Midwinter Observing and Planning

As we come upon Groundhog Day, the official midpoint of winter, it seems like a great time to reflect a bit and solidify this year’s garden plans … 

I just did a walk about the raised beds on my back patio – In September, I planted a bunch of stuff that I hoped would provide some food to harvest, especially stuff I use a lot in cooking. And despite the solid cold spell we had last week and the snow, there is still a lot to harvest and a lot that I don’t have to buy in the store. 

One thing I wish I did better last fall, was to protect the young plants from insects – the insect pressure was heavier due to the longer warm fall… I had a couple umbrella like screens and some floating row covers over certain sections of plants, but now that I know what potential there is, I’m going to invest time and money in more coverings next fall, keeping them over the plants until the insect pressure decreases.

Right now, there is still plenty of parsley and cilantro to harvest; and small celery leaves are still there if I need some fresh celery flavor. There’s also all sorts of chicories (radicchios, castelfrancos, frisée, and puntarelles…)

The lettuces, escaroles, and dandelion-style chicories lasted up until about the solstice, but now got a little too rotty looking to eat. The Swiss Chard was lush until the beginning of December, but I harvested most of it then… I will plant a lot more next year.
I pulled up a bunch of carrots – they had gotten frozen into the ground last week, but with this thawing and rain, they came right up and tasted super-sweet! I want to make sure I plant more next year along with some daikon radishes…
The centers of the pak choi still look fine as well as the centers of the cabbages… The insect damage early in the fall kept them from getting full heads, but the leaves on them now are wonderfully-flavored and very nutritious. I just put a huge handful into a chicken stock… and chopped up a bunch to add to a lamb sauté. 
And oniony things – I’ve lost track of exactly which are official scallions, which are walking onions, and which are left over tops of old bulbing onions – but if I need some onion flavor, I know where to get it! And the leeks still look great, although I have been saving them because I know they can get through to the spring. 

So I think it makes great sense to keep the fall garden in mind as we start to plan our spring gardens! I’m going to put my garden areas “to bed” in 3 stages next year – one big clean out and replant of cool weather stuff around August 31st, another around mid September, and another final small clearing and transplanting around the end of September. I’m going to have a set of seedlings ready to pop in the ground with each stage.

All the transplants will get covered to prevent insect damage until the first frost, whenever that happens. I’ll be starting the seeds of these fall transplants around July 1st. In previous years, I’ve also had great luck with broccoli and cauliflower planted for fall harvesting so I want to integrate those into the plan as well!

And I want to highlight Parsley – it doesn’t require a second sowing, just a bit of spatial planning… It is a wonderful year-round plant. I recommend sowing parsley seeds now through mid-February inside your house under lights, then transplant lots of parsley plants into the garden in mid-April to early May – they will grow like crazy all summer and then continue to provide harvestable parsley for most of the fall and early winter. The trick is to plant enough parsley plants so that you have plenty of good leaves on the plants through the fall and winter when the low light conditions slow down growth. Parsley is a super food and can be added to tons of dishes – I usually add it at the end of cooking so it stays bright and fresh-flavored. In the dead of winter, its greenness is simply a delightful breath of liveliness… 

Looking at my beds now in the winter gets me really excited about planning and planting, and it is so life-affirming. Extending your season by choosing and planting plants that do well easily without tons of extra work is so worth it! It makes me so happy to look out my back door and see fresh food and green plants even in the middle of winter! 


We are now taking registrations for our Homesteading Course and our Permaculture Design Course – both starting this Spring! Check out our website for all the details! And we have a special deal if you decide to take both courses at the same time!

18th Annual Plant Sale Update – I am planting up lots of new species and sowing tons of seeds and updating the website as I go – I will have all the cold-hardy plants for sale up and ready for ordering by March 1st! (Warm-weather loving plants like tomatoes and basil will be up on the site by May 1st)