Saturday, December 1, 2007

Winter Greens -- So Far, So Good

My parents have these neighbors of long standing who have always grown lots of vegetables. When I was a teenager, I mowed their lawn, and noted the plots the husband, a doctor, had dug into what struck me as a fairly rocky location. Ledge reared up at various points around their property, and I had to be alert while mowing to avoid damaging the mower blade. But the doctor was not only determined to make that rugged property produce, he had a very good hand, good southern exposure, and was diligent and enthusiastic. What made the greatest impression was his late lettuce harvest: he would make the rounds of the neighbors, with bright eyes and a big grin, on Thanksgiving morning, delivering enormous heads of leafy greens.

We are looking ahead to next year’s gardening season, and fantasizing about starting a hoop house -- a greenhouse of plastic stretched over half-circle pipes, or ‘hoops’), so that we could, in theory, harvest hardy greens, spinach, beets, all year.

So this year, I did a test run. I boxed the radicchio bed with 2X8’s and stretched heavy clear plastic over the box and weighted the edges of the plastic down with some old bricks. So here we are at November 29, and I’m still cutting greens for salads: 3 kinds of radicchio, and a mix of escaroles and chicories. I have also used a bale of hay to pack around the outside of the box, and to cover the top at night. But now the weather is really becoming much colder -- 10˚ tonight! – so this will be a real test. If we continue to be blessed with some sun every day, maybe I can squeeze out some fresh greens until Christmas.

-- Caleb

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