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Year Round Gardening Series Part 1

Over the next month or so I will post some instructional articles on the “how to’s” of winter gardening.  Today I thought I would kind of set things up with a post about why we do winter gardening.

Cold Frames Winter 2010

 

Our goal around Stoney Acres is to grow as much food as we can for ourselves.  This year is our 15th year with an official garden.  Each year our garden has gotten bigger as our skills (and lot size) improved.  We had messed around with a little bit of season extension for a few years.  Mostly that involved planting lettuce and peas in the early spring and again in the late fall and hoping for the best.

 

About four years ago I read that you could actually have a garden in the winter time, even in the northern climates. This interested me so I did some more research and found a fantastic book.  The book is called Four-Seasons Harvest by Eliot Coleman who is the world foremost guru on winter gardening.

 

Winter gardening probably isn’t the best term for me to use, winter harvesting is better.  You really don’t need to do much actual gardening during the coldest part of the winter.  During the winter you really just harvest the plants that you bring to maturity in the late fall.

 

Hoop House Winter 2010

All you need is some planning and some simple protection to have fresh vegetables all year long.  Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  I read Four-Season Harvest in the late winter of 2009.  That spring we planted our normal garden and started harvesting the first radishes and lettuce about May 1st.  By building a few cold frames and hoop houses and applying what I learned in the book we have had something fresh we could eat from our garden every day since.  You read that right; we have had some kind of fresh produce available to us from our garden every day now for 4 years!!

 

Carrots and Pak Choi

So what kinds of vegetables are we talking about?  Our winter cold frames have mostly salad greens available.  We usually grow at least 2 or 3 types of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, Mache and our favorite carrots.  All these vegetables are cool weather plants and they taste a ton better this time of year.  In fact the carrots will be the best you have ever tasted because the cold causes some of the starches to turn to sugars and they are sweet and delicious.

 

Winter Carrots

Check back over the next few days as I break down the details of what to plant, when to plant it and what to do to keep it growing when it’s 15 degrees outside.

4 Comments

  1. Launi September 7, 2011 8:04 pm Reply

    Your blog looks great Mr. Stoney, and your garden is truly amazing!

    • Rick September 7, 2011 8:17 pm Reply

      Thanks Launi, tell your friends!!

  2. kitsapFG July 21, 2012 9:03 am Reply

    Glad you are doing a blog series on winter growing and harvesting. I have been doing this for many years now and have learned lots of things along the way. Your point about getting them to maturity and then harvesting is often not really understood by folks when they try this for the first time. It is also not well understood that the fall growing season (going into that winter harvest) that you are dealing with a steadily decreasing sun strength and day length so the “average days to maturity” on a seed packet leads people to plant too late – as that average is based on a spring planting where sun strength and day length are increasing steadily. I always add at least two weeks to the spring planting maturity expectations for my fall plantings.

    http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/apps/blog

    • Rick July 21, 2012 9:47 am Reply

      Thanks for the comments, please continue to add your input as the series goes along. I’ve seen pictures of your winter garden so I know you will have a lot to add. I wish I had your mild, rainy winters, it would be a lot easier to winter garden with out 2 feet of snow!!! :)

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