Adiós, 2011: January Harvest

Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.

~Henry VI, Part II, Act 2, scene 4


Today we went out to close down the garden for the winter. Why, you ask, did we not take care of this yesterday, when it was a sunny 50 degrees outside? Because we were hungover, that's why. So today, as temperatures just kept dropping, we lit a fire and got to work. Tomorrow night it's supposed to get down to single digits, so this is it for the 2011 garden.

As you can see above, Kirk pulled out our arugula cold-hardiness experiment. He did manage to salvage many perfectly fine leaves — mostly new growth low to the ground. Down came the tunnels around the broccoli that we salvaged after the last big winds uncovered the tunnels and let them freeze. We packed away the PVC and the plastic for next year, when we'll have something much sturdier designed. We pulled out all the plants, broke them up, and layered them into the compost bins with some more dry leaves from the fall rake-up. Then we smoothed over the beds, and this is what it will look like for the next several months (or at least until it is covered by snow):


We also cleaned up the cold frames. Just about all the mesclun and various lettuces had long since bitten the dust. We pulled the last carrots and beets, and Kirk gave the kale (that really shouldn't be in the cold frame because it gets too tall) a trim, adding the leaves to our salad bowl of arugula and beet greens. What's left? Not much:


Some kale (in the back) and mache (in the front). We added quite a bit of spinach and mache to our salad bowl as well, but we left those plants in the frames to see how they fare in the coldest days. They are too few and too small to rely on for winter salads, but we figured we'd take a peek inside the cold frames on the days it gets a little warm to see how they are doing.  Our hope is that they go dormant over the winter but start growing again in very early spring, giving us a jump on salad greens in March. Below is another section of the cold frame with very tiny spinach and mache plants that I only sowed in October:


We also took down the other greenhouse tunnel that was covering the Brussels sprouts. Those plants were picked clean of the sprouts (such as they were — full report on that to come). We also broke them up and layered them into the compost bins. 

And that is it. With the (very slight) exception of a bit of kale, spinach and mache left in the cold frame and a couple unprotected stalks of kale elsewhere, we have made our last harvest from our first garden in Newburyport. Here's what we brought in today:


Salad greens (arugula, kale, mache, beet greens, and spinach), a bunch of carrots, and a pitiful selection of pea-sized Brussels sprouts (many of which were already snacked upon outside). Not bad for the bleak midwinter, but I do have mixed feelings about having reached the end of the line. If both joys and cares abound, then in my cares column I would list being bummed about having to go and buy vegetables at a grocery store or farm stand during the winter. We haven't had to do much of that in quite a while, and I feel like we should be able put up much more for winter next year. I am also impatient about the planting and eventual harvesting of perennial fruits — I wish we were farther along with that, but there's just no way to rush it.

In the joys column: lots of success with fall gardening and keeping it going this far into the season, and several really impressive harvests (including our best luck ever with carrots, bok choy, and green beans). Sure, we had some help from Mother Nature in the form of one of the warmest autumns on record, but we'll take it. I suppose another major joy was getting this whole thing off the ground as well: all the bricks and the dirt and the great crabgrass battle … we really accomplished a lot this year. And, it must be said, it will be a joy of a different kind to take the next four to six weeks off from regular garden duty. Sure, we'll be busy planning next year's garden in that time, and before we know it we'll be starting seeds indoors, but a rest will be nice as well. But just for a bit.

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