Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Winter Veggie Garden

Nothing like a garden post a few days before Christmas!  But then, fresh home-grown veggies from one's very own veggie patch on the Christmas table is something sublime -- especially if you don't live in Florida or California, but plain old Zone 7 -- 7B to be exact.

Those blue clips are for holding the row cover (seen folded against the window) in place when temps are below freezing


Lately I have been hearing two questions asked A LOT:   "Can I have a veggie garden to pick fresh veggies from in the winter?"  And also, "Can I grow veggies in pots, because I don't have space for a veggie patch in the yard" or "because the only sun I have is on my deck or near the sidewalk".

Of course, the answer to both those questions here in Zone 7B is YES!  You CAN pick veggies fresh from your garden EVEN IN THE WINTER, and you can grow fresh veggies to nourish yourself and your family IN POTS -- just like flowers!

A pot of "stir fry mix"

Here in Chickadee Garden I have food plants growing both in pots and in the vegetable garden soil itself.  Because of shortened days, veggies that produce leaves to eat are the most productive -- even more productive than in the summer because those leafy veggies do not like our scorching summer temperatures and prefer cooler days and nights.

Some examples that grow quite well in my garden are:  Swiss Chard, Lettuce (I prefer loose leaf varieties over head lettuce, because they keep on producing after you harvest leaves, so you can get several harvests from each plant), Kale, Collards, Mustard, Turnips, Beets, and Sorrel.

Swiss chard grown from seed sown directly in the pot in mid September

One doesn't even need to cover these crops if the temperature isn't going very much below freezing.  For a cover, I have some yardage of "garden quilt", which lets in moisture and light.  But I also use old shower curtain liners and cheap vinyl tablecloths over some of my pots to protect the plants from low temperatures.

Kale in its SECOND year! growing in a repurposed recycling bin

Kale can even freeze solid in quite low temperatures, but can be harvested and eaten like normal after it thaws.

Kale and collards, and some late carrots in the open garden


In addition, Broccoli will do quite well, and late sown Carrots will winter in the ground and then bulk up in the very early spring.

Broccoli


I have a number of herbs that do very well in the winter garden with minimal or no protection from freezing temperatures:  Parsley, Rosemary, Chives, Fennel and Oregano can be harvested through out the winter.  I keep them in the open herb garden, as well as have duplicate plants in pots that I group near our back door, making it easy to harvest in cold and wet winter weather and easy to throw a covering on if we have some days and nights of extreme cold.

Rosemary and chives, and parsley growing to the left in my cinder block raised bed


I even picked fresh tomatoes a week ago from a Roma Tomato plant that I had growing in a pot.  I had moved it several weeks ago to a spot against the south facing side of the house where it received maximum sun and warmth from the bricks of the house.  One key to continuing to maintain production from sun loving summer veggies, like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants,  as well as an advantage of them being in pots, is to be able to move them to a warmer micro-climate in one's yard.  Pots grouped together are also easier to cover up when the temperature dips, and if they are close to your door it isn't such a chore.

Below you can see some of the veggies I grow through the winter in various locations in my yard.

collards and chard, planted early October

Pak Choi in a pot

lettuce and pak choi in a salad table (6 inch depth)

lettuce from seed planted mid Sept in bag of top soil laid on sod between sidewalk and street
With some planning in the late summer/early fall and protection from freezing temperatures, we are able to have something fresh from the garden every day through the winter.

Sharing with Country Garden Showcase and Farmgirl Friday

4 comments:

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Oh how nice! I'm on the edge of zone 5 and 6, and I can't get by overwintering much except we did have collards that grew all winter long. We now inherited a plastic greenhouse so maybe next winter we'll do better.

Anne Kimball said...

Hi Diana, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from the Farm Girl Friday blog hop.

How nice to grow nice fresh veggies in the winter! Never would have thought to even try.

Anyway, thanks for posting this. If you’ve never visited yet, I hope you can pop by my blog sometime to say hi…

daisy said...

Isn't home-grown lettuce just the best! Love all your winter veggies!

PreparedtoEat.com said...

In zone 6 I had lettuce that did fine uncovered until about a week ago. I am going to try a hot box in another month or so and see how it works.