Plant Salad Greens Now For Winter Harvest

in Cold

It's August and time to plant the garden! Now? Yes, start growing greens now for a salad in January. Can't be done you say? It does take a little work, but you can easily raise salad greens to harvest during the coldest and snowiest days of the year - if you start NOW! This is a summary of what I have learned.

Winter Protection: You must protect your garden bed with a cold frame or a "low tunnel", so choose a south facing section of your yard that can be dedicated for this use. You can build a cold frame to fit your space, or it can simply be an old window or storm door propped up on 8 to 12 inch tall heavy boards, straw bales or cement blocks. Orient the garden east-to-west and slant the window toward the south for solar heating during the coldest days. Cold frames are best for below zero winters; low tunnels are better in warmer areas. A low tunnel involves bending flexible piping or metal rods to act as a 12 - 18 inch tall arch over the garden bed, then covering with heavy, clear plastic or floating row covers. Leave enough covering on each side to bury for heat retention, yet be able to gain access in the winter. Keep two things in mind: (1) You must be able to vent your covered garden on warm days to prevent over-heating, and (2) while it does not matter how large the cold frame or low tunnel is (4 feet deep by 8 feet long, for example), the interior height should be 8 to 12 inches to allow for plant growth.

Choosing Plants: There are many salad greens that can be planted now and eaten during the winter: arugula, carrot, chard, chicory, claytonia, endive, green onion, kale, leek, mache, spinach, and even dandelion. Look at your seed package carefully for the growing temperatures. You must plant with your frost date and plant maturity dates in mind. In other words: count back from your frost date by the number of days to maturity for each plant; that is the date they should be planted in the cold frame area. You are not growing the plants in the winter, you are harvesting the plants in the winter; they are growing now in the warmth of the summer and fall.

Preparing the Garden Bed: If you have already used a space in your yard as a garden, this area will be perfect for a cold frame if it faces south. Simply clean out the old plants and cover the soil with one inch of compost. Plant the seeds in a checkerboard pattern to take advantage of all of the space within your winter enclosure. Erect the cold protection when the nights start to reach freezing. Vent during the day until daytime temperatures reach freezing. A thermometer placed inside the cold frame helps to keep an eye on temperatures.

Harvesting your Greens: Don't be surprised when your plants freeze on bitter-cold nights, they will thaw with the warmth of the sunlight. Pick or cut your greens when they have thawed, carefully recover your garden, and head straight to the kitchen! Don't pause to throw a snowball or your "greens" will freeze. Enjoy your salad just picked full of nutrients and grown with NO pesticides.

This does not sound difficult, does it? I just need to find a cold frame to keep the chard from freezing in my -20 F. winters. I especially want to thank Eliot Coleman and his book: "Four-Season Harvest" for all of his information; it was inspiring. Check your local county extension service for plant choices and gardening advice that is specific to your area of the country.

See to order Mr. Coleman's book and others about gardening.

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Susanne Corbin has 1 articles online

I received a B.S. from the U. of Minn. College of Natural Resources, and teaching license for Science Education through the post-baccalaureate program at the U. Minn.'s College of Education. I taught environmental education at a middle and high school in Hawaii, and through a nature center and museum of natural history in Minnesota. As a child, my parents always had a Victory Garden and I was" forced" to work in the garden and help preserve the harvest. After years of enjoying the affluence and expansiveness of America's growth, my husband and I are in the process of re-discovering a simpler and richer lifestyle. Learn more at

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Plant Salad Greens Now For Winter Harvest

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This article was published on 2010/03/30