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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November gardening -- snug as a bug, all tucked in for the cold

The nights are becoming quite chilly. I put an extra layer on the bed today when I changed the linens. A vegetable garden doesn't like the chill much either.

Most of what remains in our garden is under cover, now. I put the plastic, tunnel row covers over the kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, green onions, mustard greens and watercress. (I have radish greens planted in another spot in the garden. If they survived last night, I'll try to get 1 more cover out there to protect them.) The plastic row cover will prevent loss to light frost for the next few weeks. If it looks like we're in for a heavy frost and freeze, I can add a layer, short term, right on top of the tunnel.

There won't be much growth, this late in the season, but I can continue harvesting up until a deep freeze.

Watercress adds such a bright flavor to egg salad sandwiches. I was able to pick a large handful for our lunch, yesterday.

And I picked enough kale yesterday for a couple of meals. I filled the kitchen sink with water and dumped an arm load of kale leaves into the sink for cleaning. Now I won't have to go out in the cold rain tomorrow, to harvest leaves for dinner.

In the Pacific Northwest, gardeners like to talk of year round gardening, with respect to growing vegetables. In truth, there is little actual gardening in winter, here. And virtually no growth in the garden. But a year round garden here simply means that you can harvest from your garden through winter, if you have enough area planted. It takes some sort of cover, to prevent frost damage. And only the very cold hardy plants will survive into the coldest months.

In past years, I've given up on my garden around the first of November. This year, I hope to continue harvesting the greens at least, up until early January. Take a break. Then greens will return in March. This is my attempt at an almost year round garden. 


  1. I hope it works out well for you. It's fun to harvest even when the days are very chilly.

    We have very strong winds here (Oklahoma, so no kidding, right? :D ) so plastic gets ripped to shreds. I'd about given up but found fabric to work pretty well. I started with some unused bed skirts but this year have purchased several rows of actual fabric row cover on clearance from our local Tractor Supply Store (their marketing people haven't really thought that through, apparently--why clearance something MEANT for cold weather along with the summer gardening stuff, lol) to use this year. However, following Mother of a Hubbard's lead (she's a zone 6 and I'm 7b), I am continuing to plant a bit longer as well. Just did another round of carrots, kale, sugar snaps, and spinach yesterday. Our temps have been up and down so we'll see how they do.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Oh good job on finding that row cover fabric, and planting longer! Good luck with that. I guess it just depends on how much our weather cooperates, doesn't it?
      It's still dark out, this morning, here. But as soon as the sun comes up I'll go outside and check to see if we got a frost last night (it was cold), and how well everything did overnight. It would be nice to be able to harvest greens for another couple of months.

      You must be able to plant fairly early in spring. Have you ever grown any overwintering veggies? There's a variety of overwintering carrot seeds, called Merida, that Territorial Seeds has info about, on their site. You pant in fall, and can harvest in spring. I plant a last round of chard and kale in August, as it naturally overwinters here, and gives us veggies in March, when nothing else could be mature.

      Good luck!

  2. My "year round gardening" happened one year, here in central Illinois. Or at least I was still harvesting spinach into mid-January. I didn't even try to keep my garden going but we had a very mild fall and early winter that year and the spinach was still going great in mid-January. That only happened once unfortunately. Now I am wondering what I'd have if I put forth some effort like you do!

    Again .... thanks for the inspiration! Next year maybe I'll have salad greens into the winter months!

    1. Hi Linda,
      We had a year like that once. The broccoli just kept on through January. The PNW can have mild enough winters. I would guess that a winter like what you had is pretty rare, for Illinois.

      For many of the cold-winter regions, you can expect to extend your harvest by about a month in fall, and then begin early planting a month early in spring, with using simple row covers. So you get 2 extra months of garden. A cold frame might do better, as there's a snugger fit around the edges.

      There's always next year with a garden. I think gardeners are an optimistic bunch. Have a great day, Linda!

  3. Michigan winters are difficult and I don't think anyone could have a winter garden. When we had our garden and we picked as long as we could then had a hard frost it was almost a relief that the rest couldn't endure the frost and died. We just were ready for it to be done but wouldn't let it go until weather forced us to!

    Enjoy those last few goodies you harvested. I've never even had watercress before. What exactly is it that gives such a good flavor? Do you dice it small or use it like a lettuce? I will see if Dad might grow a bit next year for me.


    1. Hi Alice,
      watercress has a peppery bite, like the flavor of radishes. I sometimes give it a rough chopping, into big bites, but with it so small and tender, like yesterday, I just laid it, as is, on sandwiches.

      It self-seeds readily, and comes up in early spring and late summer, here.Watercress is one of the first veggies I can pick each spring.

      I hear you. Some years, I'm just so glad to be done with the garden. This year, I'm using it as motivation to get outside in the fresh air for a few minutes each day, at least when it's not pouring rain. And, as my freezers are full, I'm "storing" my greens in the garden, for th time being.

      Have a great day!

  4. When the frost comes when I am people tend to clean out the garden fast ( zone 3).
    My grandfather cold framed his seedlings in the spring on the south wall of his home . My childhood memory during the 60's.
    I have heard of the fellow in Maine who winters year round and individuals who dig into the earth. Like a sod hut on the sides and a cover on top.
    My recollection as a child was plentiful gardening during the summer than storage of carrots, potatoes etcetera during the winter. A basic vegetable diet.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      It sounds like your grandfather knew a thing or two about gardening! Making that cold frame space up against the south side of his house probably allowed him to get his seedlings into the garden a month early.

      Your childhood memories of keeping a garden producing well through summer, then harvesting and storing root veggies for winter is pretty much what I always thought of gardening. And if you live where there is a lot of snow, then it's also highly practical. It's hard to imagine trudging outside in snow to uncover a row cover or cold-frame, to get some veggies, that may or may not have survived!

      Zone 3 sounds like a very cold place to be for late fall gardening, let alone year round gardening. Stay warm!!

  5. Your row covers look great, and how wonderful to be able to harvest garden produce most of the winter!

    I actually used to grow spinach all winter long here in Denver. The first year was a total fluke - I planted some in September for a fall crop, and then we got an early snowstorm so I covered it with some black plastic. But it was a crazy year and the snow just kept coming, so there was never a chance to take the plastic up. We even had a cold snap where the temps fell to 20 below! Finally in January we got a warm spell and I decided I should put the black plastic away. So I lifted it up thoroughly expecting there to be nothing underneath, and to my utter surprise there was happy spinach growing under there! How it survived the brutal cold with no light for so many months is beyond me, but it did!

    After that I switched to frost cloth with an extra layer of blanket when the temps got really cold and it worked wonderfully. I'm not sure if the fact that the cloth was laying right on top of the spinach helped keep enough warmth in or what, but it was amazing to harvest spinach all winter in Denver!

    But after a few years of wonderful crops, the leaf miners became a real problem and everything just got decimated. So I haven't grown any greens for 2-3 years now in an effort to starve them out.

    I've been thinking I might try some spinach in the greenhouse, but honestly it's probably too late to start it this year. I dunno... I've still got tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers & eggplant producing though - which is sorta amazing! First snow's coming this week though, so I'm figuring most of it will die - even in the greenhouse it's not gonna survive once the temps fall much below freezing. It's a fun experiment though!

    1. They always say that snow is a great insulator. I guess the spinach agreed with them.

    2. Hi Cat,
      what a wonderful surprise to find the spinach doing well, in winter, no less!
      Yes, ditto what live and learn said, a blanket of snow will insulate the ground and protect roots, to an extent. Even though our temperatures in Seattle rarely get terribly cold, the fact that we don't have much snow cover, means our plants suffer in warmer temps than those in a zone colder than ours (but with snow).

      There's always late winter for starting spinach in the greenhouse. Leaf miners might not be a problem early in the growing season.

  6. So funny that your weather is getting chilly. We are having an unseasonably warm (up to 70*) week here, and I am getting outside as much as I can. The greens from the garden are long gone--but hubby will harvest the beets and carrots soon. I'd love some of your Swiss chard. Enjoy your garden goodies!

    1. Hi Kris,
      Did you happen to see a national weather map about 3 or 4 days ago? There was a large mass of cold air dipping down in the west, but your area was on the other side of the front, presumably much warmer! I'm glad you could enjoy it!

      What will you do with your beets? Do you make beet pickles?

  7. It's great that you will still be getting some veggies/greens from your garden. I know several people here who have greens planted in the winter. I hope yours last as long as possible. They are so good for you. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I'm envious of people who live where it's warm enough to garden in winter (and be comfortable outdoors).

      I know -- those greens are so nutrient-dense. A reason I am grateful to have them!


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