Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fall and winter greens

Potted parsley January, 2016, garden
Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fall and winter offer a second chance to grow all the greens and roots we enjoyed in the spring.  Greens and roots taste even better in the fall as the plant concentrates the sugars for protection against the cold temperatures making them even sweeter.  You also don’t have to worry about watering or pests in the fall and winter garden.

The cold loving veggies that I have grown include kale, collards, spinach, sprouting broccoli, sorrel, chard, tatsoi, celery, cultivated dandelions, corn salad,  parsley, radishes, beets, arugula, onions, mustard greens, Austrian peas and carrots.  Austrian peas are super cold hardy and their greens can be used all winter long for salad greens. 

The trick to harvesting all winter is to have your veggies to full size by mid-October.  With the shorter days of late fall and winter, your plants will not grow much after mid-October through mid-February.  Covering can help the plants increase their growth even during the shorter days. 

There are even winter hardy lettuces.  Lettuce varieties that have performed well into winter for us here in Zone 6: North Pole butterhead, Rouge d’Hiver romaine (pretty red and green), Winter Density romaine, Winterwunder loose leaf (pale green), Marvel of the Four Seasons butterhead (green with cranberry tips).  I will also plant Prizeleaf, green and red Royal Oak leaf, Red Salad Bowl, and Ashley mix loose leaf varieties as all of these came back as volunteers in the spring.

Overwintering chard in January, 2016, garden
To protect against freezing temperatures, use a tunnel or portable greenhouse.  I have had lettuces and greens survive all the way into spring this way.  Extend the season with protection for plants

If you left any greens to go to seed, you will likely have babies growing throughout the garden right now.  Don’t ignore them.  You can use cloches to keep them growing for salad picking through the cold weather.  For fall and winter picking, I just take the outer leaves I need for the salads I am making at that time.  

If you don’t have any greens in your garden this winter, there are always winter farmers markets to buy fresh produce and support your local farmer.  Check local for a listing of farmers markets, many are year round now.

You can scatter sow seeds now of cold hardy crops now like lettuce, spinach and kale and they will be primed for the longer days.  It is surprising to see the little greens popping their heads out in February.  The force of life is amazing.

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