Friday, October 18, 2013

Bringing Back the Winter Garden

Little things in life can sometimes make a huge difference for my overall wellbeing. When I fallowed my winter garden last year, to take care of the needs of my family, I never imagined that it would affect me psychologically. When times are tough and things everything seems to be going wrong, going out and seeing the growth of the plants is a real morale booster. After leaving my winter garden to fallow last year this small strip of sun baked soil is making a comeback.

Little Viroflay Spinach Seedlings Sprouting up

Recently, the school district I live in had a fall break which enabled me to have some time. This break, along with my wife lovingly taking the kids for a get-away gave me some time to get my winter garden set up. However, getting my garden set up turned out to be a little more complex than I had initially anticipated. The first in planting in my winter garden came with accessing that portion of the yard. The sweet potato vines had grown into the winter garden over the summer and I didn’t really want to cut them down. After talking with one of my daughters about the issue we decided that some unused water barrels would do just fine in lifting up the vines enough to clear out the area in the winter garden.
Rather than pruning the sweet potatoes I lifted them up with water barrels
My next dilemma came in working with the soil. The soil was incredibly airy and soft. In preparing my soil I leveled, then tamped down the soil to ensure that any water put into the ground would not run off onto the nearby Bermuda grass. Though trampling and tamping down regular dirt can be very detrimental to the structure of clay soils, it is very beneficial when working with an airy organic material-based soil. If the soil is too airy, then it can quickly evaporate leaving seeds to dry out. My last major undertaking in preparing my garden was the complex task of hooking an elaborate system of regular hoses, soaker hoses and Y-joints up to my garden timer. After getting all of that set up I finally was able to plant!
Some Jerico Lettuce seedlings

Though I was very concerned about plants sprouting I discovered, soon after planting that I saw small spinach leaves coming up. Spinach usually requires a cooler temperature – so this was good news for the rest of my seedlings. I then noticed the Jericho lettuce, with its delicate green leaves, seemingly sprouting up overnight. The beets and carrots have been coming up too – but the real celebration came when my first artichoke seed sprouted. For the last 3 years I had been waiting and trying to grow artichokes and had repeatedly failed by planting seed from an established seed company that turned out to be completely unviable. A more recent failure with growing artichokes from seed came when I had sprouted some seed in early September only to have the seedlings wilt during a hot September afternoon as a result of temporary problems with my watering system.

Peas, Onions and Carrots sprouting up
What I am trying to relate at this time is that I am looking forward to this winter's garden. I hope to let my children pick peas from their garden and have me experiment with McGregor’s beets in my garden. It is my belief that when life becomes complex and overwhelming there is wonder in taking a minute to go outside and watch the plants in my garden grow and flourish.

An Artichoke Sprout at last.



  1. Jay, I would be interested in giving you some cucumber melon seeds for another hairy variety that goes by the name "Bari Cucumber" If you are interested let me know, I will send them to you and pay for the postage myself. You can reach me at my email

    1. Dear Unknown seed sower,
      Thank you so much for the offer.
      Before doing so you might want to check my little shop located at


  2. I wish I could grow a winter garden. I just planted my garlic and have some carrots left under cover, but soon I will be gardening under grow lights in the basement and the garden will be put to bed.

  3. Jay - I haven't been to Blotanical in forever and tonight, I'm getting a "fatal error" when trying to connect to it. Soooo, I'll have to leave my message here but you can delete it. I thought you'd be interested in this article from Dave's Garden: It's about winter gardening in yer neck o' the woods.

    1. Dear SouthernRuralRoute,

      Yes - I am very sad about Blotanical. It seems that Stuart is working with some people who cannot get the website back up. It is quite a shame as Blotanical was a powerhouse website before the whole "pick" problem came about. I enjoyed the picks very much even if my blog was hardly picked because blog postings that start with "T" went mostly unlisted.

      Thank you so much for the link. Alas – Tucson is in an area that makes nasturtiums very difficult to grow. They die when it freezes (sometimes in October or November) and they will wilt when it gets too hot. My father gave me some seeds of a tuberous nasturtium that I hope will grow well somewhere.

    2. we are still waiting patiently for Blotanical to go live with the new beta. Work is in progress.

    3. Yes - I really miss Blotanical and hope that they come back up soon.

    4. As of today Blotanical is back up - but the page to sign in is not working properly yet.


Dear Gardening Friends,
I look forward to learning more about gardening with you. Your comments help me recognize that gardening is a life-long journey.

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