Winter Gardening

For some reason, I’ve never had any luck with winter gardening, even though our climate makes it at least theoretically possible. For example, one year (in an attempt to grow something we’d actually eat), I bought a 9-pack of Romain lettuce and one of turnips (my wife loves the greens).

The turnips turned out to have only six usable plants in the pack, the lettuce had the full nine. I planted them relatively close together, square-foot garden style.

Unfortunately, something out there liked the plants better than we did. Each day, I’d come out to find that another plant had been eaten. This went on until there were only three plants left. For some reason, the nighttime predations stopped at this point and I still had three plants left.

And then, as if to add insult to injury, those three just SAT there all winter long. They never grew any larger – but they never died. I’ve never seen anything like that. Finally, in early spring, I dug them up to plant something else.

If you are going to plant a winter garden, it is a good idea to get them in the ground about a month before the first average date of frost. This will give them time to develop a strong root system. It can be tricky because if you plant them too early, there is the chance that the less heat-tolerant varieties will bolt to seed.

By the way, a good source of information on planting dates for different vegetables is your State Cooperative Extension Service – sometimes called the “county agent.” They have a number of publications (often available online) with useful information. When you are looking for information, keep in mind that the primary focus of the Extension Service is to help farmers. Help for us home and condo owners came later, so it may take a little digging.

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