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