Winter Garden

Here in south-west Poland, we hear our neighbours ask: “What is it that you’re still growing in your garden now – in Winter?”. It’s something which we hadn’t given too much thought, in all honesty: it’s just another positive effect and outcome of last year’s No-Dig Gardening Project 2019 and crop rotation. We couldn’t be happier: picking vegetables from the garden in Winter – as we have been doing since last Summer – is such a satisfying and rewarding experience 😄

This Winter has been a particularly mild one, though, which has made it easier for us to keep the plants outdoors; fleece-protection being sufficient for those requiring it on the rare occasions when the temperature has dropped below zero. We don’t, as yet, have a greenhouse, polytunnel, or any cold frames, all of which make it much easier to grow vegetables during cold seasons – so everything that has survived and continues to thrive has done so out in the open air 💪 😀

November 2019
November 2019

The vegetables we’ve been growing this Winter are: cavolo nero (Lacinato kale), kale (brassica oleracea), beetroot, spinach, rucola, celeriac, carrots, parsley, parsnips, and garlic (though this is just sitting and waiting for Spring). When a frosty night is forecast, we cover with a fleece: the celeriac, parsnip, spinach, and rucola. The dormant garlic was permanently covered till mid-February.

Cavolo nero, kale, beetroots, and carrots, being quite hardy, have remained uncovered throughout and are loving their time with the elements 😄 In fact, the carrots taste even sweeter now than in November. We’ve been making sure that their roots – and those of the celeriac and beets, too – don’t stick out above the ground and have covered them with more soil, creating mini-mounds. The kales, particularly, seem to quite like the cold and are still very much producing.

February 2020
February 2020

We haven’t had to buy any: carrots, parsnips, celeriac, beetroots, parsley, kale, spinach, rucola, potatoes, cayenne peppers, dill, tomatoes (jarred following their final harvest of the season), or jam since last Summer – and we very much like it this way 😁

E0E10884-7F45-4663-A5C7-B9FCFEDB84F6

A079966A-6218-4909-B863-5F708546A575

E2884653-B413-43EC-B1AA-2940C397A9D5

We’re planning to give our next Winter garden a proper think through this year, and grow more vegetables like kale or leafy greens, which end up in almost everything we eat or cook. So yes, all being well, more fresh vegetables next Winter and even more Summer fruits preserved 🤞👩‍🌾💚👨‍🌾

~~~~~~~~~~
<<previous post

 

Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #3

Organic Matter

As January has come to an end, so has our composting and mulching of the garden beds. We’ve managed to empty the compost pit of most its solid organic matter, and used it in combination with cardboard to cover them. These beds can now absorb all the goodies from both the brown and the green matter, simultaneously being protected from exposure, severe temperatures, and too dry or too wet periods. On top of this, any unwanted perennials or weeds will have to make a lot more effort to grow in Spring or Summer, which is another thing we want: win-win 🤞

2A772F9F-BD11-4A28-BF37-B0DA3776A084

  1. We’ve developed a routine collecting cardboard from supermarkets whenever we get access to a car. This happens on average four times a month, and allows us to collect a significant amount of brown matter.
  2. Here – 25 January 2020 – we harvested celeriac planted 02 May 2019 which we happily shared with our neighbours 😊 We immediately covered the soil with cardboard.
  3. We then extracted whatever was left of the solid organic matter from the pit.
  4. And, in the final stage, distributed it evenly.

~~~~~~~~~~

As mentioned in a previous post, in March the cardboard should be nicely decomposing and the layer of organic matter on top quite dry, making it possible for us to break up the bigger pieces, remove any debris, and remove and return anything that still needs breaking down to a compost heap. By April, it will resemble the soil it will become: a new layer of soft soil ready for sowing and planting. Today we had a sneak-peek under a mulch layer and, much to our surprise, we saw busy earthworms already ‘having a good time’ 😁

Avoiding digging or ploughing, and keeping the earth undisturbed, well-fed, protected, and mulched, makes for a much healthier ecosystem for both the plants and the organisms and microbes within. Healthy undisturbed soil provides enough food for all those small creatures, which, in exchange, break down the organic matter, making more healthy and healthier soil for the plants that we want to grow. It is a cyclical process – and one of the most basic, beautiful, and essential cooperations on our planet. 

If we look after the soil, it will look after us. 👍🌍

~~~~~~~~~~

This year, we’re aiming to improve our soil-making by building a two-compartment compost container out of pallets. From this, we hope to be able to cover most, if not all, of the garden beds with fresh home-made soil before next Winter. In the meantime, we’ve been making sure that the container we’re presently using is busy receiving green matter, brown matter, and pig manure.

C54E291D-CB60-408C-B731-03390B06664A

  1. Green matter (plant-based waste) and brown matter (paper, egg-boxes, and egg shells).
  2. Pig manure and straw.
  3. More brown matter (mainly cardboard and paper). It eliminates smells and helps absorb excess liquid from any soggy organic waste that comes next. 
  4. Pallets donated by our neighbours, waiting to be converted into the new composter. As part of an offer made to all local residents, the black plastic container was provided at no cost by our local council to promote a more eco-friendly use of household organic waste in the region. It has certainly found a good home here 😊

~~~~~~~~~~

Before closing today’s post, we’d like to share with you the joy and pleasure of harvesting vegetables in Winter. We sowed these carrots 25 April 2019. Today, 02 February 2020, they are still crispy, sweet – and very tasty. We haven’t had to buy any carrots since late Summer last year. So yes, a winter garden is something we’re going to be looking into even more this year 👍👩‍🌾💚👨‍🌾

D0DC65B8-D68E-404D-83F0-F280D70CD41A

~~~~~~~~~~

next post>>

<<previous post

Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #1

Sunday 05 January 2020

Last Winter only seems like yesterday: coming back to Poland after two years of bicycle-touring, taking over my parents’ garden and beginning our 2019 No-Dig Gardening Project. Here we are again, one year later, with a bit more knowledge and experience – more than ready to start gardening once again.

It’s 05 January 2020 and the weather has been ideal to spend some time outdoors. Geoff’s been fixing tools, and I’ve been mulching the beds (laying well-rotted, green, organic matter on cardboard (brown matter)).

The soil we managed to produce as part of the 2019 Gardening Project only covered about a fifth of the beds, so the rest of them will have to be covered as described above. We will, however, try and produce more soil this year – now we know how to approach the matter 😉 

As you can see in the photos, despite it being Winter, the garden is still producing some vegetables: cavolo nero, kale, beetroots, carrots, spinach, rucola, celeriac, parsnip, parsley, and garlic (some of them covered with fleece).

The process is: as we pull and eat them, the patches of soil left will immediately be covered with the cardboard-and-organic-matter combo, so no beds remain bare. Feeding and protecting the soil also leads to fewer weeds later on.

These are some of the principles behind No Dig Gardening and Permaculture.

~~~~~~~~~~

next post>>