Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harvest fresh salads all winter!

Photos courtesy of Trey Parsons

Want to harvest fresh salads all winter? In Oklahoma City's mild climate, a little protection will often enable you to grow lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, and a whole range of cold-hardy crops far past the first freeze, even into the spring.

Transition OKC recently hosted a workshop for gardeners to share tips for fall and winter gardening. The workshop was facilitated by Joseph Glosemeyer, Master Composter and Biodynamic Gardener with over 30 years experience, and Shauna Struby, successful winter gardener. Shauna presented her how-to tips from the previous two winters, when a sheet of plastic held up by a simple stake system enabled her family to save $236 on organic salad greens each year. Participants donated $5 to support the work of Transition OKC and Sustainable OKC.

The gardening group examined the many advantages of fall gardening, such as less labor (watering, weeding), fewer insect problems, increasing the use of your garden real estate, and of course, harvesting fresh salads all winter. Workshop participants discussed vegetables that perform well in our Zone 7 fall and winter, including garlic, bok choy, kale, arugula, mesclun mix, and Egyptian onions. Other topics included planting times, watering tips, and types of protection such as deep mulch, plastic and floating row covers, cold frames, miniature hoop houses, and the tricky question of where to find freshly harvested bamboo. After the discussion, the group adjourned to creating a miniature bamboo hoop house.

Host Christine Patton readily admits that the miniature bamboo hoop house is an experiment based on diagrams sourced from Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest. The mini-hoop house is a simple construction of green bamboo bent into hoops and secured by the edges of the raised bed (and possibly industrial sized staples if the edges don't keep the bamboo in place); a floating row cover or plastic, and bricks to secure the row cover. Bamboo was selected because it is a renewable, local, low-energy, non-toxic and free resource; but if it is not available, PVC or metal hoops can also be used.

If winter protection seems troublesome or confusing, don't let it stop you from planting your fall garden! You can be harvesting fresh salads until December in our mild climate, even without a hoop house, cold frame or floating row cover. Check out this handy document for fall planting dates, or pick up a planting guide from Horn Seed!

1 comment:

Sharlene T. said...

Thanks for sharing this... I've been having winter gardens for years in my big container garden and just planted the greens and root crops... come visit when you can...