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Discovering Overwintered Lettuce and Brassicas

This year instead of tilling up the entire garden, we decided to make due with what we have and just pull out the weeds.  We began work on it a few weeks ago at one end and then planted peas. As we looked over the remaining rows of monstrous weeds and took stock of what is left to do, we noticed that there are a number of vegetables that overwintered.  Amazingly, new growth has appeared on last year's kale, spinach, and swiss chard.  We never did cut down the broccoli and cabbage plants last fall, and the giant stems are sporting brand-new tender leaves. Three kinds of lettuce are growing throughout the garden from seeds that blew around during the fall, after the lettuce bolted.

So there I have been out in the garden in mid-February and early March, sampling the leaves of all of these perpetual vegetables and finding that they taste quite good.  At least once daily you'll find me out there nibbling like a deer that has discovered a bounty of produce for the taking.

There's enough tender new growth ready to harvest that we've been able to fill several big salad bowls for our family dinners.

Considering how much snow we had this winter along with weeks of freezing weather, it's incredible that these plants overwintered. I guess it's not uncommon for cool weather crops to do well in our region during the winter.  It makes me think that perhaps we should intentionally plant more in August or September in order to have a bigger harvest all winter long.  Until recently, we were buying our salad greens at the store over the winter, but think how much better it would be to enjoy home-grown salad all winter long!

In researching winter gardening, we've learned that growth is noticeably slower for cool weather crops.  Also, the leaves tend to be less tender -- the plants have to be sturdier to survive the frigid temps after all, but even so we have found winter salad greens to be very good.

We've also learned that row covers can help.  Each layer of fabric placed in an arch over a row of vegetables will bring you one zone warmer, so for the most cold-sensitive plants, adding one or more layers of row cover can allow for a wider bounty of vegetables during the winter.

Above is the mess of the garden that's left to clean up.  Below is the section completed so far.

We have been saving cardboard boxes to use in the aisles as a weed barrier.  Under the row cover above is a new crop of cabbage and broccoli.

The garlic is doing very well, as you can see above.  Our friends Dan and Debbie gave us a bunch of garlic bulbs that they have been cultivating for some time, to help us get started.  Garlic is planted in October and can be harvested around May or June.  This will be our first-ever garlic harvest.