Monday, November 18, 2013

Salad from the Winter Garden

I am experimenting with winter gardening this year. Nothing big. I'm not going to be supplying all of the family's veg from the winter garden this year but it's still worth doing. I like the idea of learning some basics to supplement my families food. Being able to grow some food in winter will save us a bit of money, increase our self sufficiency, provide valuable fresh veggies in a season when they are hard to come by (eating either the stored veg dehydrated, frozen or canned in season, or veg from the grocery that's flown in 1500 miles before I eat it), and will possibly clean the air in the home as well. And it's fun!

In the back yard, I have carrots, radishes and kale planted. I planted them in late August and they are all very small. Growth is pretty slow. However, the last few winters have been pretty mild, so maybe if this year is mild too I'll get a bit more growth. I had loads of seed leftover from the main gardening season, and was given some seed while talking with gardeners at the World's Longest Yard Sale, so I lose nothing by putting some extra seeds in the ground. If a strong freeze hits and all the outdoor plants die, I'll just work the green matter back into the earth and call it fertilizer.

Indoors I started several pots of greens. They grow in my laundry room on the south-facing windowsill.  I have two pots of spinach and four pots of two different varieties of lettuce. They are still in the baby green stage of growth and have been growing for a few weeks. I need to plant a second batch of greens so that there is no (or not much) gap in fresh salads. The real problem I will run into is space, as Ray cat has claimed all of the other south-facing windowsills and will push off anything I put on them. 
I planted them in sterile potting soil I had leftover from starting seedlings this spring. When I harvest the last of these lettuces and replant, I will mix in a bit of compost from the bottom of the bin just to freshen it up a bit. I water them about once a day, when I remember. I'm bad about that. I know that using self-watering containers would be best, but I don't have any. These pots I found at yard sales for pennies apiece, so I use them. My parents saved the plastic seed packs from their flower garden last spring, so I can use those also. Again, these are seeds leftover from the main gardening season. So I'm not really out much money, just a few pennies worth of water over the season.

After reading this article on overwintering peppers indoors, I selected my best two pepper plants. They are Jimmy Nardello peppers. One plant was the plant that gave me the first pepper of the season. The other was the plant that gave me the highest number of peppers. I dug the plants out of the ground leaving as much dirt and roots intact as possible. I filled in the rest of the pot with potting soil. I sprayed them off and picked off all of the flowers and flower buds. I took them inside and have watered them a few times. I don't have any really cool areas to store them (the article recommends a constant 55 degrees), but I put them by a leaky patio door so once the cold weather hits, it should stay around 55-60. One of the plants produced a huge amount of flowers once it was brought in, but I picked them off. If they survive the winter, I'll plant them after the threat of frost. Hopefully I'll get an early bumper crop of my favorite pepper.

Yesterday I picked the first salad from the winter garden. From the outdoor garden, I had two baby kale plants, 3 medium sized radishes, 1 radish seedpod, 6 baby radishes, and 5 baby carrots. I left the leaves intact on the carrots and baby radishes for more bulk. I thinned out the lettuces in the indoor garden with a pair of scissors. I first trimmed out any tiny plants, then any that looked weaker than the others. From there, I thinned out any that were too close to each other. That gave me the little pile of greens you see in center right on the photo.

I added some mixed greens from the farmers market and had enough for two nice-sized salads to accompany dinner. They were delicious.

I'm very excited about getting fresh salad throughout the winter. I may plant a few containers of radishes for snacking. Wisconsin Vegetable Gardeners posted a video on growing carrots. They had good success planting carrots in a home-made hanging basket. I think I may try some of these as well so I can get some yummy carrots throughout winter and don't have to resort to those cardboard orange things at the grocery store.

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  1. enjoyed seeing your Winter garden. I have brought in my two rosemary plants for the Winter. I think I may try more next Winter. I'll be curious how yours works out.

    1. Does your rosemary grow in pots year-round or do you pot it up just to move it inside? I'm thinking that a rosemary plant would be lovely by my front door.

  2. I live in Ohio, so that means Winter! LOL! I had planted my rosemary in the ground hoping it would survive the Winters. But I lost it too many times. I decided this year to grow the rosemary in pots. Honestly, I wasn't happy with the growth of it in pots. It grew much better in the ground. If I can get it to stay alive in my house through the Winter, I think I will plant them in the ground in Spring and just pot them to bring them in for the Winter. I don't have good windows at all for plants, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will make it until Spring.
    I have a penpal in Texas who has a rosemary plant that is huge and taller than her! I never knew they could get that big!

  3. So far all I have ever overwintered is flowering plants. You are definitely making me think about bringing in some pepper plants or a tomato or two (if they can over winter).

    God bless.

    1. I believe that tomatoes can also be overwintered inside. I'm going to try that next winter. This year, I had two tomato plants that were in containers, but they were sickly and provided a pathetic harvest, so I didn't bring those in. The tomato plants in the garden were beasts: 7-8 feet tall. There was no place for those anywhere.

      UPDATE: After about 3 weeks indoors, the pepper plants are starting to die back. The article I read said that they would do that, and then you prune them to the main branches. So everything seems to be going according to plan.

  4. Very nice article, thx for sharing on Homesteaders Hop!

  5. How fun to grow plants indoor. Nice winter garden! Thank you for sharing at green thumb Thursday!

  6. I love how you found a way to grow greens inside frugally using what you have. We've had some greens overwinter outside in the past, but not this year. This winter is promising to be a real winter. :)

    I'd love for you to share your tips with my readers at Fabulously Frugal Thursday:

  7. I have been growing herb for some years and this past year was the first that my rosemary did well being brought in for the winter. You have to acclimate them to the lower light that they will recieve, I put them in the shade for three weeks before the tranfer.


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