made it through the first cold spell.  Once the temperatures dropped to 20 and below and stayed below freezing, it was done.  I’ll grow more this year.

Cresses

Enjoying the cold and doing just fine without any protection.

(And by the way, I never planted cresses.  They came in “wild” and I was thrilled.  Now, with a little help from me, they come up here and there and make a wonderful cooked green at times when nothing else is available.) They can get very big – a circular clump with a diameter of 2 to 3 feet.  How many you let grow depends on how much you like them and how much room you can spare.

I usually let the small plant stay until they get too big.  I keep at least 2 or 3 really big ones on hand and let them seed for next time.

Tatsoi

A few tiny pieces remain under one of the tunnels.  They might do ok now that we’re quickly heading into spring.

Russian Kale and Chard

They’re gone.  I thought for sure the Russian Kale under the hoop tunnels might make it through, but it didn’t.

Onions Sets

When I harvest onions, I always have some that only made tiny bulbs. (a/k/a sets)  This year I had about 30 and replanted them in the garden about the first of November.  They sprouted and got up about 4 inches until the severe cold set in.  They seemed to disappear after that, but today I noticed them sprouting again. Guess I’ll have some early spring onions after all.

Other Onions

I noticed several onions under the hoop tunnels that I can pull and enjoy anytime now.  They were probably small onions left in the ground last year when I harvested.

Alfalfa in Grow Bags

I planted alfalfa in my grow bags this fall to hopefully derive the same benefits as cover crops planted in the garden. I plan to turn the alfalfa under at the end of this month. In spite of the cold it still looks nice and green, although I’m sure growth was not what it would have been had temperatures been more moderate.

Grabbing a handful and firmly pulling told me that root growth was strong.  It’s in there!  After I turn it, the roots will decay and should be very helpful in providing a nice habitat for the next vegetable I plant there.

Voles

They loved my hoop tunnels.  I knew when it turned really cold that they would go right to the ground protected by the tunnels.

I didn’t think about taking bait for the traps when I headed for the garden today.  When I saw all the holes, I set some empty traps anyway.  I’ll take peanut butter to bait traps when I go to the garden tomorrow.

I’ll start trapping intensively again from now until spring to get the numbers down again.

February is Spring 🙂

When we get to February, it’s always spring as far as I’m concerned.  Yes, I know: Nature can still throw some storms and cold weather at us.  But nonetheless, any way you shake it, it’s time to start making serious plans for the garden. No matter what nature throws our way, we have to do everything we can do if we want to a great harvest.

Looking Ahead

Little things done now can take a lot of stress out of the task when the time arrives and we’re busy with other things.

  • Wrapping up little jobs not yet finished in the yard, borders and garden to make our life better when the busy time comes.
  • Making sure we have the seed we need and making note of what we want to plant and when and where we want to plant it.
  • Taking a look at what harvest you have remaining and making a note of how much more or less you’ll need for the winter ahead.
  • Putting a good amount of grow mix in a large container and wetting it thoroughly to have on hand to fill  flats or jugs.
  • Pre-filling  jugs or flats a day or so ahead of planting to save time on planting days.

Final Thoughts

I think of you often when I’m in my garden. I hope these notes and thoughts will help give you some new ideas about what you want to accomplish now and the days ahead.

________

Organic gardening is easy, efficient and effective and it’s a lot easier.

_______

All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All rights reserved.

24 comments to How’s Your Winter Garden? – Comparing Notes

  • Sue T

    Your spinach and mache salad photo makes my mouth water! And your recipe sounds delicious!

  • Theo

    Theresa,
    Your post on the winter garden update made me laugh. My row covers are buried. My blueberries are buried.Only the top of the cherry tree is visible, and the apple trees are half sunk. I’ve now moved the garden start date to June for this year. I’m in Ely, MN, under 4 feet of snow. But the garlic supply is holding well and root cellar crops are telling me its time for more soup. Enjoy your balmy weather and thanks for the reminder that somewhere, someone is thinking about gardening this year!

  • Great post Theresa!

    Garlic – same as yours, I lost some tips, but was noticing this morning it looks great. I planted last November, they are about 6 inches high, and seem to think it is is now spring (probably due to our 70 degree temps!!)

    Rosemary – kind of relieved to see you lost a plant. I was just shocked to see that my big Rosemary plant seems to have died. Never, ever had one die before and am just baffled at having to start a new one. This guy has been with me for about 8 years, surviving two moves to new houses. I keep hoping he’ll come back to life now that it is warmer

    Elderberries – their first winter – no leaves of course, but the plants are big and seem very healthy/hardy

    Other stuff – so far, I have refused to tend to things to keep a winter garden. But, kind of, your post makes me want to rethink it.

    Was out yesterday tilling the onion bed, and will be planting onions in a few hours. The oat cover crop died back nicely to be be replaced by an impressive “cover” of weeds and wheat (left over from my straw mulch which apparently had more seeds than I would have liked). Oh well. Did a first chop up, and will till the “big” garden again in March before the real planting.

  • Mike

    Great looking spinach! Mine did not survive the winter. I am just west of Chicago. Made a hoop tunnel, but much colder on average this winter than I’ve had in the past. When I plodded through 2-3 foot high snow drifts to get to my spinach, they were flat on the ground and gray/white in color. No sign of any green anywhere. Did not plant garlic last fall like I have in the past, but will again next fall. Going to try softneck as they are supposed to store longer. Do love the size of hardneck though. I store my carrots in 5 gallon buckets that I bury up to the top and then cover lids with a bale of straw, and they are terrific, as usual. Maybe even a little sweeter than before. I will be getting fresh carrots from my bucket until mid-May. Have been doing this for last 5-6 years. can’t wait to get dirty hands!!! MIKE

  • Sheri

    I lost my rosemary plant also. It was huge & looked like a bush. It’s totally protected from the NW winds & has lasted thru all the other cold winters. There is some green down deep in the pot so I’ll prob cut it back this spring. Was wondering if I can still harvest the dried up Rosemary. It still smells good

  • Rebecca W.

    Hi Theresa,
    My husband and I move to Virginia last year and I was able to get a community garden plot to play around in. I quickly realized I love to garden! I then stumbled upon your blog and man is it a load of information! I just wanted to say thanks…your blog has been very helpful and encouraging for me starting out. I have my seeds for this year and am in the process of planning my 2nd year garden 🙂

  • Mary

    My garden has disappeared until all the snow melts, but I’ve started the 2014 vegetable garden already with my 5 and 6 year old nieces. They picked beans last summer and we saved bean seeds this past fall. Two weeks ago, we did a germination test. Each girl placed 10 seeds on moist paper toweling then sealed it all up in a ziplock bag. They had instructions to place their bags in a warm location and open them up on Valentine’s Day to report their results. We watched a video posted online so they could see what the sprouted beans would look like. The 6 year old decided they look like yogurt covered raisins! So, when I called them on Valentine’s Day, they each reported 9 beans had sprouted. We are all anxious to get back into the garden.

  • Theresa

    I know what you mean Sue! I’m so starved for “greens” from the garden and this spinach salad really hit the spot!

    Theo, I’m SO SORRY to hear that you are still buried under snow! Hopefully your soil and plants are being revitalized and will even do better than ever once they are thawed and visible again. June is long time to wait to start your garden, but at least you’ll have time to formulate your plans and will have all the mental preparation done when the weather cooperates with you.

    Kate, I sure relate to the way you feel about your 8 year old Rosemary. Rosemary plants get huge and are so gorgeous and enjoyable when they do. They can go for years and keep getting better. They can make it through many a winter even with temperatures falling to the single digits, but if things stay just a bit too severe – then they’re done. Obviously, this winter was one of those winters.

    Although mine looks dead as a door-nail, I’m going to cut my 3 foot tall Rosemary back to about 1 foot at the end of this month. It should be cold enough that the plants are still dormant, but late enough that we won’t experience anymore really severe weather to set them back if life is still there. We’ll see what happens.

    Another friend and reader grow elderberries and makes a wonderful tonic for the immune system from the dried berries.

    Glad the post made you want to keep a winter garden. Usually, it’s pretty easy, but this year that severe cold was totally unexpected and things did not fare as well as usual.

    I’ll be getting my onions in soon and thinking of you as I plant, Kate.

    Hi Mike,
    Sorry your spinach didn’t make it.
    I grow Italian Soft neck Garlic which makes fairly nice sized cloves with some small ones, but not as many as other varieties of the soft neck kind.
    This year, in addition to the Italtian Softneck variety I am trying a soft neck call Polish Red that I ordered from the Maine Potato Lady. She says, “Very hardy and prolific. Expect 6-10 large fat cloves, tan blushed with purplish-red. No small inner cloves like most softneck varieties.” Sounds like the best of both worlds, doesn’t it?
    Your carrots probably taste like manna from heaven about now.
    Hope your snow is all gone soon Mike!

    Sheri, I hope your Rosemary makes a comeback.
    You could probably go ahead and use the dried up Rosemary for smell and for flavoring cooking meats.
    Probably the leaves would be ok to ingest, but there’s just something down deep in me that tells me I wouldn’t want to chew and swallow those leaves. No reason for it, just a feeling.

    Welcome to TMG, Rebecca and welcome to Virginia too! So glad you stumbled on my site and hope you have found it really helpful! Keep me updated on what you are doing. I’ll be looking forward to hearing of your progress.

    Mary – I’m so glad you’re teaching your young nieces. It’s amazing the difference it can make when a child is exposed at an early age. It will be a lot easier for them when they start their own garden in years to come.
    Thanks for sharing the experience!

    Best of success in your gardens everyone!

    Theresa

  • lloys

    Theresa , I was wondering and no one has been able to advise me as yet or will make a comment: If a plant is a GMO and is planted in an organic environment can the seeds or fruits be considered organic, and is it possible that a lot of organic produce are from GMO?

  • Theresa

    Lloys, any seed that has been genetically modified is not organic; makes no difference where it’s planted. The fruit that results from that seed is not organic.

    NO produce that is Certified Organic can be from genetically modified seed.
    Hope this clarifies things for you.
    Theresa

  • barbib

    I wonder if Mike can explain his carrot crop in buckets. What variety and when planted/harvested. Thanks.

  • Mike

    I am so happy someone asked!!! I have my best results with a variety called “Bolero”. I get it at Johnnys, but I think it is pretty common. It is a late carrot, so I sow it at the same time that I sow my regular fresh carrots, about May 1st.

    Sometime during the summer, dig some holes in a shaded part of your yard and “plant” a 5 gallon plastic bucket w/lid on, into each hole. Fill the hole back up, leaving only the bucket lid exposed. Dig your carrots up just before first hard frost.

    Cut off foliage leaving only about a 1″ stub. Line the bottom of the bucket with a few sheets of newspaper to absorb any moisture that may get in there. Place carrots in the bucket, no need for sand or anything else, fill to top and snap on lid.

    Cover with a bale of straw, (still wired or tied), and just knock snow off of top of bail, move bale over a couple feet, take off lid and harvest what you want. Should still be crisp and sweet into mid to late spring. This has been my experience. Sorry that I got so long winded.

  • Ed Aycock

    Good Morning Theresa! Getting a good laugh from your post. My garden with the 14 raised beds is under 6 inches of snow with hard frozen ground. Enjoy your warm weather and early spring! I’m still patiently waiting…
    Patiently waiting also for your book to be available. Will make great reading while I’m waiting for the ground to thaw… LOL.

    Ed Aycock
    Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
    KG7DUI

  • Theresa

    Mike this is great information. Thank you so much for giving all the details. I really like the fact that you don’t have to add sand or anything else to keep the carrots “fresh!”
    Sure glad barbid asked!
    Thanks Mike.
    Theresa

    PS Tell me again where you’re located.

  • Theresa

    Good hearing from you Ed. It’s been a while.
    Hope your ground will thaw sooner than you anticipate.
    We’re due for another round of below freezing temperatures, but nothing like what you and many others are experiencing.
    Thanks for joining in.
    Theresa

    P.S You’ll recall sometime back in a personal email to you, I mentioned that my Grandmother lived with my Uncle in Idaho. How I wish she were alive to see this book. She would be pleased.
    Idaho will always be special to me!

  • Hi Theresa,
    Here in SC we finally have some warmth. I had my back field cut and took the piles of mulch it made to cover the blueberries to keep them mulched and moist. Also piled some on my new asparagus bed. My garden is covered in pine straw and leaves…and lots of them! Starting out the year in good shape, thanks to your expert mulching advice!

  • Theresa

    Sounds excellent Suzanne! You’re gonna have a great garden.
    Theresa

  • Mike

    Theresa, hi. I am zone 5, about 30 miles west of Chicago. MIKE

  • Theresa

    Thanks Mike!
    Theresa

  • Sandra

    Very similar experiences to yours Theresa. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to see my Rosemary which was about 6 feet across and just spectacular – now brown and dead. I also discovered Mache doing well, but there’s never enough. That spinach makes me want to eat my computer screen!

  • Theresa

    It is sad to lose a big gorgeous Rosemary!
    But your comment about the picture making you want to eat your computer screen really made me laugh Sandra! 🙂

  • Barbi B.

    Mercy, our weatherman is warning us of another ice storm coming to Mo. Sunday morning. NOT good news for my spring fever!! Just wondering if anyone sows seeds, etc. according to moon signs? I do for peas and potatoes especially. Also for making sauerkraut and harvesting the ‘taters! This is done now so I don’t get disappointed with the small produce as Dad did when I was a wee-child.

  • Theresa

    Hi Barbi,
    What chart do you go by Barbi? The Farmer’s Alamanac is gardening by the moon calendar. I think that is very hepful.
    What do you consider the right time to harvest potatoes?
    Theresa

  • Barbi B.

    Yes, Farmer’s Almanac–and when one digs potatoes AFTER full moon, the cuts and bruises dry up without rottening. There’s nothing worse than a rotten potato in storage, right? I plant the ‘seed’ also after FULL MOON which keeps it from rotting in the ground. Thus, no need for replanting. Wish I had your garden! Will sow my buckwheat soon–as I didn’t read your info until last wk.

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