A WINTER HARVEST…I think I can actually do this thing! When I read Eliot Coleman’s book, I understood the concepts. Turning it into a reality – that is completely different. I have been working the past month on it, and looking back, the plan for my garden sort of just evolved from one idea to another. (Sorry, sort of long post, but there is a lot I wanted to write about.)
Carrots in Containers
I grew potatoes in containers this year, so why not carrots, too? I have all these empty containers, why not try? So, I filled them with 1 part peat moss, 1 part compost, 1 part garden soil, 0.25 part perlite, and a little 10-10-10 fertilizer. All of it was bagged, as my two big compost piles are not ready yet. I seeded some Tendersweet, Red Chantennay and Muscade carrots. From what I have read, if I can get them mature enough before the sunlight drops too far (starting ~Nov 6th), these will continue to slowly grow and then stop during November/December…but not spoil through January/February. In Maine, Eliot Coleman mulches them and harvests throughout the winter. Since our weather is not as severe, I will be playing this one by ear. If they are in soil, I really don’t think they will rot or spoil… but I am not sure. As you can see in the picture below, I have some sprouts peeking out of the soil. So, maybe I get 20-30 carrots per container? With seven containers, that makes for maybe 140-210 carrots? We will see…
Containers in the Greenhouse
I had tried doing hoop houses last October/November on some of my raised beds before understanding the concept of a winter harvest. It was right after I finished building my raised beds and I wanted to grow something! But nothing grew. I do plan on setting up some hoop houses this fall, but what was I going to do in my greenhouse? Yes, it does sound like a stupid question, but I built it last March and haven’t used it over winter before. Spring and seedlings, yes. Winter, no. Well, I can get as many 55 gallon barrels from work as I want for free, and I have been collecting them for a while… why not make more containers for greenhouse greens?
I cut them to be a foot high and filled them with the same soil mixture as the carrots. I had considered whether to build a raised bed (with wood) in there, but I think this is much better and it is, most importantly, flexible. In the spring I plan on building more benches for starting seeds for spring/summer. I can pull these containers out and use them somewhere else, while I bring in the benches. Then, I can pull the containers back in next fall if I like the set up. I can also move/remove the benches as well, as needed.
I have a total of 14 containers in there, with an area of ~ 3 sq ft. So that is about 42 sq ft of growing space. I planted the following: 3x “mesclun” salad mix, 1x butter crunch, 3x arugula, 1x parsley, 1x spinach, 5x mache (corn salad). I have never grown mache before, so I hope I like it. It is extremely cold hardy, so if I don’t (or the family doesn’t), I better find a good dressing! Oh, and in the hangers I planted some cilantro.
Seeding Beds for Winter Harvest
This weekend I brought a lot of the tomato trellis structure down. I hadn’t really thought about using this area, but these tomatoes were dying/dead, and I realized I can use these rows for the winter harvest. In the future, I will do it sooner to make room for fall/winter plants, but the plan just sort of happened. I think I am ok with getting these sprouted so they are 75% grown by Nov 6th. I left a few of the tomato trellises up, as I am still getting some of my black cherry tomatoes (so delicious).
My plan with this was to revitalize the soil with some bags of Black Kow, about one bag per 3×8 feet. I didn’t read that anywhere, I just guessed. That four prong cultivator was a good buy, and I use it a lot. Once mixed and spread, I scattered Golden and Bull’s Blood beets in the first row to the right (by the collards that won’t die), Red Russian and Lacinato Kale in the next, then Swiss chard in between the radishes and young broccoli. These are going to be my covered beds, using rebar and pvc pipe with 4 mil clear plastic.
From Beans to Winter Spinach
Now that I think about it, my plan probably just evolved on the fly because I am just not sure when things will die. Or, if they seem to be producing a little bit, when it is better to rip them out and plant for the fall/winter. That was the question that I was confronted with regarding my pole beans. I had a 5×8 ft bed with beans there were still producing, but only a little. When thinking about where I wanted my winter spinach, I knew they had to go.
My poor, neglected beans – couldn’t keep up with them for a while, so a lot (probably 75%) were dried on the vine, and most of the green ones were going to seed and so were probably tough and would not be good to eat as a “green bean”. But, I have learned (it may be obvious) to just shell them and cook the bean! It was a lot of work to harvest all the beans, and take down the two trellis. Below you can see the bushel basket of beans we collected next to a freshly prepped bed just seeded with spinach. This bed, along with the one behind it filled with chard and a little bit of kale, will be covered for the winter harvest.