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Snow’s Gone, Time to Harvest

January 27, 2012

With the snow gone and finally a day without soaking rains, it was time yesterday to replenish the vegetable stores.  Despite our almost two feet of snow last week and the following foot plus of rain, our winter has actually been pretty docile.  Memories of long stretches of bad winter, keep us in the preparedness mode with food and firewood prep during the summer months.  If the weather is mild like this winter, all the better.  We can relax, and if we get a cold snap of some duration, our workaday systems allow us some comfort.

I pretty much know now what works in the winter garden and what doesn’t.  Red cabbage is one of the toughies.  With fall root pruning it holds in the winter garden during our cold snaps.  But remember, we’re in the maritime Northwest, so it doesn’t get all that cold.  Our lowest reading this winter has been 19°F.  Just mostly wet and raw.  I do have to say, though that my green cabbages that I left in the garden (except January King) have succumbed to our light freezes.  The red cabbage is right there next to the rotten cabbage heads, and it’s plugging away in its holding pattern.  My goal with our winter food supply is to keep it simple.  A minimum of care and purchased materials, just harvesting is my goal.

The root supply was getting low, first with snow, and then the rain, I hadn’t dug any roots for two weeks.  I was robbing roots out of Jane’s buckets.



The dirty secret of row run is probably a surprise to new gardeners who are used to buying vegetables at the store or farmers market.  It’s not all perfect.  My vegetable harvest each week is a culmination of all the choices I have made with my garden.   Besides being the produce manager, I am the grower too.  I see all the defects in my vegetables and my judgement.  Did I plant the right variety, at the right time?  Did I feed and weed timely?  Did I protect the crops from freezing or did I shrug at the weather reports?  Did I plant enough for the vole and mine?  All the questions get answered each week as the winter harvest calendar marches us right up to spring planting.

We have ready-made root cellar conditions here for root crops that like high humidity and refrigerator temperatures.  Basically the garden is a refrigerator without the electric bill.  There is another bill, though, that of varmints and the elements.  Clockwise, starting at the rutabaga with its haired over slug bites from summer; celeriac with vole damage; parsnip with canker; carrot with a split jacket; beet with vole damage, and lastly a carrot with vole damage.  All of these have edible parts, but will probably end up in Jane’s bucket. Voles are an ongoing problem, that are somewhat under control.  The slugs are the same.  There isn’t or shouldn’t be a garden anywhere with no pests, that’s just part of living in a biological world.  The canker on the parsnip could be avoided with choosing a canker resistant variety.  And the split carrot is the result of leaving a summer carrot variety in the ground after the fall rains have started.  There is no waste, damaged vegetables can go to Jane, or could be trimmed for house use if we were short.

The final list for harvest yesterday was:  carrots, parsnips, celeriac, rutabaga, giant kohlrabi, rutabaga, beets, and cabbage.  Lots of fodder for house and cow.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 8:24 am

    Looks great! I wish we could leave our root vegetables out in the garden for the winter but with no snow (or not much when we do get any) and up and down temperatures it won’t work. I’ve been thinking about a root cellar….maybe next year. Have a great weekend.
    Maura 🙂

    • January 27, 2012 9:30 am

      Maura, I wish sometimes I had a root cellar, but we really don’t need one, since a warm-up here in the winter is pretty rare 🙂 Of I had one I would have to fill it!

  2. January 27, 2012 8:40 am

    Off the subject here. You’ve spoken of rotating your cows’ feeding to allow your pastures to retrench and grow well. I just read Jeannette Walls’ Half Broke Horses; she refers several times to the difference between overgrazed land and their own better-maintained land, specifically 4 inch grass on their side and inch long stubble on the other. And that was in Arizona!

    • January 27, 2012 9:29 am

      Jennifer, that is what Holistic Resource Management touts too, you see a more marked difference in brittle areas (arid) than non-brittle. I’ll have to put that book on my list!

  3. January 27, 2012 9:16 am

    I moved some of our plants into the greenhouse to overwinter like leeks and kale but the rest would just not work in our area either, one foot of snow and temperatures around 10F (-12C) at the moment means that is just not possible.

    • January 27, 2012 9:28 am

      Joanna, I’ve seen our temps at 0F before but that is rare, but 10F is more like our usual cold snap, so as long as I mulch with soil, the roots take it fairly well. And I always hope for an insulating snow cover before the cold, otherwise the soil can freeze deeper. Which all means I have to not be lazy and cover my crops before the cold really sets in. Sometimes I’m prepared, and sometimes I’m not. 😦 This year, I got by with just a slight covering of the root crops and the weather hasn’t really gotten cold, so I lucked out 🙂 Kale is pretty cold hardy here, some varieties more than other though.

  4. January 27, 2012 9:35 am

    The cow pic – priceless:) Thanks for sharing!

  5. January 27, 2012 9:43 am

    That’s a wonderful winter crop. The cabbage looks especially good. I have similar pest problems (but substitute wood rat for vole). I too like to leave my root crops in the ground. They last much better there than in my root cellar (under the bed in the downstairs bedroom). You mentioned having your slug problem somewhat under control. What are you doing? I would love to do more in my garden. – Margy

    • January 27, 2012 1:00 pm

      Margy, our cats keep the pack rats at bay (knock on wood)we only occasionally have a problem besides them peeing on everything, but then the cats do that too – so it’s a toss up Pack Rat Piss or Cat Spray!

      You know, the slugs don’t like my dryland gardening, it’s like the desert out there with dust mulch and wide row spacing, so I get a little bit of trouble in June, and then it’s die sucker! Fall and winter are a different story though, there was a slug in the cabbage when I field trimmed it, so I can’t get rid of them totally, but they aren’t really much of a problem.

  6. January 27, 2012 10:08 am

    Nice post. I sincerely do not mind sharing with the voles, but they don’t seem to get the concept. My worst experience is not even damage to the root crops, but finding the vines of peas or pole beans chewed through at the bottom. Such a total waste!

    • January 27, 2012 12:53 pm

      Len, I think one thing in my favor is clean tillage, which is not popular with the mulch and no till crowd. Voles like cover, and if you provide it they will set up housekeeping year round. There are pros and cons to every type of gardening. I would be mortified to see them chewing the vines!!

  7. January 27, 2012 10:23 am

    what a great harvest! For those saying they can’t do that, probably if you started putting on lots of mulch after the first few freezes, to help the ground stay cold and avoid the thaw/freeze cycle you could keep more than you think. After all, perennial plants grow in your area, don’t they? all you really want to do in the depths of winter is keep things asleep and dormant. As it get colder, pile on more mulch, If heavy rain or snow is a problem try a sheet of plastic to help shed excess water off the bed…

  8. jackie permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:27 am

    Lovely veggies. I would like to try leaving some in ground but don’t know if the climate here would let me. This winter our lowest temp has been about 24 and our highest so far about 70, sometimes in the same day. Joys of mid-south living. We already have daffodils blooming and frogs croaking.

    • January 27, 2012 12:50 pm

      Jackie, mmmm 70 would feel good about now! Haven’t heard a frog yet, but I did just see a rabbit! So spring is on the way 🙂

  9. January 27, 2012 11:47 am

    I swear I learn something from every new post. Mortified to admit that I have yet to master cabbage growing in the PNW….off to research the winterizing of cabbages.
    Thanks so much for this excellent blog! I have been enjoying it for several months.


    • January 27, 2012 12:49 pm

      spudlust, love the name! I have that affliction myself:) Speaking of cabbages, sauerkraut post is coming soon!

  10. January 27, 2012 12:15 pm

    Jane looks like she’d like her bucket refilled. 😉
    You have a very nice crop there, Matron, though I have to admit, the city girl in me was a little squeamish at the damage done to some of it.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • January 27, 2012 12:47 pm

      LindaG, LOL she does – although I’m still boss for a little while, so I figure I can sneak a few here and there 😉

      I don’t worry about the voles, it’s probably payback for all the ones I have scared to death in the hayfields over the years 🙂

    • February 9, 2012 4:20 pm

      Thanks! I blame it on having Irish cousins. But it also refers to a breakfast dish my friends make on river trips, so it has many happy associations.

      Experimenting with saurkraut…the batch in the basement just went from smelling kind of fermenty-funky to sweet and apple-y, so I am going to try it again. My husband loves it. I am eager to try the french braised version (I have yet to meet anything slow roasted in fat and other juices that I didn’t love to eat).

  11. January 27, 2012 7:44 pm

    Can you elaborate on root-trimming the cabbage? Are you trying to reduce water intake to avoid splitting?

    • January 27, 2012 9:40 pm

      Thirteenvegetables, in the fall before the fall rains start, I root prune with a shovel on three sides of each plant. You can also twist the plants and get the same effect. It is to avoid uptake of a sudden large amount of water. I don’t irrigate so I really have to keep on this to avoid splitting a lot of cabbage.

  12. January 27, 2012 10:27 pm

    What a great blog, so honest and full of life! Thank you for the great sharing. I am glad you escaped with little damage from all of the storming. I look forward to your sauerkraut posts and many more! ~Kari

  13. brenda from ar permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:33 pm

    13veg, thanks for asking that question – I was curious too. I’d heard of using a shovel down one side of a tomato plant to stress it into ripening earlier than the rest.

    I just learned this year that I can leave my jerusalem artichokes in ground for winter storage, and I am thrilled about it. They stay all firm and fresh in the ground, much better than in the crisper.

  14. January 29, 2012 6:01 pm

    What are your favorite red cabbage varieties for winter?

    • January 29, 2012 7:58 pm

      Ben, I’ve had the best luck with Ruby Ball (F1) from Territorial. It holds forever…and I have no interest in saving seeds from cabbage so a hybrid works well. In the OP category, but not red, January King does well too, if even to just look at – it’s beautiful.

      ETA: Ruby Ball is my go to red cabbage, as it works well all season.

  15. Janet permalink
    February 4, 2012 3:17 pm

    I have learned so much from your blog. I had never heard of some of those things ( before I started reading here!) and still have not tasted them. You have encouraged me to expand my vegetables from corn and squash. 🙂 What are your high temps during the day? We have such extremes in our weather. It can be 65 and then 19 or it can be 9 and 30.

    • February 4, 2012 9:09 pm

      Janet, LOL corn is hard to grow here, so we have to eat something else! We’ve been getting up to the high 50’s and down to 28 at night. Pretty balmy really, and just down the road the wind is blowing about 50 – 60 miles per hour. It’s been a very mild winter really.


  1. The Future of Food is in Other People’s Trash – WALL-EAT

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