This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.
Showing posts with label fall crops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fall crops. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Winter Garden

by Chiot's Run

After reading Eliot Coleman's books Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook I was enthralled with the idea of being able to harvest things form my garden throughout the winter in my cold northern climate. It is difficult to find fresh local vegetables between November and May here in my area of the country.
First Spinach Harvest

I started my first foray into winter gardening 3 years ago and successfully harvested some spinach and kale from my garden in February. The next year I was able to grow a nice crop of carrots. This year I was a bit more ambitious and planted a few rows of leeks, an entire 4x10 bed of spinach, some onions, arugula, celery, kale, and cabbages. I made mini hoop houses for a few of my raised beds and covered them with greenhouse plastic when the cold winter hit (much earlier than normal).

My Winter Garden in Late December

Since I have limited garden space, winter gardening is proving to be quite a challenge. Many of the fall/winter harvested vegetables are planted in mid-summer. I have to carefully work around my spring/summer planting dates and make sure they're harvested and the ground is ready to plant again. As I expand my garden space I'll be able to grow and more winter items since I can focus on growing early spring crops or just cover crops before fall planting in the areas I want to plant fall crops. There is a benefit though to starting small and working my way up, I'm able to learn while I grow small amounts. It's simple and easy when you're only growing a raised bed or two rather than an entire garden full of things.

My Winter Garden in Late December

Four season gardening does have a learning curve, it's great to spend a few years observing what your fall weather and looking at how the plants respond it. The great thing is that even if I lose an entire crop of broccoli, like I did this year since the cold fall weather came a month ahead of time this year, I'm not out more than a few pennies and some time. It's also great to grow a few varieties of each crop to determine which one does best in your particular winter climate. I've got 3 varieties of spinach that I'm testing this year.

My Winter Garden in Late December

My carrots and beets have both done very will this year, I could have planted the carrots a bit earlier, but they were not too small, very respectable. Besides learning the proper planting times, the biggest problems I'm having to learn to deal with are the voles. They ate almost my entire beet crop and starting moving on the carrots. I was able to get the carrots harvested before they ate too many of those though. I'll be attempting to use castor beans in the summer garden and mole plants as well to see if these help with this problem.

Harvesting Winter Carrots Winter Gardening

I'm really enjoying learning about this aspect of edible gardening. It hasn't been easy or without failure, I'm learning a lot. I've lost entire crops of brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, carrots, beets, and other things, but since I'm growing from seed it doesn't cost that much and the knowledge gained is invaluable. When you get it right, there's nothing more satisfying than harvesting a salad in mid January or 40 pounds of carrots mid-winter.

Winter Gardening

My neighbors probably think I'm crazy when they see me out working in the garden all bundled up. But I'm happy to be eating a roast with my fresh carrots on the side or enjoying a handful of freshly harvested spinach thrown into the soup pot. learning to grow a little more of what I eat each year is the reason I garden and winter gardening saves me time canning/preserving in the summer!

Have you made an attempt at winter or four season gardening? Any great tips you can share? What have you had most success with?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trying my Hand at Winter Gardening

by Chiot's Run

I'm lucky that we have a year round farmer's market that opened up last year. I can now find local produce all winter long, which is wonderful in our cold climate. Last winter I happily purchased all kinds of wonderful vegetables from various local farmers to get us through the winter. I'm always trying to expand my gardening so I can produce more and more of our food. Since we live on a small lot and don't have much more gardening space, I'm starting to expand the seasons that I grow. I installed hoops over my raised bed specifically for protecting crops from our cold NE Ohio weather. A few weeks ago I covered my raised beds with greenhouse plastic in my efforts to grow all winter long.
Four Season Gardening
Most everything in these beds were seeded in early October, and they seem to be thriving in the cool fall weather. They do take longer to reach maturity, mostly because of the reduced daylight hours not as much the cold. I have 3 raised beds at my house and 2 in my mom's garden. They're filled with cold tolerant lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, celery, arugula and kohlrabi.
Four Season Gardening
I searched out cold tolerant heirloom varieties of vegetables for my experiment. I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to provide a lot of my own vegetables (mostly greens) during the long cold winter months. (If you want to learn more about four season gardening I'd highly recommend Eliot Coleman's book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses)

Have you tried winter gardening? What do you use to protect your crops?

Monday, November 30, 2009

One pumpkin fits all

by Francesca
FuoriBorgo

heirloom pumpkin
Early in October I harvested our one pumpkin. I chronicled the strange case of the heirloom pumpkin in my blog, explaining how we unexpectedly happened to grow it. Since then, I’ve learned from a reader that our large pumpkin is a Heirloom Neck Pumpkin.

This was one of the most effortless crops I’ve ever grown. I transplanted it in early July, watered it, and then just let it grow. It crawled slowly across and out of our garden, and eventually produced its single fruit. My €0.25 transplant produced a heirloom pumpkin which weighed 10.5 kilos, and provided the main ingredient of 4 dishes, which served a total of about 30 people.
halved heirloom pumpkin

Here’s how we used it:

~ Pumpkin soup ~
heirloom pumpkin soup ingredients
With barley, red lentils, cabbage, onion, garlic, dry(ing) peppers, dried sage and rosemary. I made a very large pot of it, enough for two meals for our family: a nice thick vegetable soup is most welcome on cold fall evenings.

~ Skillet-roasted pumpkin ~
roasted pumpkin
With fresh rosemary and garlic.

~ Stuffed pumpkin with sage-infused rice ~
heirloom pumpkin halved
stuffed pumpkin
I first boiled black and brown rice, adding six large sage leaves to the water. Then I mixed in cubed pecorino cheese, and used this mixture to fill the part of the pumpkin where the seeds are, which I’d split in half and scooped out. I set these filled bowls in the oven and baked them.

(I made this dish and the pie below for a dinner with friends: they served 10 people!)

~ Pumpkin pie ~
pumpkin pie
With Marsala sweet wine, pine nuts and raisins.
pumpkin seeds

So a single vegetable that grew from a €0.25 transplant yielded a surprising range of dishes. I even got a tasty snack out of it, because of course I saved the pumpkin seeds, sprinkled them with salt, and popped them into the oven to roast while the rice was baking.

What other wonder vegetables have you come across? Vegetables that are easy to grow, are abundant and can be used in a variety of dishes, savory and sweet?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Fall Crops Worth Mentioning

Posted by Thomas, from A Growing Tradition

When our family moved to our new home in late July, I was a bit disappointed that we had missed out on being able to grow many of the traditional summer crops that seem to dominate seed catalogs these days. While other gardeners were tending to their tomato, cucumber and melon plants, I was breaking ground, raising fence and sowing my fall garden. Looking back, I was glad for the experience. Here in New England, many of us are so focused on getting our summer crops to mature in September (and rightly so) that we often overlook the extended bounty that a traditional fall garden can produce. I experimented with many different types of fall crops this year. And while I've had my fair share of failures along the way, I've learned that all of the planning and effort that goes into growing a proper fall garden is well worth it.

There are many things I look for in a good fall vegetable - quick maturity dates and cold hardiness to name a couple. Instead of listing them all, I thought I'd highlight five crops that I believe exemplify many of these characteristics. In no particular order:

1. The Obvious - Cut and Come Again Lettuce

lettuce mix
30 Days to harvest - Fall lettuce/salad mix is the ideal gift that keeps on giving. I can appreciate a crop that will allow me to harvest from it over and over again until a mighty November frost intervenes (longer if you give it some protection). Cooler weather offers two added benefits - 1) you don't have to worry about your lettuce bolting unexpectedly and 2) certain greens (such as arugula) that would normally be too sharp for my taste during the summer months develop a milder flavor. Finally, I consider a fall harvest of salad greens to be the perfect break between the succulent vine-ripened crops of summer and the hardier root vegetables of winter.

harvesting lettuce mix

2. The Esteemed - Hakurei Turnips

hakurei turnips harvest
40 days to harvest - I cannot speak highly enough about this vegetable. Those of you who dislike conventional turnips might appreciate this mild and crisp variety from Japan. Prized by top chefs around the world, Hakurei turnips can be enjoyed raw in a salad or lightly cooked. When steamed and tossed with a bit of butter, these turnips taste like the best cauliflower I have ever had (but much easier and faster to grow). Hakurei turnips are best harvested golf ball-sized and produce tasty greens as well. Sow seeds every couple of weeks from mid-August to mid-September to ensure a steady crop throughout most of the fall.

turnips and carrots 2

3. The Humble - Radishes

easter egg radishes
30 days to harvest - I will admit that radishes are not high on my list of favorite things to eat. However, what they lack in taste, they more than make up for in color, which can range anywhere from brilliant to radiant. This humble vegetable grows easily in cool weather and small-type varieties are very quick to mature. Harvest small-type radishes young as they tend to get hot and pithy the larger they get. I enjoy them raw in a salad or pickled.

radish bouquet 2

4. The Tender and Sweet - Chinese Broccoli

flowering brasscia
45-50 days to harvest - Most Asian greens thrive in cooler weather, and out of these, many are exceptionally cold hardy. The disadvantage of growing Asian greens is that most are susceptible to the same pests that plague other brassicas. Therefore, protection in the form of row covers is generally needed. The advantage is that they usually have relatively short maturity dates. One variety that performed very well for me this year was a flowering-type brassica known as Green Lance, more commonly referred to as Chinese broccoli. The stalk, leaves and flower buds of this plant are all edible. In particular, the stalk (like asparagus) is very tender and sweet. I will continue to grow this vegetable in place of fall broccoli as it is faster to mature, more productive, and in my experience, much less vulnerable to pests.

flowering brassica 2

5. The Nutritional Powerhouse - Spinach

Fall Spinach 3
40 days to harvest - There are several varieties of spinach that are exceptionally winter hardy. While other fall greens slowly succumb to frost, spinach will remain surprisingly resilient with a bit of added protection in the form of a cold frame or row covers. The variety that I am growing currently is called "Space". Spinach, like lettuce and most Asian greens, can be harvested during most stages of development, making them a particularly reliable fall crop regardless of how quickly the weather turns cold. And if that is not enough to make you want to grow spinach, its nutritional value should.

Fall Spinach 2
I hope you consider growing some of these vegetables in your fall garden. One final peace of advice - please bear in mind that precise sowing dates are much more crucial when planning a fall garden (sow too late and you will end up eating mostly baby greens). You can mitigate this somewhat by utilizing row covers. To be on the safe side, add a couple of weeks to the maturity date listed on the seed packet to help ensure a harvest. If you have any fall crops you particularly love that I have not mentioned here, or have any fall gardening tips that you would like others to know, please share!