Sometime last February, I started reading Four Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman, and I decided I should become a winter gardener. The book is tremendously practical and tremendously optimistic, full of good Yankee wisdom and charts and diagrams and advice. It inspired me towards imagining row covers and a heavy mulch of leaves, rows of carrots and beets standing straight through heavy freezes. All season I've been imagining this.
Wondering all the time if I'd really have the energy to keep planting and weeding and harvesting and planning straight into cold weather. Some years, garden enthusiasm peters out at the end of July. But, never underestimate the energy gained from trying something new. The end of July, I was still planting arugula, spinach, herbs... and watching the carrots and beets (above) which I'd planted July 1st coming in.
I do believe this was the very perfect-est year to try a winter garden. The summer was tough-- so dry, many of the usual summer stalwarts didn't do so hot. My tomatoes refused to set fruit through the whole month of July; my potatoes were pretty underwhelming. But now, those rows of arugula and spinach I planted in late July are absolutely kicking butt. We've had a few weeks of cooler days and good, soaking rains, the kind of weather all those leafy crops love. I've honestly never quite seen arugula so happy as the above; this week and last I've been making a special sort of salad out of it with craisins, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a mustardy dressing. Gobble gobble gobble. I love fresh salads.
When it gets a few dozen degrees colder, when daytime highs are in the low forties, billowy row covers will settle themselves down over the crops still in seedling-hood, like these baby mizuna and kale fellows above. I'm not sure about marching out here in my mucklucks to kneel in the snow and pick salad, but if my above lesson in the joy of trying something new is any indication...
I think I just might be perfectly well suited to this winter gardening business!