Winter Gardening

After a week of snow and cold, we have had a couple of warm days- up to 40 degrees. That, with a bit of rain, chased the snow cover off of the garden. I took advantage of the break to pick some carrots and leeks, and to mulch in the smaller artichoke plants.

I had put a fairly heavy layer of straw over the leeks in late November. Partly, the purpose was to protect the body of the plants from the wind, but also to insulate the ground so that it wouldn’t freeze as quickly. The leeks are pretty cold hardy, but if the ground freezes very much harvesting becomes a problem. The straw seemed to work pretty well- the ends of the leaves had some withering but the stalks stayed good. Harvesting is a bit messy- the mud is pretty sticky at this point, so you can’t use the “grip-‘n-rip” technique. A shovel pushed under to lever the root mass up loosens the plant, and some good shakes to leave the mud where it belongs, and you have a nice leek to toss in the tub.

The carrots were mulched with straw also, but they are not so obvious because their foliage has been withered by the cold. The carrots don’t need the nourishment from the leaves, so they are in long term storage until I pick them. Again, freezing ground makes it tough to retrieve them, so I will need to get them out before we get much further into winter. Also, voles and field mice like the cover of the straw, and they think the carrots are the ultimate jackpot. The Chantenay carrots that I planted in June are huge, and the tops grew out of the ground. I back filled a bit when I mulched, but the critters have been gnawing on a few roots.

Here is the haul from the brief foray into the garden. The snow started up again, so I gathered enough leeks for a start on a pot of soup, and some carrots for including in the next week’s cooking. The big carrots were planted in the spring and have gotten pretty good sized. The Chantenay variety keeps a good flavor and texture, even when they get up to 1 1/2 pounds or so. The small carrots are of the Purple Haze variety, planted in August. Once the produce dries in the tote, I will loosely wrap everything, mud and all. Cleaning now is more likely to cause injury and potential for rot, so it is easier to clean prior to use.

The final task was to mulch in the artichoke plants. We were surprised at how invigorated the ‘chokes were with the cold weather. We collected the last buds at the end of November, after a couple of sharp freezes. The artichokes are not hardy in our climate, but I decided that I would protect the plants that had not produced; a kind of Hail Mary attempt. If I put a very heavy mulch and we get a good blanket of snow, and we have a fairly mild winter…maybe we will get lucky!

Posted on 19 December 2009, 23:38 by Burney Baron