Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Making the Greens Last

I know I haven’t posted in a while, life and the garden kind of got away from me, but that is the beauty of the garden, you can always pick up the shovel and begin again.  I try to write posts that might be helpful and timely in your garden as well as mine, so I thought I would share was is happening around here.

As this cold air moves in a few cold nights can’t hurt our brassicas and lettuce, in fact it actually makes them sweeter, that’s why Brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving are so very delicious. But after a few killing frosts and our little hardy greens start to freeze deep down, we can either let them fade back into the earth or…. we can BRING THEM INSIDE.

Chard in the greenhouse

I admit, I am blessed to have a little greenhouse that doesn’t frost during the winter, so I dig up big kale and chard and just transplant them right into the bed inside.  But you can easily do this if you don’t have a greenhouse.  A big pot and a sunny window will do just fine.  A couple of plants, well tended, will provide your family with greens all winter! Just keep them moist and in at least six hours of direct sunlight a day and they should grow beautifully.  I will admit, after a few months in captivity some brassicas do seems to get aphids, but by then you can probably start your spring crop.

Three Green Cold frame

You can also use COLD FRAMES which I am sure most of you either have or want to have.  They are mini little greenhouses that provide a micro climate for your plants.  Depending on the design, and there are a million out there, your crops won’t be totally protected all winter long from frosts, but they will guarantee a nice extension on the season.  I usually store the cold frames in the summer, though if yours are too big to move you can just take off the lid or prop it open all summer, and then come the first cold nights, button them back up and your crop can go for another month or so. For more info on Building your own cold frames, a google search will yield amazing resources, though Elliot Coleman, a four season farmer in Maine has written many great books on growing in the cold.

Lucious baby lettuce from a cold frame

I often harvest lettuce on Christmas from and outdoor cold frame, feeling quite pleased with myself, I must admit.  Remember lettuce has a shorter life span than other greens, which is one of it’s wonders, but if you keep cutting it and letting it grow back, it will eventually get too bitter, remember to taste a leaf before you harvest the whole dinner salad.  You can plant lettuce as late as September for it to get enough growth to be stretched into the winter.  Once it gets too cold and the days get too short it will stop growing,  but it should stay alive for more cuttings. Spinach is another nice one to plant late, it will just kind of hold on all winter and it will be the first sign of spring when it starts putting out new leaves and bulking up in Feb/March.

The last easy homemade way I like to extend the season is by getting little wire hops and FLOATING ROW COVER FABRIC.  Both these things can be purchased locally.  I believe the Row cover is sold by the yard at Plants of the Southwest and the wire is 19 gauge wire you buy in rolls at the hardware store, I found mine at Lowe’s in the back of the garden section with the fencing supplies.  It may take a little looking because no one seems to really know what I am talking about when I ask, but here is a picture to guide you.

19 Gauge wire used to make mini hoops for floating row cover

With this wire you will by it in a round and need wire cutters(big ones) to cut it.  I usually cut it in 3 ft pieces and because of the arch, the are nice little half circles you just slide in the ground.  Place them about 3 ft apart and push them in at least 6inches deep on each side. once they are in over your bed you can lay the row cover over them and you have a little hoop house looking thing.  i use clothes pins to hold the fabric to the hoops and put soil over the edges where the fabric hit the ground.  Without a picture this might sound confusing so here is a little video I found on the Johnny’s Select Seed Co website that tells you more info on row cover.

From the ground to the greenhouse

I hope this inspires you to take the gardening inside and keep growing all winter long, I know we will.


1 Comment»

  The Winter Garden | Peggy O'Mara wrote @

[…] I love cold frames and could talk forever about them. But the first thing to think about is your winter reality. How much do you really need? How much are you really willing to do? How far are you willing to go? I recommend finding a nice south facing nook close to your front doorstep where you can reach out in your bathrobe and slippers, raise a lid and snip a few fresh leaves on a cold winter day. Now doesn’t that seem nice? I wrote a whole post on making those greens last. […]

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