Winter Garden update

Winter weather has arrived here at Stoney Acres, but November is still an undecided month.  Temperatures jump around a lot, we have highs in the 50’s one day and the 30’s the next. Night time temperatures are sitting right around freezing most nights but we have had some nights as low as 23.  Now is the time that our hard work and planning way back in August is paying off.

Not much growing gets done this time of year.  Plants need at least 10 hours of day light to grow.  The last of the 10 hours days left us 2 weeks ago and we won’t see 10 hours of daylight again until February.  That means all we have to do is harvest what we have planted months ago.

As you can see the cold frames are bursting with great things to eat.

Our fall/winter lettuce crop is the best we have ever had.  I planted half a cold frame of lettuce from starts this year.  I’m super happy with the results.  As you can see we almost have too much.  In fact as the weather continues to get colder I’m going to have to start giving some lettuce away.  Usually our lettuce only stays good to eat until about mid December.  When the super cold weather arrives it makes the lettuce bitter and eventually kills it.

This year though we are trying an experiment. As you can see from the pictures we have added a bunch of plastic soda bottles full of water.  The theory is that during the day in the warmth of the cold frame the water will thaw.  At night as the water freezes it will put off heat.  I’m hoping this will moderate the temperature in the cold frames enough to keep the lettuce tasting good all winter.

This bed of lettuce is the one I’m most hopeful for over wintering.  I intentionally didn’t thin the plants so that the crowding would keep the plants smaller.  Smaller lettuce plants are more cold hardy.  As the winter progresses I’m planning on starting to thin the plants and eat them.  This will give more room for the remaining plants. As the longer days start to return in February I hope these plants will start growing again.  We’ll see, I plan on adding more water bottles in hopes of keeping that temperature up.

I have also decided to put my row cover fabric out early this year.  I usually don’t put it out until the temperatures at night drop into the teens.  This year I have the second layer of protection on now.  Again I hope this added protection will keep the lettuce producing all winter long.

As you can see my Mache and claytonia are coming along.  I always have a real problem with germination with Mache.  I also planted Mache under the large lettuce plants to the left of these.  They have germinated and will start putting on growth as the lettuce is harvested and they start to get some sun.  The sorrel on the right should last all winter.

The carrots in this cold frame are doing pretty good.  I had a sprinkler that went bad on me in September that kind of set these back.  We will hold off on harvesting these as long as we can to let them size up as much as possible.

The hoop house carrots on the other hand are really doing great.  We have started harvesting these and will really start harvesting very heavily soon.  We have been waiting as long as we can hoping for lots of cold weather.  The cold really improves the flavor, making them super sweet.

Outside the cold frame we still have Kale growing strong.  This Tuscan kale is still healthy despite no protection.  We are harvesting this first trying to use it up before it finally succumbs to the cold.

The Vates kale is doing great under a row cover.  I plan on keeping this cover  over the plants all winter.  We will need this kale in January and February, when there is nothing else fresh left to eat.

I continue to be amazed at how easy it is to have a winter garden.  The only thing I have done to my winter garden in the last 6 weeks is water it once and harvest lots of tasty greens!!


  1. Bob Edmondson. November 30, 2011 7:50 pm Reply

    Hi Rick,welcome to the garden page on facebook,i got your garden blog off there.You have some nice veg’s growing there.I live in Calgary,Alberta,Zone 3 which is a little different climate than you.I think i am the only one on the garden page with a very short growing period,up to now anyway.I can not put anything out in the garden until the first week of june because we can get a frost up to that time.Our first frost in the fall is around the first week of September.Our temperature goes way down in the Winter,as low as -30C to -35C sometimes.Most of my plants i start in the greenhouse before setting them out when the weather is good.I manage to grow enough veg’s to last 5 of us the whole year,we spend a lot of time canning most of them.I started a gardening page on facebook myself a while ago called (Garden With Bob),i did it to try and help new gardeners in my area.I have pictures on there and a few video’s,you are welcome to check what the cold climate gardener does.I used to think that a warmer climate would be nice,but not any more after reading some of the things a warmer climate gardener has to contend with,bugs,blight,mildew,fungus and the rest of it.I don’t seem to get any of those goodies,i think our cold Winter kills them off,so i will stick to my cold climate.Cheers Bob.


    • Rick November 30, 2011 9:08 pm Reply

      Welcome to Stoney Acres Bob. Zone 3 wow that’s cold!! We are Zone 5 here so we can get started a lot sooner than you. Take a look at my winter garden series, you may find cold frames could even help you in Zone 3. You won’t be growing tomatoes in them but you may find you can get greens and other cool weather crops out a little sooner!!

      • Bob Edmondson. December 1, 2011 7:31 am Reply

        After seeing yours,they are already in the plans.May have to insulate the sides though.


        • Rick December 1, 2011 9:13 am Reply

          I have seen cold frames with insulation. You may also want to think about painting the inside white. The white paint can help increase light in your cold frame, which it sounds like you could really use way up north in the winter. Good luck!!

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