What Gardeners Do in Winter

“Oh, you’re a gardener, so what do you do in the winter?  You don’t grow food right?” 

I love this question because there are so many cool things gardeners do in the cold months.

Awesome October harvest
Awesome October harvest

November means cooking up yummy dishes from soups to pies from autumn’s harvest. The more you store in your root cellar, garage, basement and fridge from the year’s bounty, the more bang for the buck you get from your garden. If you get into fermenting and canning, your benefits go up even more.

If you planted a mid-summer crop of potatoes, December is a great time to harvest them. How cool is it to have friends over for dinner for the holidays and servethem fresh potatoes you harvest last week! So cool.

ferment your harvest
Home make kimchee from early winter harvest

December also brings opportunity to share your bounty. You can gift those you love with home grown and dried herbs or fruits.  One year we gave everyone popcorn we grew.  Another year, it was kimchee we made from fall grown cabbage.

December also brings the first of the seed catalogs and these are one of the best things to read while sipping a cup of hot tea/coffee/coco on a cold wintry day in January and February.  This is the time to dream about what you will grow next year .. oh, but wait .. we also do our seed inventory and reflect on what worked and what didn’t during the year with things like:

  • Did we use up seed of our favorite tomato variety?
  • Did anything new we tried do great or horrid, or just so-so?
  • Was there a whole crop fail? This is the time we chat with each other to see if everyone in our community had a bad year with that, or if we need advice on what might have happened in our garden.
Seed Catalogs
Catalogs from some of our recommended companies.

Reading seed catalogs lets us dream of warmer days in spring and plan what we want to do next year in the garden. They also provide useful information and are great resources.

A creative winter garden project is designing the next phase of our garden.  Whether it be the next phase of our long range garden plan (this is the year I put in blueberries and asparagus!) or so a new garden follow-on layout from spring and summer.  Maybe you expand it into fall and winter if you have not yet ventured into four season gardening.

collards are sweeter after frost
Winter collards harvest during snowmageddon

Likely the most rewarding is the continued harvest.  My favorite winter harvest story is from a few years ago during a winter storm dubbed ‘snowmageddon’. It was the biggest snowfall I’d ever been in.  We dug a path to the collards, buried deep in the snow to harvest some for dinner, and honestly they were the sweetest collards I’ve ever eaten.

Harvesting in winter can be less dramatic, simply have a few things in a simple hoop house or cold frame that could be harvestable in winter and certainly when they get a warm day or two to grow a bit and provide more food offerings.

grow food from seed
Young seedlings under lights in winter

Winter is also the time to start early spring and some summer crops.  Your brassicas can be started indoors to be hardened off and planted our as soon as the ground softens up.  Some summer crops like basil and peppers that take a long time to germinate and get growing also benefit from being started in late winter.

I’m also in mid-swing with teaching The Foundations of Organic Gardening Course, which empowers people to be successful gardeners.

Winter is a great time study, dream, muse, plan, order seeds, start seedlings and chat with other gardeners.

Container Garden your Way to Yummy Food

grow great tomatoes at home
Container Grown Gold Roma Tomatoes

Happy Spring!

Tis the season we starting dreaming of gardening – what don’t have much time or space to garden?

No problem – Container garden.

Container gardening is a great place to start gardening and easy to add if you are an experienced gardener.

For the new gardener, it allows you to learn on a small scale. It is often where I recommend people start gardening, especially those who feel overwhelmed by gardening for the first time.

Experienced gardeners (and all of us really) can enjoy the convenience a container garden can provide, consider…

 

… 5 Reasons why container gardening is a great idea:

  1. It doesn’t take much space
  2. You can move the containers to where the sun and rain are
  3. You don’t have a big area to maintain
  4. You can grow loads of food
  5. You can grow food year round

Lets take a peek at each of these 5 reasons.

Grow lots of food in a containerContainer gardens can be a various sizes and shapes and tucked into or onto most any place, making they great for small space gardening. Even if you have a large yard, growing food on your deck is convenient.

Live in a townhouse where the sun is limited. You can move your container garden around from place to place to follow the sun, getting more or less light depending on what you are growing. You can move them under the eves in a big rain storm, or under the sky if they need watering.

Many people seem to not have much time these days, so having a smaller area to maintain fits with many people’s lifestyles and still allows them to eat some food from their own place.

You can get a huge yield from a well planted container garden. Amazing really how much bounty you can haul in. You can grow pretty much anything you would grow in the ground in a container.

All those crops that grow in fall and winter can grow in containers too, so you can four season garden !

 

Want more and live local … Come to our Container Garden Workshop, April 11, 2015

3 Plants to Have in Your Garden Each Month of the Year

There are many other plants in our gardens, but here is a quick list of some ideas for four season gardening:

January

  1. Cabbage, overwintered from last summer
  2. Kale, overwintered from last summer
  3. Collards, overwintered from last summer

February

  1. Carrots overwintered from last summer
  2. Hellebores – planted the previous year, perennial provides bees an early source of food
  3. Overwintered leaf crops, cabbage, kale, collards

March

  1. Lettuce, direct seed spring varieties
  2. Spinach, direct seed to harvest by June
  3. Radish, succession plant every two weeks for continuous harvest

April

  1. Peas, seed by early April for June harvest
  2. Carrots, seed different types to compare what you like
  3. Beets, seed different colors for rainbow beet salads

May

  1. Tomatoes, transplant seedlings or direct seed
  2. Peppers, transplant seedlings or direct seed
  3. Cucumbers, transplant seedlings or direct seed

June

  1. Corn, direct seed
  2. Sunflowers, direct seed
  3. Beans, direct seed

July

  1. Lettuce, under the shade of summer plants
  2. Parsnips, to be harvested for fall dishes
  3. All the plants you planted in May and June

August

  1. Cabbage, planted for fall and overwintering
  2. Kale, planted for fall and overwintering
  3. Collards, planted for fall and overwintering

September

  1. Lettuce, direct seed for fall harvest
  2. Spinach, direct seed for fall harvest
  3. Carrots, direct seed for fall harvest

October

  1. Garlic, plant cloves for harvest next September/October
  2. Broccoli, overwintering types
  3. Kohlrabi, to enjoy in December

November

  1. Turnips, seeded in late summer
  2. Rutabagas, seeded in late summer
  3. Chard, seeded in late summer

December

  1. Overwintered leaf crops, cabbage, kale, collards
  2. Overwintered carrots
  3. Spinach, overwintered in a hoop house