December Coldframe Update~The Winter Garden

Just thought I’d give you a quick update on what’s going on in the garden.  Yes, the garden, in December, in Upstate NY!

Back in September I wrote about the nice new coldframes that Yankee Bill had made me out of reclaimed lumber and some old doors.  I planted them up with small plants from the garden (self seeded kale, the second run of chard etc) and started new seeds.  I really didn’t know exactly what I was doing and I probably planted them a bit too late (mid August would have been better)

Here we are in December-it’s been fluctuating between typical cold spells, hard frost, snow and weirdly balmy 60 degree weather.  Although I’ve been harvesting greens here and there this week was the first time I’ve cranked them all the way open in a while:

The near frame is the best planted (the second frame really only has the one row of turnips doing anything)

What you see from the rear working forward:  chard (transplanted from the garden), on the right in the middle those wispy looking greens are Mizuna, on the left is lettuce.  In the front is kale.

It’s been a bit since I opened up the plastic hoop cover Yankee Bill also built me.  I had forgotten about the radishes I had planted in there–they were small, but perfect for a salad.  I’ve also got Bok Choy and Collards as small plants in there–and a few think tendrils of green onions that look more like grass than anything else.

Last week I had finally mulched my row of carrots (this is an in process picture I took at the time).  You can see that it’s a pretty thick & fluffy layer of hay, probably about 8 inches deep.  The carrot fronds you see peeking out of the leaves in front were also completely covered by the time I was done.  All winter I should be able to pull back the mulch and use a garden fork to dig out some carrots.  I’ll start on one end and work my way down the row, using a tall stake to mark off where I last dug.

You can see here on the very end of the row where I pulled back some of the mulch and dug out my first carrot.

The row of Kale is just sitting in the garden, doing fine.  Kale is an incredibly cold tolerant plant-I should be able to dig it out of the snow and eat it!  I planted these in late August, but they are still small because I had to fight off an incursion of evil green caterpillars (cabbage worms) that kept eating them down.  I wound up using BT on them (its a bacteria that kills the cabbage worms).  It’s considered an organic measure.

I picked the final couple of salad turnips that were still in the ground.  You can see “pock marks” on them from some pests–next year I need to use a floating row cover to keep the bugs from laying eggs in the soil near the turnips.  Some of them were so riddled with the little worms that I couldn’t use them at all-a few have been perfect and most I could just cut the bad chunks out of.

Besides the turnips in my hand you can see a couple of pieces of green garlic.  These were a surprise.  Obviously I had somehow missed a few cloves of old garlic that had underperformed and they decided to send up some shoots this fall.  I picked them to use sort of like green onions.  They weren’t planned, but why waste them?

From all of that I was able to make a nice winter salad full of sweet root vegetables, hearty greens and a handful of my dehydrated cherry tomatoes.  A tip-when you are using strong greens like radish tops, turnip tops etc–it’s best to mix them in with some milder greens like chard and lettuce.  Also I find that if I chop things smaller-I tend to ribbon the greens-then as you are eating them you get a mix of textures and flavors.  It’s much more pleasing that way.

I’m so excited that my cold frames are working out so well-although I have lots and lots still left to learn!  I’d love to hear from any of you that have used season extension methods like cold frames, hoop houses, greenhouses, tunnels, etc.  And of course questions about what I’m doing are always welcome!

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  1. says

    With strong greens, I also like to use a sweet vinegarette dressing to counter the bitterness. Learned that when I started foraging dandelion greens last summer.

    How do you use Mizuna? I’ve never heard of that green before.

  2. Lora says

    Wow, it’s wonderful that you are achieving such a bountiful ongoing harvest as the seasons change in upstate NY.

    When I lived in northern Virginia I grew a patch of kale that did better in the winter, peaking through light snow, than in the summer, attacked by cabbage worms.

    • says

      Rachel-Good tip about adding sweetness to counteract the bitter! As for the Mizuna, it’s an asian green-sort of cabbage-y in taste. I like it best sauteed, but you can use it like any other green :)

      Lora-I’m especially pleased since this is my first year trying it!


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