Winter Greens Update

It's been a while since I've written, but that's because there just isn't very much going on in a Massachusetts garden in the middle of January. We've been having a pretty mild winter: Last weekend we were able to go skating on the pond, but this past week temperatures were back up into (at least) the forties, and the Winter Carnival that was supposed to take place this weekend was cancelled.

I'm ambivalent about our weird winter. On one hand, it's a bummer not to have at least a little snow to sled on or a frozen pond to skate on, and I do love the gift of a snow day or two to break up the monotony of winter. On the other hand, it's been great not to have to shovel, to be getting out of school on time in June (so far, so good), and to have mild weather for our remaining garden greens.

After the final January clean-up of the garden, we were left with only some kale, mache, and a tiny group of spinach seedings that sprouted too late to get very big before winter set in. Let's check in on our experimental winter garden.

Starting with the exposed greens, there is a bit of kale that used to be under a greenhouse tunnel, but was left out in the cold when we took that down:


These are small and have been picked over throughout the season, but they are hanging in there. A close-up view:


Although it has been generally a much milder winter than usual, we have had temperatures drop as low as 3 degrees at night (not often, but still — it happened). The exposed kale has also been under snow — again, not much, but enough that the plant has been subjected to freezing and thawing over the course of the season. As you can see, some of the leaves of the kale look like they have died back, but the center leaves (where any new growth would occur) are still great. I'm thinking the spoiled leaves are less due to the cold (which would leave them dark brown and crispy) than to the freezing and thawing — it looks like these are limp and kind of slimy, which is more about rotting from moisture, I think. Still, it's a tough plant that's still largely edible at the end of January!

The kale in the cold frame, by the way, is still perfect:


Also in the cold frame is mache, which is otherwise known as corn salad. This is a sweet, low-growing green that is a good counterpoint to all those more bitter greens available in cool weather (I'm thinking of arugula and kale, which isn't exactly bitter, but is pretty strong tasting). It, too, is doing very well in the cold frame:


Some salads are still to be had even in January, and the success of the mache definitely makes us want to grow a lot more of it next fall. Our goal for next year will be to have enough to try to get through the entire winter without buying salad greens.

The really astounding part about the mache? Check out the exposed greens in the cold frame that broke:


Kirk sampled some this afternoon, and he said they were totally fine. These have been exposed to all the nighttime temperatures in the 20s and have been buried in snow briefly (not much snow, but these are very low to the ground, so it doesn't take much to cover them). We'll keep an eye on them if it ever gets super-cold again this winter, but so far this looks like a winner for next year's winter garden!

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