Winter Garden – Early January
h Cascadia, how I love thee! For the most part you allow me to harvest from my gardens throughout the winter.
Here is how our garden stores appear this second week of January. We’ve had a mild winter so far, with a bout of dry freezing weather where nighttime temperatures dipped into the low 20’s. Where our farm is located is in an odd weather predicting space. We’re sheltered from the battering Columbia Gorge east winds, so we aren’t buffeted by 80 mph winds, but our soil freezes. So on one hand we are colder, but warmer also because we don’t have to factor in wind chill. I only have to go a few miles west to hit “bad” weather. If I listen to the weather forecast from Portland, I need to pay attention to Portland, Cascades, and Columbia Gorge forecasts to determine the blend of weather we will have.
I wanted to replenish my root and vegetable stash before the snow came. I also wanted to see how the roots were faring with low 20’s temps for a week too. As it turned out, today we only have about a half-inch of snow, just enough to be sloppy and not enough to insulate the garden or my hoses stretched out to the barn. (More on the hose thing later.) I’m glad I had a semi rain-free afternoon to dig vegetables. It’s a messy job.
A couple of weeks ago, I did do my soil hilling on my root crops. It’s always a gamble, severe cold will penetrate the soil unless we get snow cover, then I don’t really worry, but it hardly gets that cold here, so most winters the soil hilling does the trick. Natures root cellar is right in my garden. Not many areas are able to pull that off, but that’s a benefit of a semi-maritime climate. It’s like living in a big ol’ fridge most of the time. High humidity and cool are what most root vegetables really like for long-term storage.
I’m done with the mangels for the year, since they are so prone to freezing with their above ground growing habit, I try to feed them out first. Too much work for me to harvest, store and feed out. I am leaning more towards parsnips and carrots only for Jane in the future… .
Besides roots, I have several varieties of kale and cabbage for winter consumption. The chard is also plugging along.
Red and savoy cabbages have been my go-to winter cabbages for some time now. They take a beating and still have a great size head after trimming away any frost damage. The chickens have been in hog heaven with lots of greens, and we have been in egg heaven as a result of that.
Bok choy has always been one of those plants that seems too tender for winter gardening, but it always surprises me. I don’t know if surprise is really the right word though, since I always plant it for winter, and most of the plants survive some horrendous treatment and still put out succulent greens.
Kale is one of those winter time vegetables so popular here in the Pacific Northwest, but I always have mixed results. My Red Russian did not take the freeze too well, nor did White Russian, again.
Hunger Gap is doing okay, a little freeze damage but looking much better than Red Russian. Kales that are doing well are Lacinato, Redbor but the star is Rainbow Lacinato, which always does well for me no matter what time of year. Planting all my kales in one place, at the same time, really shows what dies, survives or thrives.