Last year after learning from my Portuguese father-in-law how to extend the growing season in my garden with lettuce and kale, from my high school friend Abby (who now lives in northern New England) that leeks can be harvested in the winter, and gaining a better understanding from Eliot Coleman what things grow in the cold weather and how to get the most out of your garden space, I was even more excited about gardening than I had been in the past. Originally I thought that we New Englanders had a narrow amount of time to grow our tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini, and that was it. So many people don't realize how easy it is to grow simple lettuce in the springtime and fall. All you do is sow the seeds in the ground (just barely, since the seeds are so tiny), water and pick. My girlfriend Michelle planted a few rows of lettuce in her small kitchen garden on the side of her house, and she had more lettuce than she knew what to do with!
Leeks are a very slow growing vegetable. I planted a bunch of them and scattered them throughout my garden. In my naivete I thought all leeks were suitable for overwintering, but that is not the case. Some can handle winter temperatures and snow, others cannot. I planted two varieties Varna and Seigfreid. The Varna at this point look a bit wilted, but they taste just fine. Besides, leeks are the type of vegetable you saute for soup rather than chop on top of a salad. The Seigfreid are looking fabulous! The green tops are just as firm and vibrant as they looked in the summer. What an amazing vegetable!
These are the Varna Leeks. I had to try and recall where I'd planted them because everything is covered in about 6-8 inches of snow! I dug down to the base of the leek with a kitchen serving spoon . . .And cut them off with a knife! (I think Abby used a pitchfork, come to think of it.)
This is a Seigfreid Leek. Doesn't it look fabulous?! Amazing. Before winter sets in, leeks should be mulched with straw, or even leaves would do. You can see the mulch here around the base of the leek.
The thought of being able to harvest anything from my garden at this time of year is so exciting to me! For the coming year I purchased two varieties that do well in the wintertime. Here is my harvest that I used to make lentil soup.
How are my cold frames doing you ask? Well, I think once the weather turns a little warmer I will be sitting pretty. The arugula and the mesclun mix are doing well, but their growth is slow so in short order I could eat up my entire supply! The reason I've run into this problem is because I didn't plant them early enough in the fall, so the plants are small.
But come spring, I think these plants will flourish. I have spinach, parsley, cauliflower, arugula, kale, and mesclun mix ready to take off once the sun gets a little stronger. I'll be the only one in my neighborhood eating from my garden in April! :)
These guys look downright hot, don't they?! The other minor issue I've had is that with all of the snow we've received, often times the cold frames are frozen shut. Hmmm. I think if I were a little more meticulous about clearing the snow away, this would be less of a problem.
Anyway, it's pretty exciting, isn't it??