Lettuces to grow in winter

lettuce-jan 16, 2015

Here is some lettuce I harvested from my unheated greenhouse on January 16th! I’ve been experimenting growing some cold hardy lettuce varieties (Winter Wunder and Marshall Red Romaine) this winter.  I told you I would report back and here is my first harvest. I find it amazing that they survived some very cold nights 6 to 8°F (-14 to -13°C for my European friends) in the greenhouse with only some winter weight row cover over them for added protection. I planted them from transplants instead of seeds in November so they had a good head start. It’s really fun to see something ‘green’ growing this time of year and yummy too.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting COLD HARDY VEGETABLES Super Early

lettuce_greenhouse germinating

So now that the Persephone period is almost over and the magic date of January 15th is upon us, what does that mean? It means our day lengths are getting longer and January 15th is when we start getting 10 hours of daylight that will continue to get longer every day. Have you noticed already it now gets dark around 5:30 instead of 5 pm? The darkest time of the year is over. What does that mean to gardeners? To learn how to start cold hardy vegetable seeds super early outside and how also how to start them inside read on.

STARTING COLD HARDY VEGETABLE SEEDS OUTSIDE: cold frme opened
If you want to try growing cold hardy vegetables outdoors at this time of year, you will need a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house.

If you already planted cold hardy vegetables late last fall in a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house, you may have noticed that the little seedlings haven’t been growing much at all as winter set in. Now with longer daylight hours, they will start to grow again and barring any devastating freezes, they will continue to grow and you can get cold hardy crops earlier this spring.

In late winter, before you have harvest your winter crops, decide what you want to plant in your bed once space opens up in your cold frame.  As the end of the Persephone period draws near (January 15) , you can re-seed the openings created from your harvesting or you could start planting seeds in your bed if you don’t have anything growing. My soil in my unheated greenhouse is at 40°F right now (as of January 12). Lots of cold hardy vegetables germinate in cold soil.  They will be slow to start at first but they will start as your soil warms up to 40°F and warmer. Now with the day light getting longer, you can think about starting early. The winter sowing you do will be ready for harvest by early spring, often long before the same crop when grown outside without protection. A bonus is many of the cold hardy winter crops don’t like our springs, bolting on the first few warm days so you’ll be able to harvest that spinach before it bolts!

Some cold-hardy plants planted inside a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house can tolerate a hard freeze at night, provided they are allowed to thaw during the day. The plants must be completely thawed before you harvest them. In addition, put some winter row cover over seedlings at night to give them an additional 4-6°F protection even though they are already in a cold frame, etc. Remove the row cover on days when it is above freezing. Watering is necessary to get crops started, but they will generally need very little water during the winter season-early spring once established.

STARTING VEGETABLE SEEDS INSIDE:
I’ve already written about starting seeds inside on many earlier posts.
To learn all about starting seeds indoors to get a head start go here:
https://giantveggiegardener.com/2012/03/08/starting-seeds-inside/

WINTER HARDY VEGETABLES
The following list of winter vegetables to grow is from ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ by Elliot Coleman. These can be planted either as transplants (first started inside under lights) or outside as seeds in cold frames, low tunnels or hoop houses.

Asian greens-Tatsoi, Pak Choi (Mei Quing Choi), Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana,Komatsuna

arugula-Astro, Sylvetta

beets-Red Ace, Merlin, Touchstone Gold

beet leaves-Bull’s Blood, Red Ace

carrot-Napoli, Mokum, Nelson

chard-Fordhook Giant, Ruby Red, Argentata

claytonia

endive-Bianca Riccia

leek-Tadorna

lettuce-Red Saladbowl, Tango, Rex, Rouge d’hiver

 mache-Vit

minutina

mustard green-Toyoko Beau

radishes-Tinto, D’Avignon, Cherriette

scallion-White Spear

sorrel

spinach-Space

turnip-Hakurei

watercress

Cold Damage on Winter Crops

garden dec 9 2014

Well  here it is in early December and not surprisingly, most of the outside crops in the main garden, ‘bit the dust’ as they say—died. A few are still alive. It is warmer now—here are the results of those cold snaps we had.

 

The Toscano Kale with freeze burn. It is more sensitive to cold temperatures  than other kales

Toscano Kale

The Toscana (aka Lacinato or dinosaur) kale got severely damaged. It is cold sensitive and although it’s not completely dead, it is unharvestable. Here it is with the leaves burned from the cold.

 

Russian Red kale is still alive

Russian Red kale

 

The Russian Red and Curly Leaf kale are still going and have some damage as well but the new growth is doing well. I haven’t watered them at all-nature has with a little snow and a nice rain the other day- almost an inch. I do have them covered with 2 layers of winter weight row cover.

gourds in field

The gourds are still drying in the field. Some are starting to get lighter in weight so I will put those in the garden shed to finish drying. The rest will stay outside until they dry more.

bubble wrap down on windowsThe green house is button up fairly tight now with just a little venting at the top panels. I’ve put the bubble wrap on all the windows (bubbles faced to the window) for extra insulation. I’ve also put the 4 barrels with water in them on the north wall for them to absorb heat in the daytime (I took them out during the summer), releasing the heat at night (the theory is that the sun which is lower and further to the south will hit them on the north wall and warm up in the daytime). I’m not sure I have enough barrels to do much good but even one degree will be helpful once it gets cold again.

winter lettuces

I’ve planted 2 winter lettuce varieties in the green house as transplants back in early November. The cold hard varieties are a green variety-Winter Wunder and a red variety-Marshall Red Romaine. They both have made it so far through those cold snaps although they have slowed down in growth because of the shorter daylight hours. They will stop growing until sometime in January when the daylight hours start to get longer.  Winter Wunder is my favorite lettuce but only grows well during the cold months. When it starts to get even a little warm, it will bolt. The lettuces have 2 layers of row cover over them at night and have some protection from the unheated greenhouse (at least from the winds). I’ve also noticed that the lettuces don’t need a lot of water now (about once every 2 weeks). It will be interesting to see if they make it Dec-February. Don’t they look wonderful in the winter!

There has been about a 4-7°F difference between the greenhouse temperature and the outside temperature at 7 am in the morning when I check everything. When I add the row cover at night I get about 4-6 degrees more protection. I’m not sure what to expect this winter since this is my first December-January  in the greenhouse. Last year when we finished up the greenhouse I start planting on February 17th so now I will see if these established greens can survive Dec-Jan.

Fall harvest season is full blast right now!

Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.

Himrod grapes-yum!

Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.

bread n butter pickles

The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles,  I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.

peach jam and raisins

Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.

9tomato sauce-finished in bags

Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.

 

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Soon I will harvest potatoes too.

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.

Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!

The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.

Green House Lettuce, Bok Choy & Chard on 3-31-14

GH lettuce 03-31-14

Holy Schmole! My lettuce, in the picture above was planted as transplants back on February 17th and look at it at the end of March. Fantastic! So excited to not have to buy lettuce and greens for a while. I’ve been experimenting in the greenhouse planting some seeds and some as transplants. I got these transplants as little tiny plants in pony packs from Agua Fria Nursery in town in February. On the left is Marshall Red Romaine. In the middle is ‘Winter Wunderland’ leaf lettuce and on the right is Bright Lights Chard.  They are growing in the middle raised bed where I had horse manure composting in January to try to add heat to the greenhouse but in mid February I took out as it cooled down and took all but the top 6 inches and added soil and compost and waa lah! You can see how big they got since March 21 here.

mesclun

Here is a pic of the lettuce I planted by seeds. It is a mesclun mix from Johnny’s called, 5-star lettuce mix. It’s not quite tall enough to ‘cut and come again’ but will be soon-probably in the next week.

 

dwarf bok choi

Here is a variety of dwarf bok choy (choi) I planted from seed. I will transplant some of these to sell a little later and the rest will have room to really get bigger. They are doing really well.

yellow green bok choi

I love the color of this yellow-green bok choi – chartreuse! Such a great contrast to the other ‘greens’.

tatsoi

Here is a variety called tatsoi-the hardiest of the bok choi family. It grows in little clusters.

I planted all of them on the edge of the raised bed as I’m going to put in some tomatoes soon  in the middle of the bed as another experiment to see how they do. My thinking is by the time the tomatoes need more room, the cold hardy greens will be done (eaten)  🙂

Swiss Chard-Argentata, Ruby and Bright Lights

chard_argentata

Argentata Chard is not only delicious but cold hardy too.

This past year I grew several varieties of chard—Ruby, Bright Lights and Argentata (shown above).

ruby chard with flowers

Ruby chard has the most brilliant red veins-grown with flowers it is stunning

For looks in the garden I would pick Ruby chard and Bright Lights (whose stalks come in lovely shades of red, pink, salmon and yellow) and grow them around my flowers inside my vegetable garden because they are soo beautiful (Ruby chard-above last year).

chard_chopped

Argentata chard loosely cut and ready to steam

But to eat and for flavor I would pick Argentata chard hands down. This heirloom chard, also known as Bionda da Costa, is revered by Italian cooks and for good reason. Argentata produces large, deep green leaves with juicy white stalks. The stalks are never stringy or tough like some other chards but soft and tender when steamed. I eat both the leaves and stems. Chard reminds me of steamed spinach only better.

chard_cooked

Here is the steamed Argentata chard with a little balsamic salad dressing on it with my french fingerling potatoes I grew and salmon (which I did not grow!)

And a bonus of Argentata is that it is one of the most cold hardy varieties. It won’t make it through the whole winter here in Santa Fe but will survive longer in the fall than the others with our cold winters. I got my seeds from John Scheppers Kitchen Garden Seeds.

🙂 We can plant chard seeds inside right now in March and early April and transplant them to the garden in late-April or plants seeds then too but not now as it is still too cold at night.

Spring has Sprung! Boing!

lettuce

Chard (left), WinterWunderland lettuce (center) and Mashal lRed Romaine (right) have doubled in size since planting in February in the greenhouse

Well, now that spring has sprung it’s time to get busy-really busy!  We vegetable gardeners will generally be headless from now on from pre-starting seeds to planting in the garden all those vegetables you’ve been dreaming of trying since January. And some of us are still cleaning up our gardens including me. Now is the time in our area, to continue seed planting or start seeds inside under lights or in a cold frame or a hoophouse. Just about any cold hardy veggies like Asian greens, lettuce, spinach, mesclun and many others can be started inside and some of those can also be started outside right now like arugula, bok choy, spinach and peas. Also if your space is warm enough, you can plant beets inside but DON’T plant beet and carrot seeds outside till April (right around the corner). The reason is the soil is still pretty cold outside in our gardens and they will just sit and sulk until the soil warms up. 😦