On the non-end of gardening

Mulched, and frosty:  the back gardens

Autumn and winter did a rather jumbled waltz this year (two steps forward, three back, two forward, one back, etc.) and honestly for this gardener my head spun, such were the extent of the wild swings.  Now that we’ve hit a cold snap that appears to have stuck, I admit to wishing the unthinkable:  bring on the snow.  Now that the ground has frozen what’s the use of pretending it isn’t?  Winter! Please come!

Dried beans above and fresh veg below, under cover, 8:30 a.m.  It’s 28*F outside and 51*F in.

Now is the time, too, that the greenhouse beds are covered with their blanket of Reemay (agricultural cloth).  The stuff shrunk in the wash this year, alas; I need to purchase more and either sew another three feet to its ends or drape smaller pieces over the 6’x3′ beds.  Having the beds completely covered, incidentally, is not do-or-die; rather, a fully tented structure should (in principle) retain warmth longer, but it still won’t prevent the nightly freeze to its contents.

Poking out of a now too-short length of cloth, Pac choy, flowering.  One little nip of frost followed by some warm weather causes it to bolt.  Fortunately, it still tastes just wonderful…especially in kimchi.

It’s a good thing we don’t eat salad in the early a.m.  It would be nearly impossible to harvest it then, while frozen.  The heat of the day brings the lettuces “back to life,” and this in itself is a daily moment of wonder.  By supper they’re perky and gorgeous.

But it’s not all salad in the greenhouse beds.   Kales and cabbages hog a lot of space too.  Endive and escarole and radicchio (chickories one and all) span the is-it-salad or is-it-dinner bridge (and I love gratinee’d chickory).  Carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips are grown both indoors and out but somehow are a lot easier to harvest in the greenhouses.  And leeks (perennial and annual), bunching onions, bunching scallions and perennialized garlic (a chive substitute:  unlike chives, the close-planted bulbs’ greens don’t winter-kill) make dinners and salads nice and savory.  Parsley, celery, chervil, cilantro, winter savory, thyme, sage and rosemary add some zest.  And sorrel.  Sorrel deserves a post of its own.

The 80* new greenhouse at 3:00 complete with lettuce eater

This post is to simply demonstrate that, for me, gardening (and in particular harvesting) is a year-round endeavor, and I love it.

20 responses to “On the non-end of gardening

  1. ooooh, how fun! I love looking at yours as I dream about my garden for next year.

  2. I love, love, love your greenhouse. Ever since I read The Four Season Harvest, I’ve wanted one but we keep moving so it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe next year.

  3. I’m so jealous of your greenhouse. Everything looks so nice bundled up under their blankets.

  4. I love your description of this fall, that’s just what it felt like. And though I thoroughly enjoyed the late warm weather if it’s going to be cold, I’m ready for snow too!

    We are so psyched on how well the low hoops are working, I showed it off to my husband yesterday and he was suitably impressed! 🙂 Even though our scale is smaller, the enthusiasm is pretty high.

  5. You WASH your reemay? My filthy covers are an embarrassment! And good to know about the potential shrinking.

    And, please, a post of its own for sorrel!

    • Considering how icky-spider covered they were when I put them away, it made sense to wash them (and they were dirty too)…so I would give it a try, Andrea. I didn’t notice they shrunk in width but definitely in length. My husband cleaned them, lots of bleach and oxyclean, then line-dried. MUCH nicer!

  6. I will try washing the row covers, excellent idea, thanks! I’d love to know more about the perennial leeks. Where did you find the seeds?

  7. Wow, your greenhouse is gorgeous! It’s so nice and big! Totally jealous.

  8. I would love to be inside your greenhouse today, El, as I look out at the windblown snow skidding across the frigid turf….

    If this were a football game, I think you’d be penalized for taunting(!).

    Cheers~ Brett

  9. Just look at all of those greens. What could be better than having a living salad bar and garden at your disposal 365 days each year…beautiful.:)

  10. How do you keep your green house warm at night during the winter?

  11. This is magnificent. I am SO jealous. I wish I had a greenhouse. I wish I had snow too. And my own beans.

  12. Your daughter reminds me of Peter Rabbit in the greenhouse!

  13. Well, the snow has certainly come! I was planting bulbs through the morning on the 30th – the day before the snow hit. Here the ground wasn’t frozen daily, just some days. And those last three days of November thawed enough to get a lot done.

    I loved reading your list of plants that continue to sustain you through winter. With luck, I’ll be checking my own high tunnel this time next year and reporting on what worked, what didn’t.

    I’m curious abt. your raised beds. Do you think they make a difference warmth-wise this time of year, and do you use untreated lumber? (If so, how well does it last?) I hear that raised beds warm more quickly in spring, but don’t know if there is a fall/winter ‘boost’ from raised beds.

    • Hiya Hayden. I of course LOOOVVVEEE all this snow. You know, I do think the raised beds give the soil temperature a boost even at this time of year. Often I will go in there and see that the woodchips and soil on the ground of the paths is frozen but the beds themselves are fine. Whether that’s because the boxes of soil are discontinuous and therefore aren’t as conducive to freezing like the ground does (continuous ground that is) is probably above my paygrade. But yeah, I simply use untreated 1x8s in my beds. If I were a millionaire it would have been 2x8s…but at least inside in the greenhouses the wood isn’t really subject to the weather. Just my sloppy use of the hose, maybe.

      Bulbs! Yipes, missed that opportunity again…somehow I never manage to plant anything in the fall. And here’s to your own hoop house next year.

  14. I just wanted to let you know I have enjoyed reading your blog. My family and I are just beginning homesteaders and hope to one day be self sufficient. Follow our journey at Kan-green.blogspot.com

  15. Hi Wendy. It certainly is the time to dream about next year’s garden, isn’t it? I love all these catalogs crowding my desk, all those green-porn photos!! so nice in contrast to the white stuff, right?

    Bev, well heck I have two to be green over! The one adjacent to the building is a touch warmer and it’s there I have my chair where I do my “work” (read: sitting soaking up the sun like a lizard). So it’s not only good for plants is what I am saying…

    Hiya Mom, yep indeed, all snuggled in. It is fun pulling back the covers and seeing how much things grow. Things are still growing but it’s a bit more slowly, see: it’s a hidden process when they’re all covered up so I am usually surprised by it all! Like opening presents!

    Ah Peter. You’ve got some fish to fry first with the H20 situation. I can see a hoop house on the (left) side of that photo though on those high beds…

    VGC, aren’t they cute?

    Sara! Snow by you yet? We’re predicted to get 24″ just tonight! Yipes. On top of the 6″ we got this weekend, I guess my wish has been granted. But you’re right. Once the snow fell I didn’t feel very rushed to get outside and get work done this weekend. It was fun to hang out and cook in the house, surprisingly.

    Andrea, I wrote a post on sorrel but the cassoulet trumped it. Think I will post it later this week.

    Hi Ali. I love the perennial leeks! I got them from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I don’t think they’ll have a moratorium on shipping stuff to Maine 🙂 but yes, they sell potato onions too, very handy. They’re little bulbettes. They probably won’t ship until fall (check, though: you might still be able to get them) as I had forgotten about them when I ordered them 2 springs ago, and it was a delightful surprise that fall to get them in the mail!

    Meems, it’s fun. Some say they’re ugly but I simply think they’re uneducated. Come by sometime when the wind is howling but the sun is out and the snow has crawled 5′ up the sides of the things and it’s still 80 and pretty in there.

    I’m telling you, Brett, had I had them in MN I might have stayed a bit longer. As it is though…life’s pretty sweet in the tropics here though!

    Sherri, it does get cold in there, just not *as* cold. It is really amazing how the wind cools things down. These greenhouses are well sealed. There’s probably a 20 degree difference minimally at all times of year between outdoors and in. And no, I don’t heat them, the sun does.

    Ken, well, at least you write about the things you know! I do too, I guess…but yeah, it’s when it gets super chilly and when the snow flies here that these plastic bubbles are really wonderful.

    Liz, indeed. Peter Rabbit loves her carrots, too: I have to curb her enthusiasm or she’ll eat them all!

    Hope I answered your question, Hayden. Feel free to email me if you need clarification…

    Hi Michael! Thanks a lot. I am glad I am a little helpful…it’s my mission to get more people gardening. and canning. and chicken-ranching. and goat-milking. andandand!

  16. You have an inspiring garden. I’m envious. It seems like you have quite the natural/sustainable lifestyle. Looks like a lot of fun and must be extremely rewarding. I’m sure it’s not easy work, but you must enjoy doing it.

    TheGardenCloche.com | Protecting Plants From Frost

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