I’ve always been surprised which plants in the vegetable garden survive winter. In the rush to harvest before the cold comes, I often have too much of an item and just let the rest persist in the soil on the off-chance it will live. But I can’t rely on just my frozen and canned goods for off season food. I always put in some cool season crops around August so we have some fresh goodies to enjoy when the cold hits.
This February, I was able to use leeks and carrots that survived winter. They were in perfect shape in spite of living in well below freezing temperatures for months. It was a delight to have something fresh from the garden since we were rather sick of frozen and canned vegetables.
In order to enjoy more fresh produce year around, I stagger plant through the season, and install late season plants that will make it through a few freezes. By leaving some things in the ground, and planting late, we seem to have something straight from the garden almost all year.
Around August, some of the crops have already been harvested, leaving blank zones in the dirt farm. In these, I turn in some compost from my tumbler to rejuvenate the earth. Next I plant any cool season crops that I have from seed. Another round of spinach, more radishes, both head and leaf cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, lettuces, and more. Some things like turnips, I start early in August, while others such as greens are planted towards the end of the month. In this way, I will have fall vegetables around October or even into November, depending when our first hard freeze occurs.
Working With Straw Bales
I have raised beds which keep in more heat than the ground, and many of my plants recline in these well into the cold weather. For fun, I tried straw bale gardening last year, assuming these would keep the plants warm and toasty. Out here in the boonies, straw bales are cheap and plentiful. A few weeks before planting, I dig holes in the bales and add bone meal, then saturate the bales with water. I keep them evenly moist for those 3 weeks. The bone meal stimulates bacteria to multiply and the bale heats up. After 3 weeks I planted my seed. It worked swimmingly for most of my crops. The bale held heat as it was breaking down and provided a warm, nutritious environment for vegetables.
With just a little planning, it is possible to eat from the garden nearly year around. And during those months where it is really too cold to grow, we always have our pantry and root cellar full of goodness from our garden.