I’ve posted before about how much I love the winter garden, but it bears repeating. Don’t get me wrong, the summer garden is a wonderful thing, with its sweet fruits and vibrant colours, but a lot of the time, the summer garden is all about waiting for things to be ready. The winter garden, on the other hand, is like a living, breathing, market stand. Things are (for the most part) fully grown and ready to be picked, kept in suspended animation by the cool weather and low light.
I venture out at least once a week to pick what we’ll need for the coming days. Winter lettuces are safely tucked away inside the greenhouse, so there’s no real rush with them, but if there’s the threat of frost of snow, I’ll gather more than usual, as it can mean having to dig out so the greenhouse door can swing open enough for me to squeeze in (not a chore I relish when I’m in a rush to get dinner on the table).
Our early cold snaps don’t usually last more than a day or two, but I’ll gather extra greens, and dig enough carrots and other root crops to see us through (this is always a bit of a gamble, as early winter blasts often turn into an extended deep freeze). Things like kale bounce back pretty well after freezing, but can be a bit limp and dehydrated for a few days, so it’s always a good idea to take more than you think you’ll need.
If it’s closer to January, I bring in as much as possible, chopping and freezing the sturdy greens, and refrigerating the root crops – things like beets will keep in the fridge for ages.
These small turnips are one of my favourite things to grow. They bulk up quickly, so are the perfect thing to throw in the ground after pulling a summer crop. I often slice a few up and add them to the pot when making mashed potatoes (good ol’ Scottish “Neeps and Tatties”), and will saute the greens with garlic to stir into the mash before serving. Delicious.
I’ve started using Charles Dowding’s method of planting in modules, which serves two very important purposes for us – one, we’re able to get way more from a smaller space, and two, it creates a natural staggering of the harvest – we pick the largest vegetable in the clump, leaving the smaller ones to bulk up for picking at a later date. So far I’ve done this with onions, beets, turnips, and leeks, and it works extremely well.
Aside from the veggies that are standing in the garden, we have a crawl space full of potatoes, and a hefty stash of winter squash in storage (not to mention the 27 pounds of pumpkin in the freezer).
The winter garden, to me, is all about abundance and hearty winter meals. It’s also a place of extreme beauty, if (dashing out between storms) you pause long enough to take it in.