Winter garden update #1

winter garden

This is my 4th year of growing cold-tolerant veggies during the fall and winter months. As many of you know, my winter garden is growing inside a small hoop house that my husband, Bill, and I built a few years ago.

Now it’s time for the first update since I planted it:

Overall, the plants are growing well despite the fact that I made one glaring mistake: I got off my normal routine and planted many of the seeds later than I should! Darn. That can be an issue because plants need to develop a good root system before the temperatures drop dramatically. It’s best to sow them in early August, but I ended up planting them a month later.

I’m growing ‘Vates’ kale (which, as you can see below, is growing beautifully), Minutina, Claytonia (miner’s lettuce), ‘Bordeaux’ spinach and corn salad (Mache).

winter gardenThe ‘Vates’ kale is doing particularly well because I started the plants indoors from seed at almost the right timing. Usually, I planted them indoors in late July or early August, but it was a couple of weeks later this year which thankfully didn’t make a difference.

What’s particularly notable, though, is that my efforts to keep slugs away from the kale leaves is working really well. Hooray! I wrote a blog post a few weeks back about this, but essentially what I’ve done is to surround the bases of each plant with Corry’s copper tape, which forms a barrier slugs won’t cross winter gardenbecause it causes an electrical reaction with their slimy skin. Turns out, it works. The other thing I’m trying to do is keep leaves from touching the ground anywhere, because that would be another way for slugs to get up on the plants. That means frequent harvesting (no problem with that!) and the occasional sharing of leaves with my chickens since they are crazy about kale.


The ‘Bordeaux’ spinach patch is pretty pathetic this year due to very poor germination. Perhaps I should have used fresher seeds?

winter gardenI planted very few Minutina seeds, which is why you’re not seeing many of them in the photo to the left (they’re the spiky-looking plants). When I grew them last year, I planted way too many and they were too crowded. So I guess I went to the other extreme this season!

The other small plants mixed in with the Minutina are corn salad, also known as Mache. We are CRAZY about corn salad. It has a lovely taste and is awesome in salads.

winter gardenLast but not least is the Claytonia, or miner’s lettuce (see photo to right). While the plants should be larger by now — again, due to the late sowing on my part — they are looking good. The leaves are fantastic, with a little bit of a crunch.

If you haven’t tried some of these unusual greens, I heartily recommend them! It’s been a fun adventure trying veggies that I haven’t grown before. You use the “cut-and-come-again” harvesting method for everything but the corn salad, where you harvest the whole plants.

winter gardenBoth of the raised beds in my hoop house have been covered with floating row cover, which rests on the hoops. You might also notice in the photo to the left that there are clothespins on the hoops. That’s to keep the row cover fairly taut since the condensation on the inside of the hoop house plastic occasionally drips down onto the row cover. If the cover got really wet and the temps dramatically dropped, there’s the potential for the row cover to droop down onto the plants. That would create a risk of freezing to the plant leaves, which can permanently damage them. We don’t want that.

Stay tuned for the next update…