I absolutely love having fresh greens all year long. It seems that when the snow is flying I become especially hungry for broccoli. I believe a big part of that is the lack of green things growing in the yard. I become obsessed with eating what I can’t have at the moment.
Enjoying Fresh Produce All Year Long
We live in a fairly modern house, which has its good points, but one big thing I miss is a root cellar. I would give anything for vegetable cold storage and have spent endless hours daydreaming about how I might make this old time necessity a current possibility.
I’ve been through many different plans for updated root cellars. My husband is thoroughly sick of hearing about how we might dig a hole in the backyard and bury a freezer, or wall off a part of the basement and jackhammer the concrete slab. At some point I expect him to break and find a way to do it, even if just to shut me up.
I dream of boxes of sand where carrots await me in the middle of January, and buckets of soil under tarps where endive grows in the dark. And I would love paper-lined crates where the fall’s apple harvest remains crisp and juicy. I dream of extending the usability of the harvest from my garden rather than buying everything from the grocery store during the winter months.
I tell you all of this because it explains why I became so attracted to the work of Eliot Coleman and his books about year-round gardening. I’ve always been too caught up in the work of getting my partial-year garden running well to even read his work. That all changed last week when I went on vacation. We went to the woods where I had no access to the internet and no chores to do. I packed Mr. Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest, and eagerly hatched my next crazy plan.
Gardening After the Summer Months
I’m determined to have cold frames this winter if I’m not going to have cold storage. Cold frames are pretty old gardening technology. These four-sided boxes frame in a small garden space. The slanted top is made of glass or greenhouse material. The design of the cold frame keeps the soil it protects from freezing, extending either the spring or fall season. (Learn how to build your own, or buy them here.)
My parents had a few cold frames when I was a child, and it makes me wonder why I abandoned this aspect of my gardening tutelage. At some point, the weather turns cold enough that you can’t prevent the plants inside the box from freezing and most gardeners call it quits at that point.
Hardy Plants to Grow This Fall & Winter
While most plants can’t handle a daily freeze and thaw, some can. There is still time to plant some of these hardy greens for winter salads and roasting – and that is just what I will be doing this week. The beauty is that I can plant a few 4’ X 8’ areas while I wait for my husband to build the cold frames. Frames can be added over top as they are finished.
Here are the vegetables I will be planting:
This slightly bitter and peppery green is my favorite salad green. I’m excited to have it available to fresh pick throughout the winter. I’m imagining a fresh arugula salad on top of a winter grilled steak in the dead of January. I’ll get these seeds started anytime before August 21 and be able to harvest from the beginning of October through spring.
There are so many varieties of lettuce, everything from heirloom leaf to small heading lettuce. I’ll be picking out a few heirloom varieties and planting rows every few weeks until September 7. This should give me fresh lettuce until the end of November.
Radishes are easy to grow and hard to resist. Their fresh and spicy taste is very welcome in a salad. But have you ever roasted these little root veggies? Yum! I’ll add these seeds wherever I have some space up until October 15 and expect to harvest until the end of November.
My husband likes spinach salads quite a bit and we didn’t get any in this spring. I have until August 30 to get the fall batch in, and should be able to harvest until the end of November.
Salads are great in the winter when we need a shock of freshness. We’ll be steaming a bit more of our greens and adding warm dressings to warm our bodies. It seems appropriate for the season.
Want more tips for cold season gardens? Read more here: