The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Garden hardiness after hard winter freeze

Row cover in the snow

I was very curious to see how the garden had dealt with abnormally low temperatures while we were gone.  Row covers actually didn't seem to have made much difference, probably because we had a heavy snow cover before the cold spell that helped insulate the plants.  Broccoli pretty much kicked the bucket whether it was under the row cover or not while greens were happily growing in both places.

By Tuesday afternoon, the snow had melted enough that I could roll back the row cover fabric and check on the lettuce as well.  These salad greens seemed to be midway between broccoli and cooking greens in their tolerance to the cold, with lots of frost-damaged leaves where the lettuce had touched the cold fabric but also enough fresh leaves that I could pick and choose a nice salad for supper.  (I added in some young kale for variety and topped it off with a winter version of our sweet corn, bean, and tomato salad.)

Frost tolerance of Bibb and Black-seeded Simpson

We grew two different varieties of lettuce this fall --- Bibb on the left and Black-seeded Simpson on the right.  Black-seeded Simpson is usually my favorite since it stays sweet for a long time and is well adapted to our local climate, but the mayor of our closest town, who also runs the local hardware store, gave us some Bibb seeds to try out and I decided to give them a shot.  I won't be trying Bibb again.  As you can see in the paired photos, Bibb seemed much less tolerant of freezing snow cover than Black-seeded Simpson, and I also find the leaves a bit coarser and not as sweet.

Of course, for next year I know that I should try some of the even more cold-hardy winter greens like spinach and mache.  And I can definitely see the merits of quick hoops now --- I suspect the lettuce leaves wouldn't have been nipped at all if the heavy snow hadn't pushed the fabric down on top of them.  For this winter, though, I just count us very luck to be eating sweet, fresh leaves on the Winter Solstice. 

Our homemade chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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