It was a pretty good snow storm that came through Utah 2 nights ago. I had a problem with the snow load on the greenhouse and had to do some last minute fixing. I also had to change the shape of the greenhouse to the rounded instead of the Gothic arch. The Gothic arch added another foot and a half of height so the wind was really blowing it around. My only concern now it this shape of greenhouse and it being able to handle the snow load. I’ve tried to do this on a major budget but have learned that you’ll need to do some critical things to make it more solid than the simple Eliot Coleman PVC and rope greenhouse. That’s simply not going to work when you have the kind of weather that we have. But he’s in Maine so it should be a little similar I would think. At any rate, it was 8 or 9 degrees two nights ago and underneath the greenhouse it was 34. I’ll post soon to show what it looks like under the greenhouse. It’s great under there. I was able to go out into the garden and effortlessly harvest loose leaf lettuce, mizuna, tatsoi, mache, spinach, and arugula. More snow on the way and single digit temperatures at night for many days to come.
I have many hobbies-in fact my wife calls me the “hobby king.” To this day I’m not convinced she says that in a good way. But when you have a garden that produces such tasty things as this, how could you not develop a cooking hobby? That’s the case with me. Tonight I harvested arugula and radicchio from the garden. It’s been grown in cold weather so the arugula doesn’t have that overpowering peppery taste that usually comes with it, and the radicchio is no longer bitter. Slice some Granny Smith apples, make some carmelized pecans and a honey-lime dressing, and top it with blue cheese. I promise-you’ll have people asking you for the recipe. The winter harvest-the absolute best.
The weather has really changed this week. Today it was 28 when I woke up with temperatures around that for the rest of the week. Winter is arriving quickly. My greenhouse plastic has finally arrived and it’s now up. I’ve had a lot of success growing all winter in northern Utah for years with my basic setup as shown. I just thought I would put up a greenhouse so that I can garden and harvest without getting snowed or rained upon. I definitely did it for less than $100. There is no heat involved-other than the sun-but it doesn’t matter with the crops I’m growing as they all love this cold weather. Plants have certainly slowed in their normal growing pattern, but now it’s time for the winter harvest. There’s no work out there to do at this time. No watering needed, and no pest problems to speak of. Hopefully we’ll get another snow so that I can post a picture of the greenhouse and what’s growing underneath it. Fun stuff.
This week has been a lot of fun. Usually I’m busy amending all soil, emptying the compost bins and getting ready to close down most of the garden for the season. I ended up bagging a lot of leaves and will finish that chore this week. I’ve emptied my compost bins and have started to fill them up with all the usually things. My biggest job was putting up my greenhouse. It didn’t take me too long-about half an hour. I did it for a grand total of $75, maybe a tad-bit less. We had a light snow earlier in the week. I had the greatest feeling of going out during the storm and tinkering in my gardens with the temperature in the greenhouse at around 50. It felt like I was in a different world under there! This will the most enjoyable winter garden I’ve ever had. I have 96 squares filled with 25 different crops that will be harvested throughout the winter. Probably the best part of this week was the salad I got to make. I snipped some radicchio and arugula leaves which are nowhere near as bitter as they normally would be when grown in warm weather, and combined them with blue cheese and carmelized pecans. I slices some Granny Smith apples and topped it with a honey-lime vinigrette. Can’t wait for salads this winter. You should learn how to grow your own in cold weather. They really taste notably different when grown in the colder climate.
I’ve begun the process of closing my compost bins down for the year. Here is a picture of finished compost from one of my two bins. It’s in perfect shape and will be used for next spring. In the meantime, I’ll be doing nothing but adding compost ingredients during the winter months. This time of year is perfect for the collection of “brown” or carbon ingredients-shredded leaves, branches, pine needles, corn stalks left over from Halloween decorations, etc. After filling both of my bins up with material this week, I’ll have a lot of leftover things-especially leaves. I’ll cover these bags of leaves with a tarp to keep out moisture. Come next spring I’ll use them to sell to people attending my gardening workshops when there is little of the brown ingredients readily available. Everybody wants to start making compost at that time. I won’t water any of my compost bins from this time forward but will only concentrate on adding material. If you water them in like you normally do in the spring and summertime, the bins become little ice cubes and take a lot longer to get going come springtime. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t one tablespoon of dirt in this finished compost. It’s so easy. And it’s the best fertilizer you’ll ever use-all from free ingredients.
When Labor Day weekend hits the state of Utah, it marks the end of the garden season for many of us. Here we are in the first week of November and my garden looks like early spring. Salad greens pulled tonight included a cut-and-come again lettuce, spinach, chard, and mizuna. We added a just ripened tomato, black beans, fresh carrots, and a shunkyo radish, along with croutons, blackened chicken, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh ground pepper. We will be able to have a different tasting salad every night between now and the end of February. Protecting those gardens in zone 6 with plastic and row covers is the way to do it. I’ll be having a winter garden class in the first week of December. I hope to be able to show everyone in attendance how easy this is to do and become truly self-sufficient.
This is a great tasting gem! Also known as miners lettuce because the early California gold miners ate it on the way out west. I think it’s actually categorized as a weed. It’s amazingly productive and keeps coming back all winter or spring. It goes to seed in warm weather but is a great addition to your winter salad mixes. In the square foot garden you plant 9 of these per square. A little later in the year these start to grow a small, edible white flower. You’re guests will probably never know what this is in your salads as you entertain during the winter months, but they will certainly love it.
Another delicious winter crop-Mache, or better known as corn salad in the states, is easy to grow and it comes up quickly. This will be ready to start cutting in about 2 weeks. In Europe it’s harvested as a whole plant and served in fancy salads. If you find it in high end restaurants in America it’s served the same way. But for the home gardener, you can use it as a cut-and-come again crop. This lengthens the availability of mache significantly for home use. It’s got a different taste-almost a nutty flavor, but it’s something that you’ll love for winter and spring salads. You won’t find it in summer salads because it doesn’t grow in warm weather. It’s categorized as a winter annual.
We’ve had 3 or 4 significant frosts already. I’m getting ready to cover this structure with greenhouse plastic. I’ll only then be using a weighted floating row cover to put over the crops. As we head into winter, this is what’s growing in just 148 square feet of garden space: 20 pounds of potatoes, 108 heads of lettuce, 8 arugula plants, 320 carrots, 117 spinach plants, 36 mizuna plants, 45 claytonia plants, 4 minutina, 24 komatsuna, 27 mache, 80 radishes, 36 beets, 48 turnips, 44 Swissl chard, 9 onions, 36 chives, 16 radicchio, 63 leeks, 2 kale plants, 20 poc choi, 2 parsley plants, 1 rosemary plant, 45 tatsoi, 36 kohlrabi, and 4 plants of cilantro. We’re ready.
Everyone is familiar with radicchio-the small, dark maroon pieces found in mesclun salad mixes. Radicchio can be a bit tricky. I grow this particular variety and it’s been a huge hit. The variety is called Fiero-it’s harvested and used as you would romaine lettuce. It’s an open leaf variety and when grown in the right season adds a wonderful taste to salad mixes. Grow it in warm weather and it will turn so bitter that just one leaf will ruin an entire salad. Not only does it taste good, I think the color is amazing. This will be perfect for our winter harvest garden which is starting to really crank up right now with these overnight temperatures in the mid to high 20′s. I had customers clamoring over it this past spring. Give it a try.
Today I pulled up all of my drip irrigation lines as I haven’t watered with my automated system in a month. I’ve been hand watering with free water from my Friskars rainbarrel. It holds 48 gallons of water, and it fills up in about 20 minutes with any decent rainstorm. I bought mine for $18 a year ago because it was the last one Home Depot had and also because it had a little white smudge on it. It’s been great to have around. I’ve used less metered water this year than any other even though I’ve grown more than I ever have. I think it’s a good time to look for these closeout bargains at stores in your neighborhood. Rainbarrels, seeds, trowels, and other garden equipment can usually be found for great deals this time of year. This is what my gardens look like right now-things are up and alive and all looking good for my winter harvest. Clockwise from upper left is open leaf radicchio(Fiero), chard, 2 Star lettuce, and Komatsuna. I noticed today that I’m still getting 7 hours of full sun on my gardens. It’s almost like spring but I have no pests this time of year. The winter harvest should be great.
This is wheatgrass. I can’t stand the stuff, but my wife loves to juice it-she calls it her medicine. Oh, well-to each his/her own. This is planted and harvested in 10-12 days. I only cut it once and then I empty the square and plant something else. Since it’s so late in the season and this particular bed gets little winter sun, I won’t replant this square with anything. I’ll begin to harvest and empty this entire 4X8′ box for the season and when it’s done, I’ll add my soil amendments and let it sit for the winter. It won’t be planted with anything until next spring. That’s prizehead next to the wheatgrass-an easy and tasty lettuce that anyone can grow.
Right now I’ve got enough lettuce, beans, tomatoes, leeks, basil, and squash to last me another 3 weeks-tops. Nights are projected to be in the mid-40′s later this week, with highs in the 70′s. My newly planted lettuce seeds are growing quickly in this cooler weather. So are all the remaining cooler crops which I’ve planted. The change in weather has really slowed the summer crops. By the picture you can get an idea of what I’ll be doing this winter in the garden. I’ve got 10 more squares to plant in the next 2-3 weeks and then I’ll be done for the year. After that it’s just a matter of protection and minimal watering for the huge winter harvest season. I doubt it will be as cold as it was last winter so I’m really looking forward to all the great things growing right now. I can’t wait until is snows so I can go and hang out in the garden-with some of the tastiest things around.
Here in zone 6 it’s time to fill all your empty squares with things you like to eat during the winter. Most of us try to avoid our gardens during this usually bleak time of year, but you don’t have to. By using the right crops that love cool or cold weather and providing the minimal amount of protection, you can be eating out of your garden all winter. And the eats are good too!! The varieties are a little different than many are used to, but my guess is you’ll love the taste of virtually all of them. If you don’t have your garden filled up yet, you still have a couple of weeks to get many of the crops in that will thrive during the winter months. Leeks, turnips, parsnips, lettuce, spinach, mache, claytonia, mizuna, minutina, arugula, pak choi, raddichio, carrots, etc. are some of the things I grew successfully last winter. I’ll be having my last gardening workshop of the season this weekend if you live locally. Bring a friend and come on out. Visit my website for more information. I’ll be having a one of a kind class during the first week of December. You’ll be hooked when you see it then…
Sometimes it’s not such a great idea to use just anything you have around the garden for certain things. I’ve always grown my tomatoes vertically, and mostly on supports made of 1/2″ electrical conduit. It’s always worked. Many years ago I had some of these 7 or 8′ green stake supports that I’ve grown tomatoes on-occasionally. Even though you might think they look solid enough, they aren’t. I hope you can recognize them when you see the picture. I even doubled up on the supports and tied them together with Velcro. We had strong winds that came by a few weeks ago and I came home to find this. These are just made out of a very thin and cheap layer of aluminum inside. No way that’s going to be strong enough to hold the amount of tomatoes you’ll be growing on it. Do yourself a favor-do it right from the start. Use the 1/2″ electrical conduit, place it over a piece of rebar that’s been pounded into the ground, and then you won’t have to ever worry about coming home to this….