Photo by Jessica Walliser
Nevermind putting the garden to bed in October. I’ll be harvesting root vegetables, like these turnips, through February.
I’ll be busy cleaning up the garden soon enough, but in the meantime, my family and I have been enjoying the last few ripe tomatoes and peppers. The basil has survived some recent cool evenings thanks to a blanket of row cover.
I still have lots of carrots and beets in the garden, and I suspect we won’t be eating them all before the garden gets put to bed for the season. So I’m heading to the feed store for a few bales of straw. In previous years, I found that if I layer 4 to 6 inches of loose straw over my root crops, I’m able to continue harvesting well into the winter.
Two years ago I was picking turnips in February because they were snug under their straw blanket. The carrots are the most frost-sensitive of all the root crops I grow, so they usually turn to mush by the middle of January if I don’t harvest them. But the beets, turnips, celeriac and parsnips can continue to be harvested until they are all eaten, often sometime in February. I simply lift up the straw, dig out what I need and then put the straw right back on.
And thanks to Niki Jabbour, a garden writer friend in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener (Storey Publishing, 2011), I sowed a bunch of late-season lettuce, tat soi (an awesome cold-hardy green) and spinach and have those seedlings snug under a double layer of row cover. I’m shooting to have fresh salads through most of the winter if I play my cards right. Actually, it seems that I’m not really going to be putting my garden to bed at all this year—instead I’ll keep it going as long as possible. How about you?