The Cold Weather Garden

By Oz Girl

My grandiose fall garden plans – lettuce, green onions, pickling cukes and radishes – never materialized.  I can only blame the time bandit. Before I knew it, October was upon us, and I had not planted any fall veggies.  Coincidentally, I had just ordered Eliot Coleman’s “The Winter Harvest Handbook” from Amazon.  As I read through each chapter, I became more and more intrigued by this concept of continuing the harvest through the winter months.  If Eliot can do it in Maine, then I could certainly do it here on the Kansas/Oklahoma border!!

As a side note: this is an excellent book, rated 5 stars by 37 reviewers on Amazon thus far and soon to be given high marks by me also.  I found the history of cold weather gardening to be fascinating, as narrated by Eliot, proving that nothing is new under the sun.

And so I ordered a row tunnel cover from Burpee’s website and planted a short row of spinach on October 3. This would be my initial foray into cool weather gardening, and so a short row would be my experiment. Spinach is one of the top cold-hardy vegetables.  As such, it will actually prefer our cool fall and winter weather to the stifling hot weather we have in the summertime. Like a nervous mother hen, I checked on my babies every single day, uncovering them to soak up the sun during the day, and lowering the cover at night to protect them from the cold.  As our nights began to dip into the 30s, I draped towels over the row cover for even better insulation.

Above photo ~ spinach sprouts on October 20.  Below photo ~ first spinach harvest on November 3.

Harvest was estimated for day 42, and yet I began clipping baby leaves for salads at the 3 week mark. As of November 20, the spinach is still doing remarkably well, even though we’ve had several nights in the 20s now.  Quite honestly, I haven’t even put the towels on the row cover at night, and the spinach is still doing remarkably good!

Above photo ~ still beautiful spinach on November 20.

I’ll continue to keep it covered, watered and nurtured as long as it continues to grow.  And I’ll count this experiment a success and plant even more fall veggies next year.

When I look at the bigger picture and my dreams… I would love to have a coldhouse (or two!) similar to what  Eliot has in Maine, and supply our local community with fresh greens and root vegetables throughout the cooler months of the year, when fresh, local veggies are in short supply.  Someday!

  • Published on Nov 22, 2010
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