The Winter Garden: 250 Varieties of Cold Hardy Plants, Growing Strong!

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Ta-da! The winter garden and low tunnels are up and growing!

Ta-da! The winter garden and low tunnels are up and growing!

 

What do you get when you add 250 winter vegetable varieties + 20,000 square feet of Gro-Guard fabric row cover + 230 pieces of 1/2 inch metal conduit bent into low tunnels + 150 pieces of 9 gauge wire bent into mini-hoops + 2 fun-loving kids?

One very tired, but very happy, Mother.

Despite my absence from the blog for the past few months, I’ve been working hard for all of us while I’ve been away.

A little over 250 varieties of winter vegetables and herbs are growing, not just for the benefit of my family, but for YOUR future benefit as you follow along and watch how they perform.

In addition to getting the winter garden planted and ready for the winter months, I’ve also been finishing the book. That’s right… Garden Under Cover will be out by the end of the month! I can’t tell you how excited I am to share it with you.

Since all of my writing energy is focused elsewhere at the moment, I thought you would enjoy some video tours of our farm to hold you over. This is where all of the winter gardening experiments happen these days, now that we’ve moved from our hillside lot in the city, to a hollow in the country. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth infinitely more. These videos should give you a sense of the size and scope of this year’s winter gardening trials, as well as what gardening with low tunnels looks like if you’ve never done it before. You’ll note that in the first video, taken November 16th, there’s not a single low tunnel up in the garden, even though our first frosts started arriving on October 18th. That’s because I’ve found that vegetables become much more cold hardy (and flavorful) when they aren’t “babied” with row covers — when temperature forecasts start calling for the low 20s F (<-4 C), that’s when I start covering the garden. Our temperatures have been as low as 17 F (-8 C) so far this season, and only about 50% of the garden has been covered to this point, simply because these temperatures, although low, aren’t a danger zone for many varieties yet. Don’t believe me? Check out the videos to see how these plants freeze and rebound.

And if you want to see more videos from our farm, feel free to check out my YouTube channel — I’m doing my best to maintain a video series of some of the vegetable trials and sustainable growing practices that we’re using in our new market garden. Interested in photos and short reports on some of the ~250 vegetable varieties that I’m growing? I post those on my Facebook page on a regular basis, so feel free to follow along!

So… it’s time for a little less talk, and a lot more action. Welcome to Four Petal Farm!

 

Want to learn more about gardening in winter?

I’ve got lots of winter gardening resources under the tab at the top of the page, or please sign up to be notified when my book, Garden Under Cover: Low Tunnel Winter Vegetable Production, is published. Alternatively, check out the following resources that I personally enjoy — these affiliate links cost nothing extra to you, but help support this blog:

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18 Comments

  1. darlenehrichardson

    December 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I loved the videos. Absolutely amazing!

  2. Texan

    December 5, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    The videos were so great. Really interesting to see the frozen plants and then after they thaw.
    All those wonderful veggies made me hungry! :O)
    Congratulations on your book, I will be watching for it!
    I recently took up Facebook, found you. I am Marie Sandy on FB.
    I should uncover my rows I think given what you said about them being more tasty if not babied. We have had a couple of light freezes but the days are nice and I should uncover the rows! Thanks
    I look forward to watching the trials on all these varieties you tried out!

    • Cathy

      December 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

      You’ve been such a long-time commenter here… it’s great to make the connection with you on Facebook, too! Thanks for connecting the dots for me. 🙂

  3. kimberly

    December 6, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Love the video. Glad I didn’t throw the row cover on yet.

  4. JessB

    December 6, 2015 at 11:04 am

    So excited for a new post! I’ve been stalking the blog for one. 🙂
    I’ve had my covers on for a couple of weeks now (zone 5) and checked them the weekend of Thanksgiving. Everything looks great. Next year, I need to tweak planting times a bit and also make sure I set aside more room in the garden to plant stuff in late summer. The plot I have desperately needs the soil built up so it’ll be a great chance to grow cover cover crops in the spring and summer before putting the fall stuff in. Thanks for all you do!
    PS how about a cameo from the goats and ducks next time?

    • Cathy

      December 6, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      I’m so glad to hear about your success! Way to grow! I’ve been amazed by how quickly summer cover crops like cowpeas and buckwheat can help build up the soil, so you’ve got a great plan. And yes, I’ll make sure that I get the ducks and goats to pop in and say “Hello.” 🙂

  5. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

    December 6, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    I am so excited for you and all of the changes and growth you are taking on with such an inspiring energy! I look forward to reading your book and I look forward to hearing about all of those veggies you have under cover right now! You are doing wonderful things, now don’t forget about the self care, too 🙂

    • Cathy

      December 7, 2015 at 4:53 am

      Thank you, Melissa! Wise words. 🙂

  6. Melanie Mike Gordon

    December 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    I really like your videos. I have been covering all my stuff in zone 5, and now I’m thinking I will plan better for next year and I can have a whole uncovered garden for most of the winter. Thanks for posting all your winter gardening info!

    • Cathy

      December 16, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      You’re welcome!

  7. Jane Allan

    December 16, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Cathy I have just found your blog and I am amazed by your beautiful garden! I have not planted a garden this season as I felt the weather conditions were too extreme. You have put me to shame. I need to tell you my garden is in sub tropical Queensland Australia. We have had hot windy weather of late. Yesterday an area of Sydney, over 1000km South of us, had a tornado go through. To the west of us the country is in severe drought for the fifth year running. Our area has just recenlty been taken off the drought declared areas. We have a bore so are able to pump water up onto the garden. Having seen what you do, and the conditions under which you have worked, I think later this afternoon, when it cools down, I will get out and do a bit of garden maintenance. I might even pot up a few seeds so that post Christmas will see a garden being planted out. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Cathy

      December 17, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Lovely! Great to have you here!

  8. Matt

    December 17, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I learned a lot from these videos of yours. I never thought that these plants you have can really withstand freezing temps. Just glad bumping on your site. 🙂

  9. Oliver

    December 26, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Would adding heat cable inside the low tunnel be of any benefit? They make a self regulating one that turns on when the ambient around it is less than 50′.

    • Cathy

      December 31, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      I’m sure that it would in some climates, but it hasn’t been necessary in mine (and we got down to -14 F last year). I just prefer to garden with as few inputs as possible, but I’m sure it would be great for some gardens with more prolonged freezes than what we get.

  10. Anne

    December 28, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing what you know and are learning! I have been looking so forward to your book- since last spring, but can see that with the move to your new location you have been very
    busy. And now you have even more insight to share. Again, thank you! The videos are inspiring me.
    Anne B.

  11. Carmen

    January 9, 2016 at 12:53 am

    Hello! I just found you last week and now several of my non related searches led to you! A kindred spirit perhaps.
    My question is about starting seeds (inside?) right now and transplanting them into the row covered or plasticed hoops. I’m also in zone 6. Has this been tried with success? Or should I wait till the ground thaws out more?

    • Cathy

      January 26, 2016 at 6:05 am

      I’ve done it many times, but the seedlings absolutely must be acclimated to the cold well in advance of transplanting them. I’ve accomplished this by taking my trays out during the day and putting them in the low tunnels, and exposing the plants more and more to cold temperatures until they have stayed all day and night in the trays for several days (it usually takes about 2 weeks to get them hardy). Good luck!