Hard Winter Lessons

Not so appetizing…

I’ve taken lots of pictures, and learned lots of things, but I didn’t get any lettuce out of the deal this winter, or tomatoes either. The freeze this past weekend was the death of my last few lettuce starters, which looked so promising just a few days ago.

My husband suggested that I should try growing Romaine in the winter time, instead of the fragile curly leaf varieties that I tried because I still had those seeds. So, I am planning on starting some Romaine seeds, but, it is already almost spring, so I won’t count these starters as a winter crop.

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Transplanting Day

Today I moved my tender tomato starters into pots and put them under a grow light in my kitchen window. I’ve done all that I can do for them. Now I’ll have to see if it was enough to get back some love.

I also put my lettuce starters in one of my “salad bowls” in the mini-greenhouse on our south facing deck. I covered them with, appropriately, a salad bowl inside the greenhouse, because it’s supposed to freeze tonight.

Lettuce covered against the freeze with a salad bowl. Each layer creates a warmer environment. The greenhouse is zipped up now, collecting heat for tonight….


A Warm Brick Wall

This lettuce is growing nicely.

I think I made a good choice putting my experimental winter garden against the brick wall of the house. I checked on my lettuce after a few consecutive nights of freezing weather.

A warm wall on a cool day.

The lettuce isn’t the only thing that appreciates warm bricks. A resident lizard passed through to inspect my work.


Creating Mini Tropics

I put portable cake covers over my lettuce for a second layer of protection.

I was warned that my lettuce might not make it through the overnight frosts we are having and expecting this week. I wasn’t prepared with covers for each plant, so I decided to use the covers to my portable cake holders as cloches to cover as much as I could.

Looking good after a frosty night.
There’s condensation on the inside of the covers, like a tropical terrarium.

So far so good! After inspection, I covered them back up until warmer weather returns.

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Fresh Salad

Even though my husband and I grow and preserve an abundance of food for the family, I still buy lettuce in the winter. We do have all sorts of canned and frozen veggies to choose from during the fall, winter and spring. Since they are already prepared most of the time, there’s not much work in serving them either! But, we also like to have that bit of crunchy freshness with dinner every night. This winter, I have been experimenting on a small scale with different ways to produce a cold weather crop of salad fixings for our table.

lettuce starter

So far my little hoop garden covered with agribon is working out. When I pulled back the agribon after a few days of rain I was greeted with the site of some healthy looking lettuce, and even one onion starter from the kitchen that is holding on. I wish that I had begun a little sooner and planted a few more starters!

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Looking Ahead for Lettuce

I would say that I am moving on the slow track with my winter gardening, but I am moving, and learning as I go, so it’s just as well that I don’t move too fast.

a pie safe with a greenhouse cover

On the deck, facing south, I have a pie safe with a mini-greenhouse cover that I ordered for it with approximately the right dimensions. This morning I was happy to see a few lettuce sprouts appear. Eventually, I will move them to the garden.

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Winter Veggies that Grow in Greenville

Mr. Nathan Vannette recommends Agribon as a cover for a hoop winter garden, because of its durability, and because it is less likely than plastic to get caught in a wind.

On November 19 from 7-8pm, I attended a very informative class, along with about thirty other would be winter gardeners. The class, called Winter Vegetable Gardening, was taught by Nathan Vannette, a co-owner and operator of Growing Green Family Farm. It was hosted by the Travelers Rest Branch of the Greenville Public Library. Not only did I learn about different methods and what to grow, but I was given a lettuce starter and five free packets of seeds!

Reading materials available at the library for would be winter gardeners.

Mr. Nathan Vannette gave an information packed lecture about best practices here in the Upstate of South Carolina for keeping a garden going year round. Now, I have to confess I was a little disappointed, but that’s because I have a tomato growing in my kitchen right now, and I thought I was going to leave the class with what I needed to plant that baby and get some tomatoes this winter. Well, that turns out to be more fantasy than reality for now. That’s because Mr. Vannette ever-so-politely informed me that I would need a grow light to get any tomatoes at all, cuz there’s just not enough hours of light around here. A fully constructed greenhouse with a grow light is not in the cards right now, but maybe an LED light in my kitchen?

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