Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Winter Garden

We have had many days below freezing but my winter garden is still doing very well.

Winter winds are terrible in my area of The Netherlands. I live in an elevated area, the Schimmert Plateau, as it is called. I re-emplaced this plastic several times until I finally got it weighted down enough to stand up to the winds. I also had to come up with a way to keep the plastic up off the plants. You'll see in the next photo that some of the carrots were burned by the cold from where the plastic, which in some cases had ice on it, touched the greens.

So I used some galvanized wire I found to make hoops to raise the plastic and create a better environment for the plants. In between the carrot plants are plastic bottles filled with water. These warm up during the day and slowly release heart during the night to keep the plants above freezing. The soil also absorbs heat during the day. I pulled one carrot out last week when I was checking the plants. It was about as big as my finger and very sweet and crunchy.

I should have planted more lettuce than I did. It is growing very slowly so I only get enough for one serving a week. But it is still a nice treat to have fresh, home-grown greens in the middle of the winter. In the early spring when there is more sun it will grow faster. We just don't get many hours of sunlight in the winter. Shorter Days. Because we are so far north we enjoy very long days in the summer and correspondingly short days in winter. The Winter Solstice, 22 December this year, is the shortest day of the year. In December daylight lasts for less than eight hours.  It is dark when everyone is driving to work and it is dark when everyone is driving home from work. On the chart below you can clearly see this. Also notice how long the days are in summer.  We get 19 hours of sunlight in June, which really helps things to grow nicely.

I still have some transplanted onions struggling to survive and I am hoping they will start to grow in the spring. I haven't had great success with growing onions from seed here, the soil stays too cold too long. But onion sets grow really good. Last year I couldn't find any but I'll look sooner this spring. I had a green pepper plant growing indoors, over-wintering, put it died while I was in the States on vacation. That's too bad because it would have had a great head start in spring. 

If I had more space I could probably raise all the carrots, lettuce, other greens, and onions that I would need through the winter. When I retire and finally move to my home in Pennsylvania I will probably do this on a larger scale.

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