January 20, 2014

Winter Gardening Monday

Our first winter garden of kale and swiss chard.

I love biking to our garden to harvest greens all through the winter. Living in Canada, I feel distinctly privileged to be able to do so. And while it doesn't increase our 'food security' by much (we would starve if we had to rely on it), it does allow us to grow at least a bit throughout the year.

For most of my life I lived in a growing zone more suited to snow people and skiing than to gardeners. I am talking where the season begins in late May if you are lucky, and ends in September. Or earlier.

Everything in between was frozen ground, snow, ice, and a noticeable lack of anything green. That is why I am enjoying winter gardening now that I live in the country's  mildest climate on the west coast.

No strawberries
till spring.
Extending our garden through the winter is something we are just beginning to explore. Like most Canadians, we didn't even think it was possible until fairly recently when it was promoted in our community garden.

This winter we are taking baby steps and are starting with kale and chard, and are learning that there are  benefits to gardening this time of year. First of all, there are no pests, weeds don't grow, and you don't have to water. Actually, there is not much to do at all except harvest and enjoy.

The trade-off is that things grow slowly, depending on the weather. This winter has been mild so far, and we have been harvesting greens regularly since the spring, although less as winter deepens.

Fresh winter chard.

While the number of things that can be grown during winter on the Pacific is reduced, there is still a pretty impressive list for off-season green thumbs. A simple green house or cold frame can expand the possibilities.

Perennials coming
up already.

The coastal gardener can choose from parsnips, beets, turnips, leeks and carrots, that will grow through the fall and into December. Then there are winter greens like kale, spinach, chard, arugula and broadleaf cress, as well as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli that will grow through to spring.

A winter garden can keep our bodies and spirits well through the dark cold days as we wait for warmer weather and a full garden.

Fresh kale for a green smoothy.


  1. Gotta love those smoothies, I partake daily too!

    1. T.M.,

      We are totally hooked on green smoothies. It is important, though, to rotate the types of greens used, so we cycle between kale, chard, and lettuce (red, green, or Romaine).

      Add some soft tofu and you have a yummy, healthy and quick meal in a cup!

  2. Anonymous1/20/2014

    Wow, you are fortunate! I live in Northern SK and it is hard to imagine that somewhere in Canada a garden can be grown in January...

    1. Anon,

      I know! I didn't realize it was possible until moving out here from the prairies. However, one of the nicest gardens I have ever experienced belonged to my grandparents, and they lived in Humbolt, SK, just east of Saskatoon.

      While their garden did not grow in winter, it made up for it during the hot prairie summer.

      Stay warm!

    2. Anonymous1/21/2014

      We are not too far from Humboldt and yes, the garden sure produces in the summer! We are able to eat onions, carrots, potatoes, and frozen veggies through the winter. I enjoy your blog - keep up the good work!

  3. Anonymous1/21/2014

    So jealous here in the sub freezing temps! :-)

    1. Miss Marla,

      I am more used to growing icicles on the tip of my nose during wintertime. Stay warm - spring is on its way.

  4. Leeks, kale. onions , parsley, sleeping rhubarb , ...and three lasagne beds and a compost heap cooking away here ! Cornwall England

    1. Daisy Debs,

      Thanks for checking in from Cornwall, England. Because of the maritime influence in both places, I believe we have a similar kind of mild climate.

      Thank you for mentioning your lasagna beds - I have never heard of these before. I like that they are touted as an easy method that requires no tools, chemicals, or digging. That is my kind of gardening.

      Happy winter gardening!


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