10 Nov Winter Crops at Well Fed Community Garden
You might be surprised to learn that despite the (very) cold weather, winter is still an important growing season for many farmers. Frost kills the tender crops we associate with summer, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, but many plants are quite hardy. The Well Fed Community Garden is still growing lettuce, salad greens herbs, kale and radicchio without any protection from the cold. Ekklesia’s beds of collards and arugula are happily growing through the frost, too.
Some plants need a little bit of help from hard frosts like we’ve had recently. In that case, we shelter them under row cover, which traps just enough heat from the soil to keep our cauliflower heads from freezing. Row cover is porous and allows sunlight and rain to reach the crops, so it can be left on during the day. In the spring, we also use a light-weight row cover to provide a bit of nighttime warmth and a physical barrier against pests like flea beetles.
We recently built a more involved line of defense against the cold: an unheated greenhouse, also called a caterpillar tunnel. It’s a clever, 12 foot by 40 foot structure that consists largely of chainlink fencing materials and agricultural plastic, and it traps solar energy and warmth from the soil. On a recent day when it was sunny and 30 degrees outside, the caterpillar tunnel was a balmy 65. We plan on using the caterpillar tunnel to grow a delicious mix of baby salad greens for the Irregardless Cafe and for our volunteers to enjoy throughout the winter.
Crops that your local farmers will continue to offer throughout the winter include those in the cabbage family like kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, tatsoi, bok choi, Chinese cabbage, and kohlrabi and root vegetables like rutabaga, turnips, beets and carrots. Many farmers also have crops stored from late summer or fall harvests, including winter squashes, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. We strongly encourage you to support your local farmers throughout the winter by basing your meals on the many delicious local products that continue to be available through the season.
You can find a local farmers’ market by going to localharvest.org.