The Winter Garden: Kamikaze Gardening Cont’d

Michael and I are novice gardeners, living in the heart of the ninth largest city in the country. I like to call it kamikaze gardening at its best. Now that the weather has finally turned cool again and we can actually spend time outdoors without dying of heatstroke, my thoughts have turned to growing a winter garden.

In my continuing effort to eat healthier, last week I visited my local used bookstore for cookbooks. I was specifically looking for books on cooking vegetables. I found two really great books: Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables and Simply in Season. What I love about both books is that the recipes are set up by season, and go along with the things you might grow in your garden. I can’t wait to try out all the recipes.

After perusing both books, and realizing there are vegetables that actually grow during the cold months, I announced to Michael that we absolutely had to go to our local nursery and plant a winter garden. A few weeks ago we spent an entire day in the garden, cleaning up after The Hottest Summer on Record, and planting a row of loose leaf lettuce. Since we don’t usually have our first frost until the very end of November, we figured we might be lucky enough to get another crop of lettuce before it got too cold to grow anything.

In the spring we had planted a gazillion miniscule lettuce seeds, but a huge thunderstorm the very next morning washed all but seven tiny seeds away. I found seven little lettuce plants scattered around the garden a few weeks later and transplanted them back to their original bed. I nurtured them all spring like they were my children. Despite the dogs’ best efforts at trampling them to death (before we got smart and erected a fence), for a few weeks in spring we had the best lettuce I’ve ever eaten. Then the extreme heat took over and pretty much did them in.

On Saturday we went to the nursery and bought chives for the herb garden, three broccoli, three brussels sprouts, two spinach, and two arugula plants. Since we had done such a good job in the spring of mixing our own compost into the clay soil, planting the new vegetables didn’t take long at all. Hopefully we’ll have delicious winter vegetables from our very own winter garden a little later in the season.

I’ve always been somewhat of a “granola” type, but even I’m surprised by how much I love growing things. Flower gardening brings its own sense of fulfillment and creates  beauty for the house, not to mention being good for the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, but growing our own vegetables and herbs is much more satisfying. I feel both self-reliant and Earth Mother-ish at the same time. Michael and I are making a serious effort to live more self-sufficiently, and this is a step in the right direction.








  1. A Wanderer

    A few years ago I listened to Barbara Kingsolver being interviewed on NPR (I want to say on Fresh Air) about her experience pledging only to eat what was produced locally, in season and ideally grown by her. She also wrote about the experience in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but I haven’t read it so I can’t speak to that. What struck me in her interview was her surprise and glee at starting the season with lettuces and aspargus and then ending it with various squashes. Looking at the year from an agrarian vantage point I think really connects us to who we are as people and the world we live in and off of.

    I love my garden and regret that I can’t devote more attention and time to it. Over the last several years it has been almost exclusively herbs (especially basil) with a sprinkling of tomatoes and peppers. If ever I moved back to TX, I would definitely grow okra again. I dream of a day when I can spend more time in the garden (I know priorities).

    I wish you a good growing season with minimal thunderstorm surprises and demolition dogs!

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks for reminding me about the Barbara Kingsolver book. I had wanted to read it when it came out (I love her books) but forgot. I would love to eat more locally grown food, but just haven’t taken the time to investigate further. I am actually surprised at how much less time I have to spend in the garden than I thought I would. Once the plants are in the ground it’s mostly just a matter of keeping the weeds out and making sure they aren’t being eaten alive by bugs. Michael put in a drip irrigation system so we don’t even have to worry about keeping the plants watered. I think he would turn the entire backyard into a garden if he had his way.

      Good luck with your herbs, tomatoes, and peppers! My tomatoes all died off when it got ridiculously hot this summer, but we have a bumper crop of jalapeno and habanero peppers.

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