Planting leafy greens is exceptionally easy and for many variety results in both an ongoing harvest, as well as the opportunity for a second planting. Continue reading
“Leafy greens” is a generic term for a wide variety of vegetables. Depending on how you’re planning to grow, store and cook them, there are things to consider as you look to put the best leafy greens in your garden.
For one thing, you need to know the most popular and easy-to-grow leafy greens in North America. From this list you’ll be able to pick what’s right for you.
Planting leafy greens is exceptionally easy and for many variety results in both an ongoing harvest, as well as the opportunity for a second harvest in the same season. Some of the hardier varieties can be effectively overwintered, as well. Continue reading
Though leafy greens might seem too fragile for cooler temperatures, fall is in fact the best time to plant them in most United States hardiness zones. Many varieties prefer cooler weather. Continue reading
Overwintering is defined as the process by which you keep plants alive through a cold season. Normally they would die off, but overwintering keeps them going despite what Mother Nature says.
Why overwinter? Flower gardeners like to overwinter annuals to keep them growing and blooming season after season. The same can be done for fruits and vegetables, and that means organic food movements are encouraging the effort.
There are many benefits to using overwintering techniques.
Vegetables: Overwintering vegetable plants causes them to develop earlier in the spring and offer a harvest well before the plants typically would. Plants such as spinach, onions, and beans overwinter well and offer a delightful first taste of gardening season come March.
Indoors: Fruit plants, such as blueberries, lemons, and fig trees, overwinter well indoors and provide year-round fresh fruit at a low cost. Citrus trees such as meyer lemons, can be grown in a pot indoors in the winter and placed outdoors in full sun in the summer. Gardeners always benefit from having a touch of summer indoors during cooler months.
Helping you: Bringing flowering and green plants indoors to overwinter increases the oxygen and humidity in your home. Pops of color, growing life during months of dormancy, and fresh smells are all added benefits to your home when you choose to overwinter.
If you’re a new gardener, the easiest way to get started is with potted plants. Explore steps to begin by checking out the Avant Garden guide to overwintering.
Get the details on overwintering of these vegetables:
Spinach is a pretty cold-tolerant plant and is perfect for overwintering. When overwintering spinach choose varieties like Giant Winter, Tyee, and Viroflay that handle low temperatures and are more resistant to harsher conditions. Start these seeds about six weeks before the average first frost so that you can use plants about three to four inches wide in size. Use soil that is cooler when starting these seeds to avoid spotty germination caused by dry, warm, late summer soil.
When you choose where you will place your polytunnel or burlap shields, sow the young spinach plants about 1 inch apart. After two frosts you can cover the spinach beds with a combination of compost and straw and then lay the outer layer protective structure. If you live in a more mild winter climate you can forgo the protective structure but use additional straw to shield the spinach plants.
Check moisture levels throughout the winter and keep soil slightly moist. Be cognizant of overwatering to avoid root rot. Root rot causes oxygen deprivation from the plants’ roots, which will stunt growth or kill your crop. As days become longer and temperatures increase you can begin to remove little layers of straw every few weeks.
After all straw has been removed, your spinach crop is just weeks away. Encourage growth by spraying a fish emulsion mixture on your spinach bed. As leaves grow, pluck or cut them from plants and continue to do so as they replenish themselves. Be sure to thoroughly wash spinach leaves before using them in your cooking to avoid ingesting any germs or bacteria.
Cook your spinach with olive oil and garlic in a skillet for a delicious side dish. You can even use your own overwintered garlic (link to overwintering garlic post) for a delightful garden to table snack!
Radishes and turnips are quick to mature and will develop quickly after winter days grow longer and temperatures rise in through the spring. An added benefit of overwintering radishes and turnips is their resistance to pests and disease.
These plants appreciate well-drained soil that is loosened from a foot to 16 inches deep. Select a turnip-growing site that will get full sun when spring season arrives.
Plant seeds about a half inch deep when the first frost occurs and cover with a layer of compost and a thicker layer of straw. That should be enough to protect them from winter’s cold.
Throughout the winter keep the soil lightly moist. Don’t allow it to get overly moist or else root rot will set in. Root rot causes deprives plants of oxygen and can kill the plants or stunt their growth. Be sure to keep these beds weed-free. As temperatures begin to climb and winter winds die down, you can remove the straw layer over your garden bed.
These plants will see an initial harvest after six to eight weeks of growing. Mature harvests will be available about two and a half months after growth begins. Water plants at an average one inch of water weekly. Once harvested, turnips and radishes will store about two to three months in a cool, dark place.
Garlic, like onions and spinach, is a cold-tolerant and hardy plant that overwinters very well. Hardneck varieties are best for overwintering garlic, rather than the typical softneck supermarket varieties that you may be most familiar with. German Extra-Hardy garlic will store up to ten months, while Chesnok Red is best for baking and roasting.
Plant your garlic cloves in well-drained soil before the ground freezes. Place cloves flat side down and pointed side up in the soil. Cover with compost and a protective layer of straw. Consider adding leaves in so they break down and provide nutrients through the overwintering process. Garlic does not need the external protective structures, like polytunnels or greenhouses, like spinach and onions.
Once the last frost passes you are able to begin removing layers of straw from your garlic garden bed. Your garlic will begin to develop scapes, which indicate flowering is near. Cut them from the plants before they flower to energize bulb growth. Continue watering your garlic plants until their leaves begin to brown.
Once stems begin to collapse you can determine if your garlic is ready to harvest. Carefully dig in to check bulb size to see if it is on target with your variety. Don’t let bulbs sit underground too long or they will begin to rot. Once you remove bulbs you can use fresh cloves for cooking or store them for up to 9 or so months for use throughout the year. Save a few cloves to repeat the process all over again next year!
Although typically planted in the spring, harvested late summer, and stored for use until next summer, onions can have two major harvest cycles and you may be using only one of them. Begin overwintering onions in September and eat fresh onions in late spring!
Varieties like Candy, Walla Walla Sweet, and Olympic have all proved to be good overwintering onion options. Onion growth does not occur underground and away from the elements, therefore these plants benefit from protection like cold frames, polytunnels, or burlap structures in gardening zones that host colder temperatures and frozen ground for much of the winter.
Shoot for mid-September to begin your onion overwintering process. If you plant onions too early, the initial growth will be detrimental to the spring product. Direct sow onion varieties into the ground leaving about three to four inches between each bulb and cover with abundant compost and straw to protect the plants.
In similar fashion to overwintering spinach, you will want to slowly remove the protective straw layer in portions as temperatures steady above freezing. By March or April you can fully expose the plants, which should appear green and fruitful. Continue caring for your plants until June when they should be ready for harvest.
Community sustained agriculture (CSA) is a growing trend all across the United States. There are several ways CSA programs (also known as farm shares) can work, but they all boil down to the same principle, which you can read about here.
The Northwest is full of people who love organic produce, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite CSAs in Washington. Most of these are organic or natural farms. If you’re in the area and interested in joining, don’t worry about it being late in the season! Many of these have pro-rated options, or you can get on the list for next year. Even if you’re not in Washington, lots of these websites have recipes and other great content you’ll find useful. So check them out and see what the Evergreen state has to offer.
(It was hard enough to narrow our list down to these, so we saved ourselves some trouble and did not put them in any order of preference. It’d be too hard to decide!)
Abundantly Green, Poulsbo, WA
Abundantly Green is a farm with simple goals. They provide food that doesn’t use herbicides, pesticides, or GMOs, and hasn’t traveled the interstate. They have a summer CSA as well as a year-round program. They also offer a chicken share, where you can get 8 whole chickens, either all at once or spread throughout the year. In addition to produce and chicken, the farm raises and sells pork, lamb, beef, and eggs.
Boistfort Valley Farm- Curtis, WA
Boistfort Valley Farm seems to have everything figured out. They are certified organic, have both a summer and a winter CSA, and are featured at several farmers markets and stores throughout Washington. Their website features a community recipe page, and they’ve just started a video series that offers great insight into the “behind the scenes” of the farm.
Of course, the CSA is our main focus. Boistfort not only has a variety of share sizes throughout the year, but they have drop sites from Portland to Seattle, so if you’re in the Northwest, there may be one near you. They’ve also started a CSA scholarship fund, so that those who otherwise couldn’t afford the large lump sum payments can have access to fresh organic produce.
Growing Things Farm- Carnation, WA
Nestled on the Snoqualmie River, Growing Things Farm has been partnering with their animals and the land to provide their customers the best tasting and most nutritious produce possible since 1991. They work with minimal machinery, and incorporate their animals into a holistic management system. They raise vegetables, berries, fruit, eggs, pastured meat birds and pork, and grass-fed beef. They’ve chosen to be certified naturally grown instead of USDA Organic (mostly paperwork differences), and emphasize the importance of knowing your farmers and reading labels carefully, whether the sticker says the food is organic or not.
The Growing Things Farm CSA program runs for 16 weeks, beginning in June. Their early crop includes greens such as spinach, baby salad, and a lot of Asian greens. Later in the season, there is more variety, including beats, tomatoes, peas, beans, broccoli, and much more. They also have options for fruit and egg shares, so you can get a lot of your food in the same place! They operate on a weekly pickup schedule and do offer payment plans to fit different budget needs. Our favorite part is that they sell veggie starts too, encouraging people to start their own gardens.
Hedlin Farms, Mt. Vernon, WA
Hedlin Farms grows both organic and conventional produce on their almost-400 acres. Their CSA boxes feature mostly their products, but occasionally, items from other local farms with the same ideals. Accounts are managed online, making it easy for members to schedule vacation weeks, which they can make up at the end of the season. They also share recipes to spark inspiration for how to use the items in their boxes.
Klesick Family Farm, Stanwood, WA
The Klesick Family Farm has a passion for doing good, hence their tagline “a box of good”. There are a variety of options for their CSA shares, including a “juicer” box full of juicable produce. They source their offerings from their own farm and several local ones, and deliver all throughout Washington. Members can choose to donate boxes or money to several charities, expanding the reach of the good the Klesick CSA does. The Klesicks also offer coaching and consulting on agricultural and business solutions.
Nash’s Organic Produce, Sequim, WA
Nash’s Organic Produce is another CSA that seems to have it all. In addition to the recipes available on the website, members get access to a weekly newsletter with recipes, health tips, and news from the farm. Farm share membership is also accompanied by a 10% discount on Nash’s products at their Farm store and Farmer’s Market stands. Pick-up is available at several Farmers market in several Washington towns.
So those are some of our favorite CSAs and Farm shares in the state of Washington. What are your favorites?