The Dark Days of Winter: Eating Well With a Garden

Why don’t more people garden in the fall and winter? Even in places like MI, you can do kale and many root veggies over the winter (though, in those places, some people still have root cellars, which are just as effective). Here in VA, there’s no good reason why more of those who do summer gardening don’t carry it into winter.

We can’t cold store here until fairly late, because it’s just too warm and we have no root cellar or basement; but, lots of things will stay in the ground through most, if not all, of the winter with very little effort. We’re doing several varieties of kale, beets, turnips, spinach, and radishes, which will all get left in the ground well past our first hard frost. Some of it will eventually be pulled to come inside to the cold storage, some will get straw piled over it to hold until we want to dig it out. Some of it will just hang out all winter and defy the cold. In this way, we’ll have fresh stuff through a large part of the winter.

To get there, though, we have some prep work to do. We tilled a larger part of the yard, since our garden this year was fairly small to start with. We laid landscape cloth to keep some of the weeds down, as well as to absorb the heat and rain we have left this year, which will help the seeds sprout and grow quickly.  Later this week, I’ll be pulling the rest of my basil and many of the early- and mid-season tomatoes. The late tomatoes will get left in, the fruit to be harvested just before frost and wrapped in newspaper to go into cold storage for slow ripening. The pepper will get pulled up, and the cukes came out a few weeks ago. Some of the herbs will get transplanted to pots to come inside so they can be used all winter long.

I’m looking forward to our winter produce, even though I had to go out and plant today in the rain. It’ll be worth the muddy shoes now to have fresh greens in February!

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2 responses to “The Dark Days of Winter: Eating Well With a Garden

  • transplantednorth

    Hi Eclectic,
    I, I northerner, am not looking to the end of my gardening season. I have long contemplated building a cold frame but have yet committed the time to this project. What I want to do is start up some basil seeds and lettuce seeds and grow them under a grow light this winter. Do you have a cold frame and if so, how did you build it?

    One thing I know: even in the coldest winters in Rochester, NY, my parseley and Swiss Chard grows all winter. I just have to dig it out of the snow.

    • shwankie

      Hi, Transplanted! We don’t use a cold frame. We have friends that do, though. Apparently, everyone loves old storm doors and old windows, both of which they just set on cement blocks. I’ve never tried this, but they swear by it.

      We don’t do grow lights, they’re just too expensive for us, so we set our basil and herbs in our sunniest windows. I’m getting ready to transplant a few herbs from the garden into pots later this week for just that purpose. I’m letting one of my basil plants go to seed so I can get some pots of those started, as well. I don’t do anything fancy, just put the pots in the sun with saran wrap over them until they sprout, water them well, and keep them warm. I also set them on tin foil or reflective trays, and depending on where they’re at, I’ll also put tinfoil “reflectors” on the pots. Works great, but then again, we have a lot of sunny windows.

      I had heard that Chard would make it through a NY winter, but not parsley. That’s fabulous! Though, I have to admit, I am hoping not to have to dig mine out from under snow this year 🙂

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