If you’re hungry for some fresh garden lettuce and greens about now, consider planning to have a winter garden for next year. There are many things you can grow and especially if you live here in Virginia where the winters are not that severe (most of the time).
Never give up trying something new along with something tried and true. You never know when something you’ve never tried will be and outstanding performer in your garden.
We’re getting some much needed rain and the temperatures have been decent — so I removed the plastic from my hoop tunnels to let the plants and the ground soak up this wonderful moisture. Bill took pictures for me today (between showers) so I could give you an idea on what some of the plants look like now (January).
I started a few Hakurei turnips last fall and planted them in one of beds set up with the hoop tunnels just to see how they would do. It’s been so mild the plastic has been off as much as on. But just the time it’s been on has really made a difference. They’re are on list for dinner this week. Now I wish I had planted more.
Batavia Lettuce – Surviving the cold on its Own
I planted this lettuce (below) in the fall and it didn’t work out to put it in one of the hoop tunnels. I also planted Red Sails Lettuce with it —but I’ve picked it so much that a picture would show nothing. I’ve also picked this Batavia lettuce, but you can see enough to know how good looking it is. It’s a delicious lettuce and I plan for a lot more next winter now that I know it will winter well.
Regarding the picture below: I don’t know how I managed to end up with so many packages of lettuce “mixes”. I hate it because most of the time they don’t identify the lettuces in the package. Even if they d0 — if you’re not really familar with the variety — you still won’t know what it is. This is my umpteenth time of not being able to identify something I really like.
The plant on the left is definitely in the mustard family and has a very strong taste. I use it with other mixed greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic. I wish I knew the exact variety because it’s such a strong grower.
The other greens to the right of the mustard like plant is a lettuce. It’s rather thick and when you touch it you’re not really sure if it’s lettuce — but it is.
Just Starting to Get Good
The lettuce in the picture below is really delicious. Unfortunately the tag that shows in the picture is for lettuce to the left of this and I don’t have any clue as to what variety this is.
Bill thinks it’s terribly funny that after 35 years of gardening I can’t seem to keep everything marked. My guess is — if you’ve gardened any length of time — you might have the same problem. (?)
I don’t grow many carrots — because I’m not set up to keep them and we eat LOTS of them in the winter. At least I can buy organic carrots at the store. But I do like to treat us to a few home-growns. As you know — anything from your own organic garden is sweeter and more delicious than anything you can buy.
When the harlequin bug got to be too much for me last summer, I pulled up my Russian Kale and Mizuna and resolved to plant them only as winter/early spring crops.
I wanted the Kale to reseed so I placed the seed covered plants in one special spot and covered them with other organic material. This past fall the seed started germinating. I transplanted several of the seedlings to the beds with the hoop tunnels. They really look great and much larger than the ones that I left in place where they had germinated.
In the picture below you’ll see the ones that germinated in the fall (those on the left) and you’ll also see new seedlings that have just come up. I’ll transplant some of those this week.
Kale is pretty hardy and in Virginia probably doesn’t need protection. I read somewhere about it being hardy even in below zero weather. Nonetheless, I’m glad I had some in the hoop tunnel beds because I can see a big difference in growth. I’ve even been able to pick some along with other greens for sauteing.
I can never get enough Parsley. I’ve got 8 or 9 plants out there and I’ve picked everyone of them down to the nub! It’s a great source of calcium and makes everything taste so good. I’ve got 3 jugs started via wintersown for the spring. And I’ll start more.
Mache – Corn Salad
If you don’t have this in your winter garden — but all means try it next year.
You can probably direct sow it in September and let it come up in the garden. The reason I say that is because I made the mistake of sowing it in late spring last year. It doesn’t like warm weather — so it didn’t come up. Long about November I noticed it everywhere and almost pulled it up without realizing what it was.
It is one of my favorite things. Very mild and delicious. I could do a whole salad with it if I could get enough! The leaves are small and don’t get very big. So you have to grow a lot to get a lot.
I’ve got some started via wintersown and I’m going to direct sow some this week. I have a feeling the direct sown seed will do better than the wintersown. If it gets too warm too fast — none of it will do well.
In any event — I’ll be prepared to have lots of it in the winter garden next year.
Picture below is Mizuna on January 15th. It was wintersown on January 1.
Mizuna below was planted in the bed with hoop tunnels in November. It’s been picked at least 6 times!
No picture to show you of chard. But I wanted to mention that it is definitely something I’ll have more of next winter. What I have in my garden now is from last spring. Totally uncovered. Only about 8 or 9 plants. About 10 days ago I picked a nice amount to have with dinner! It’s already putting out new growth.
Hopefully, you’re enjoying the winter bounty in your garden . If not, I hope you’ll make plans now for next year.
If you’re new to winter gardening just take it a step at a time and give yourself a chance to experience the great joy of having “green” stuff from the garden to satisfy your craving for them in the dead of winter.
Mizuna – Evergreen, Elegant and Delicious
Hakurei Turnips – Compliments of the Wintersown Method
Parsley – How to Add it to your Diet and Why
Parsley – A Must Have Herb for Cooking and Health
Looking at Winter Sown Seedling and the Garden
Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method
Seed Starting – Another Variation of Winter Sown
Transplanting Root Crop Seedling
Wintersown and Garden Report – Radishes – Lettuce – Spinach
Seed Starting – It’s Easy Even with Less than Perfect Conditions
Organic gardening is easy, effective and efficient —– and it’s a lot healthier.
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Hi Theresa…:). Your last article encouraged me so much I decided it was the perfect time to create a ‘chicken-free’ space to try my first winter-sowing experiments. After a little thought and some scrounging around for materials, I built a tepee-shaped frame out of dead wood directly on top of my still-aging manure pile, which is located inside an up-turned camper truck top and lined with a large gray tarp. I was forced to stop on account of rain (8 straight days and counting here), but the next step is to cover the frame with a large piece of plastic that’s ready and waiting. Unfortunately, the rain caught me before I got it on…:(.
The manure has been there for about 6 or 7 months now open to the elements and is still fairly ‘hot’, giving off a significant amount of heat, so I’ve decided to harness that heat for what will amount to a mini-greenhouse. I’m planning on starting kale, mixed Asian greens, spinach, various kinds of radishes (including my newest kind – watermelon radishes), kohlrabi, dill and others as I run across them. The ‘Sacred Seed Stash’ has begun to overflow available space…and I apparently have seed stashed everywhere now…LOL!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Loving the inspiration!
Btw…Mizuna and radish sprouts look a LOT alike!
Sounds interesting Grace.
I’m not sure I really understand exactly what you are doing. Are you starting the seed in containers that will go under the plastic that will cover the tepee-shaped frame? That’s what I am thinking you will do.
I know what you mean about the seed overflowing its available space. I have far more seed that I can ever plant — but I’m going to try!
I am so glad you were inspired to start winter sown! Please let me know how you do.
And yes Mizuna sprouts look a lot like radish sprouts, but it doesn’t take long to tell the difference.
Good Luck! I can hardly wait for your next report.
Theresa, I am also enjoying my first winter garden. (following my second summer garden). In August I prepared a new bed and planted Lancinato kale, rapini, Detroit Red beets, and bok choy. I had intended to put hoops and plastic over them, but never got around to it. But they are doing great even without the plastic! Not sure if that is the mild weather we’ve been having most of the winter, or a microclimate thing (they are alongside a fence). But it’s nice to know that I don’t really even need the hoops for them.
I especially love the rapini. It was a huge hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’m still getting great harvests and expect to do so all through the spring as well since it keeps putting out side shoots.
The kale took a while to get going due to the imported cabbage moths, it took spraying with spinosad to get anything. I haven’t kept up with that through the winter – I thought that the moths would be killed off (I was wrong!) – but at least now there is enough for us and them.
I also continue to have an abundance of chard that was planted last spring and am hoping that they will end up being perennial. Is that possible?
The bok choy I don’t think I kept up with harvesting because a lot of it started flowering and it got bitter.
The beets aren’t doing that well – I ended up having to plant them twice as they did not germinate the first time (I learned that they needed to be soaked 24 hours prior to planting) and I think they ended up being shaded out by the fast-growing bok choy. There are plenty of (shortish) beet greens, but the root vegetables are quite small and a disappointment.
Parsley, sage, arp rosemary, thyme and oregano are all still doing well too! So wonderful having fresh veggies from the garden all year round. Next year I will definitely do hoops though to get lettuce – boy do I miss that! Just like you’ve said many times, now that I’ve had fresh home-grown, the store bought stuff just has no flavor.
Theresa, you always inspire me. I am sitting at my computer looking out at the garden and see the ice and snow (which is starting to melt a bit) and want to go out and plant something so bad. We are getting milk containers ready for winter sowing in the garage but I am not sure when we can put them out. It has been very cold here, in the teens each morning and below at night. It is 8:30 am at the moment and the temperature reads ll degrees. Your photos look great. Congratulations on doing such a great job with your garden and enjoy your winter harvest.
Theresa, This post makes me hungry. I just winter sowed mache, and I would love to have enough for a whole salad of it – I’ve never had that before.
Also, I love that photo taken through the top of the milk carton, at first I thought it was some nice filter effect, but then I figured it out.
I guess this winter (so far) has not lived up to expectations for being harsh.
What a wonderful winter garden report Heather. I am so proud of you! And to think that this is only your second year of gardening! Good job!
And yes — the winter has been very mild — but I do think we’ll get some cold weather in the next 6 weeks. I’ve had my hoop tunnels uncovered as much as covered — but today I put the plastic back on in anticipation of some cold weather ahead. (In the low and mid20s at night is not conducive to plant growth. 🙂 )
Just hearing about what a hit your rapini was at Thanksgiving and Christmas makes my mouth water!
Chard is really a biennial and should “go to seed” the second year — although you should still get some greens from it. I’ve read of Chard that didn’t know it was suppose to be biennial — and lived fine and produced for 3 years. So — it’s a wait and see thing. Mine — planted last spring — is still going strong of course and I’m looking forward to seeing what it does this spring.
As you continue to improve your soil – I think your beets will do better. Also try Crosby Egyptian beet which grows almost entirely out of the soil and is early. Also I like Lutz Green Leaf beets as well. Sometime — just a change of variety can make all the difference.
Again — I am SO PROUD of you!
Continued good growth this coming season.
Alice I’m glad to hear that you’re trying to plant in spite of the cold. Plant those containers as soon as you are able. Being frozen won’t hurt them —- which by the way — always amazes me! I had lettuce, onions, beets — all kinds of stuff that germinated in the jugs last year — freeze up when temperatures dipped into the 20s. They made it fine. Amazing!
I put my plastic back on the hoops this afternoon. And I picked the turnips. Yummmmm.
I’m thinking of you in all that snow, Alice!
I’ve never had enough for a whole salad with mache either Sandra — but rest assured I intend to have it next year! I’m going to plant it EVERYWHERE!
I should have explained the picture through the jug top. Since you mentioned it — I’m thinking many others thought it was a filter effect also. Thanks for mentioning it.
I do think we’ll get at least 6 weeks of winter. Temperature in the mid and low 20s at night are called for —- for quite awhile ahead.
But spring is still just around the corner.
Hi again, Theresa…
and you’re correct. I’ll be starting the seeds in containers that will be growing under the plastic tepee and hoping to raise the average temperature inside structure by harnessing the heat coming from the decomposing manure.
I’ve noticed a lot of plants in my yard that are protected by various structures/objects, yet still somewhat ‘open’ to the elements, and are growing very well in spite of the widely-swinging temperatures and freezes.
If these wild plants are doing so well in this weather, then I’m pretty sure I can create an environment that lettuces, spinach, and the Cole family should thrive in the same way. Some of the plants will be transplanted out into the garden later, but some I plan on leaving in the containers and moving them to the front porch rails for easy picking when the weather warms a bit.
What do you think my chances of success would be on sowing green peas in large hanging baskets…? And when might be a good time to start this…? I am also ready to begin wintersowing and have wondered if they make good WS candidates or would I be better served direct sowing them? Last year, I had great results with the DS method, but several 90+ degree days stunted them so badly they never really took off, though I admit they fought a good fight to do so. Maybe if I plant them earlier…?
I forgot to mention…the 90 degree days were in March and April.
Grace – Peas are better directly sown. I do know however that Sandra — another reader — germinates her’s before she plants them.
Peas can stand a day or two in the 90s even if they don’t like it — but they can’t go on in those temperatures.
Go ahead and try some in pots. One advantage is that you could move them to a cooler spot if necessary. Don’t think I’d put my main crop in pot though.
If you start plant peas in the garden earlier this year — be sure to succession sow because you can never be sure of the weather. Succession sowing will give you a much better chance for success.
I usually plant 4 rows of peas and plant each at a different time. (A week apart.) I usually start planting in mid March.