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Winter Vegetable Garden Update

November 22, 2014 | By | Reply More

vegetable garden

The last of my heirloom turnips and carrots, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Isn’t this just about the last thing you’d expect to be reading about here in late November? Me too! I wasn’t so sure how successful my foray into fall and winter gardening would be and although winter is not “officially” here just yet, the weather says otherwise. Last week, temperatures here in suburban Philly plunged into the teens for several nights in a row.

Winter gardening is leaving me feeling a bit conflicted. One one hand, I’m dog tired from all the work I put into my garden and yard during the summer. Part of me just wants to sit indoors and not even think about the garden until next spring. The other part of me is completely spoiled by the great food and excited to say, “I  can’t believe we’re still eating from our own vegetable garden even though December is just a week away!” I think that’s the part of me that’s winning and making it possible for me to keep putting time and energy into my garden.

Out of a total of eight raised beds in the Tomato Envy Garden, we still have five that are planted. In them are Tuscan kale, purple sprouting broccoli, turnips, parsnips, carrots, spinach, lettuce, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower, dill, chervil, and cilantro. Then, we have the cold frame with Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, spinach and mache.

vegetable garden

lettuce and spinach in the cold frame

I’ve been using a combination of clear vented plastic and cloth garden covers stretched over the “hoop houses” that Mr. President rigged up this summer to protect the plants from the unseasonably cool weather. Before our first hard frost, I watered the beds thoroughly by hand since my irrigation system has already been shut down for the winter. Watering helps to raise the humidity around the plants and keep the air a tiny bit warmer. Every degree counts when you’re trying to squeeze more time from your garden!

I am amazed at how warm it can get under those plastic covers on a sunny day. When a warm(ish), sunny day is in the forecast, I usually tie back the covers on at least one end of the hoop houses to allow for better ventilation. If it gets too warm, the sun can actually cook your vegetables before you even harvest them!

After a week away on business with my “day job” I returned home just dying to take a peek at my plants underneath the covers. It had been so cold that the plants had all remained covered for the week, even during the day since it barely got above freezing. Once I finally got a good look, I was so happy to see that the only casualty was one very lovely head of lettuce that I’d hoped to serve on Thanksgiving.

vegetable garden

Chinese giant red mustard, Tuscan kale and dill, going strong!

But, spinach, arugula, sprouting broccoli and Tuscan kale are all growing like crazy. The tops of my heirloom turnips and carrots were mushy from the frost, so I made the decision to harvest the last of them all at once. The tough root vegetables will store in the refrigerator for many weeks. I plan to leave the parsnips in the ground for harvesting as needed, like right before Thanksgiving dinner!

vegetable garden

Cauliflower, testing my patience

I have my doubts about being able to enjoy a roasted cauliflower pizza any time soon though, at least if I’m waiting for my garden cauliflower to mature. I started the four plants indoors in the beginning of July, and I still don’t have a single head of cauliflower.

The plants are huge and maybe six weeks ago, I noticed that each one was starting to make the tiniest little head. They don’t seem to be “buttoning” but the heads are growing so, so slowly. The largest head is only about two inches across. For as long as I’m able, I will simply protect them from frost the best I  can and try to be patient. All I want for Christmas is roasted cauliflower!

I’m hoping to keep my winter vegetable garden going as long as possible – maybe even until the new year. Garden pests are non-existent, watering needs are less, and there’s no mosquitoes eating me alive. The pace of fall and winter gardening is much slower and more leisurely than spring and summer gardening, and that’s a good thing. This tired gardener could use a break!




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Category: General, Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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