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December Garden – Farmstead Style

December 2, 2011

The December vegetable garden is revealing it’s bounty daily or at least weekly, but it is a garden of stalwart characters.  Not a your fancy hothouse variety garden where the seasons are pushed to the limit, but a more hardy, sustenance type garden.


L to R, Carrots, Beets, Rutabagas, & Mangels.  Plus vole hunter.

We’ve had a few frosts, not enough to kill off the tops of the root vegetables or the cover crop, but enough to show us winter has begun.  Rather than waxing all poetic on you, I’ll let the camera speak for the gardens.

Joan Rutabaga.

Golden Eckendorf Mangel.

Lutz Beet.

We’re in that weather phase right now, where cold Arctic air can give us a hard freeze.  But I need a moderate freeze to kill back the tops of the root vegetables I plan to hill with soil for freeze protection.  Hill too soon and the tops get in the way, hill too late and I risk not getting it done.  Always on weather watch.  I keep a weather eye on this blog, the local weather guy keeps a blog too, and he lives about a mile from me, but he gets it wrong too much.  Sigh, I’ll stick with the Washington blog, the cold weather from Canada hits there first… .

Ruby Ball F1 cabbage.

Brassicas rule the roost in the Pacific Northwest maritime garden.

Melissa F1 savoy cabbage.

Location, location, location.  Can’t say it enough, microclimates must be reckoned with in the garden.  This row of Melissa is showing some freeze damage, however a row in a sunnier location is faring much better.

January King cabbage OP.

Brilliant Celeriac.

The jury is still out on the celeriac.  Dig it up and store it somewhere?  Dirt mulch and hope for the best?  Eat it to beat the band and forget about the rest of it?


Greenhouse stuff – front to back:  Early White Vienna kohlrabi, Detroit Dark Red beets, assorted cabbages, Swiss Chard, and assorted Kales.

Hardy greens only in the greenhouse.  No heroics or trying to live in a different climate.  We decided this year to extend the growing season on both ends, not try to make it last all year.  Rest periods are good, for us and the land.

Wild Garden Kale OP.

Redbor Kale F1.


The barley cover crop was seeded in stages in this garden, some has seed heads but most is green and lush.  Not much sign of winter kill yet, except in the rows that are mature.  Even so, it’s doing a good job being a cover crop.

Turga parsnip and sheet mulch in progress.

The parsnips are showing some frost damage, which takes the sting out of their greens while digging.

Close up of the sheet mulch from Jane’s stable cleanings plus wood ash.

Garden warden aka as Jane.

The garden feels like it is right on schedule, mostly at rest but still yielding tasty delights.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristin permalink
    December 3, 2011 4:48 am

    We push the season on either end with row cover. I love winter gardening! You had recommended a Steve Solomon book. Mr. Solomon offers a couple of his books online at no cost. His gardening ideas are very interesting and innovative….and applicable to all parts of the country, I’d say. Here are the links to the Kindle formatted books:

    • December 3, 2011 7:38 am

      Kristin, he’s good gardener, and he offers lots of ag/gardening info for free on his Soil & Health library (see link in sidebar.) He reminds of Joel Salatin in that people either really like him and listen or they don’t like him and close off their minds. I like his writings personally. 🙂 We push on either end with the greenhouse, which I guess, row cover on steroids 😉

  2. December 3, 2011 7:06 am

    Your gardens all look great, Matron. 🙂

  3. December 3, 2011 8:24 am

    Beautiful, beautiful as always.

    Am I seeing the cover taken off your greenhouse?

    • December 3, 2011 2:32 pm

      Marilyn, thank you!

      Good eye! Yep the top is off, our solution to a movable greenhouse for soil rest. Love Eliot Coleman’s movable hoophouses, the idea just won’t fit in my site. No matter how much you amend and water, growing inside a fixed building is very different (and not in a good way) from gardening outside. The freezing and thawing and natural watering via rain really make a difference.

      • December 6, 2011 3:03 pm

        Interesting. Ok, thanks. The process – how do you manage taking it off, storing it, getting it back on? Roll it up somehow?

        Do you think the material lasts longer this way (less exposure to bad winter weather), or about the same (extra handling might not be good?)?

        Seems like a big job – how to you make it reasonable to do on an annual basis?

        I’ve been expecting to leave mine covered year-round; I’ll be putting in a rainwater catchment system for irrigation. Doesn’t speak to the freezing and thawing, though. And the soaking would not be as thorough as a full rainforest winter of direct rainfall.

        • December 6, 2011 7:16 pm

          Marilyn, hubby made the top like the roll-up sides, so we could roll up the top and leave it in place on the ridge. Time will tell if it is better or not. I think the sun is actually harder on the plastic than the winter weather, or at least at our site, we don’t get the awful Gorge wind, and this past week while everyone is glum under the fog, we have been enjoying bright, sunny days. Still nippy, but nice for December 🙂

          We couldn’t justify spending the money for a truss type bow greenhouse, and we had lots of parts left over from the other semi-gables that didn’t make it through the ’08 snowstorm. We went many years with the covers on with no problems, especially when we housed hens and pigs in them for overwintering, the stock plus the deep bedding kept the covers clear of snow.

          If I were you I would run the water in there during the winter (if you’re not growing in there, I think you will get the same effect. You can disconnect the water in time for spring dry out. I don’t have permanent beds in mine, in order to leave my planting options open, so if you have beds, you may have a problem with winter “irrigating.”

  4. December 3, 2011 8:29 am

    Indeed! We just had a salad of butter lettuce last night that was still in the field with no protection; some leaf damage of course but not bad for early December. When did you seed the barley? Also, you should do a post about working seed growing into your garden rotation, love to hear how that works.

    • December 3, 2011 2:28 pm

      Ben, my “goal” with underseeded cover crop is usually “in by Labor Day.” That way I can beat the fall weed germination and still get some growth on the cover crop. But I did the seeding in fits and spurts this year. Between the potato rows, and then two weeks later after the spuds were lifted I seeded the rows themselves. But goals and rules of thumb have to cooperate with weather and other constraints. I have seeded rye in December during freezing weather and it worked just fine.

      Good idea for a post.

      • December 3, 2011 2:45 pm

        ah ha. for some reason i was thinking the barley was in a field that was fallowed this past year.

  5. December 3, 2011 8:35 am

    I awoke this a.m. in Tenino, WA to a hard freeze, the second for us. We didn’t do much of a garden this year due to other priorities and did nothing for fall/winter gardening, so I’m not concerned about plant care, although I am thinking I’ll need to break out the trough heater for the cows soon.

    • December 3, 2011 2:25 pm

      Amy, yeah, we had a good frost this am too, but not too much ice on the water yet. The chicken water thawed by 10:00 so it’s still pretty agreeable for December 🙂

  6. December 3, 2011 11:45 am

    After I learned I could leave my carrots and beets in the ground over the winter I was able to keep more than pulling and storing in a cool place. Your winter garden looks like a great producer. – Margy

    • December 3, 2011 2:23 pm

      Margy, I know it sure takes the work out of it doesn’t it? We are lucky to live in such a climate…natural refrigeration instead of freezing or cooking.

  7. December 3, 2011 12:48 pm


    Jane is undoubtedly the longest heifer I’ve ever seen.

  8. December 3, 2011 4:59 pm

    I’m sorry it’s freezing there, but it’s raining here! I’ll take home weather in Iowa whenever I can get it. Your gardens look marvelous! I love the Redbor Kale!

  9. Kristin permalink
    June 30, 2012 5:38 pm

    Hello! Would love to know what breed of dog you have, and do they have cropped tails? I have two dogs, both litter mates, that I got as rescue dogswhen they were puppies. The shelter stated they were Bernese Mountain dogs, but obviously not. They are white, black, and brown with the same thick, wavy fur. Are yours tricolor Border Collies? Any info would be most appreciated. Mine are definitely mixed with something, perhaps Austrian shepherd.

    • June 30, 2012 9:29 pm

      Our dogs are Australian Shepherds, and they have docked tails, Bernese Mountain Dogs are much larger, but they do have the same coloring. Normally Australian Shepherds have their tails docked, but their natural tails are beautiful too. 🙂

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