Mary, Mary…How Does Your Winter Veggie Garden Grow?

I started a winter vegetable garden in early November, and blogged about how I built the raised bed on top of my concrete patio, using concrete block. Click HERE to see and read that post. I filled it with seedlings and seeds, but even after weeks of rain and warm temps, things barely grew. With the help of some gardening friend experts, I learned my soil was way too compact, allowing little drainage and oxygen. BUMMER!!

Here’s what it looks like today. The following plant close-ups make the garden look healthier, I think, than they really are at this point. But they are really pretty. I almost hate picking any of them.

Basically, I need to work in sandy loam to break up the soil, which means starting over.  I plan to do this when I plant my spring garden. Meanwhile, I keep cheering on what I started. The arugula seeds are thriving. (The company where I bought the 3 cubic yards of soil–a 50/50 Hummus mix which they recommended for vegetable gardens–took no responsibility for the impenetrable soil. What can you do at this point?)

The heirloom radishes (from seed) are filling in. Not sure what they will taste like.
Heirloom carrot seeds are up, but my garden friend thought the soil was so dense the carrots would not be able to form underneath. We will see.
The cauliflower actually seems to like the snug soil. Four of my five plants are forming heads. I read HERE that you are supposed to tie the leaves around them to help them keep their round shape. I also read that it’s not unusual for your largest, leafiest plants to not form heads.
This photo makes the spinach look much happier than it is. These leaves have been growing so slowly they must be tough as a sponge. They are a favorite of the sparrows. 
Green onions also growing slowly, but surely. I have had a lot of luck keeping out pests by covering the entire garden with a floating row cover, a light, mesh fabric that also insulates the plants. Also, I think the chilly nights (down in the 40s) knock back the critters.
I planted this mesclun lettuce seed several weeks ago and they are doing really well. I’m just waiting for a single snail, however, to mow them down in the night. (I have sunk a couple small bowls filled with beer, in case they want to party.) The garden expert told me that plants do best when they start from seed, rather than seedlings. 
Ahhhh. The snap peas. Now these guys appear completely happy, almost jubilant. I have to keep them covered because we have had a holiday heat wave here the last couple weeks. Today it is in the 80s! 
I can already imagine the pods in my stir fries.
I planted these lettuces from seedlings, and they are finally taking off. It doesn’t hurt to have the shortest day of the year behind us now. I made a salad with these greens and it was so tasty. The cilantro really seems to love the winter months and is growing like a weed. I had to tell my husband to stop buying it at the store.

So that’s it. Although it took me a while to get over the bogus soil (ARRGH!!), I am feeling heartened by these plants, and will just keep working on improving it. 

If you live in a temperate climate, how does your garden grow?

Click HERE to view pics of other creative veggie gardens.
So many wonderful veggie garden books to help us!
(click on link or image to buy)

The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden

Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips


4 thoughts on “Mary, Mary…How Does Your Winter Veggie Garden Grow?

  1. Wow! What a beautiful garden. And thanks for telling me about the cauliflower issues. I have trouble with some of mine. It all looks beautiful. I add extra soil to the tops of my beets and radishes so they don't dry out. I do the same with leeks. And that way they grow bigger.

  2. Instead of "sandy loam" you might want to consider adding horticultural pumice and organic compost to your soil. Dry-Stall (same as hort. pumice) in 40-lb bags, is available at many feed and tack stores. It is lighter than sand and helps maintain pore space in soil, but it also retains moisture. It is crushed to 1/4 inch and smaller, does not readily break down, and I am told it does not change the pH of the soil. Worked 25 to 30% of each (pumice and compost) into the top 6 to 8 inches in my raised beds, which otherwise contain native clay-loam soil. Each year, I add more compost. Good luck with your garden!

  3. Bravo! In spite of your compacted soil, you seem to be managing quite well in the veggie department! That arugula…gorgeous. Congratulations and good luck improving your soil in Spring! I'm just a little jealous over here in Brooklyn, NY, that you can grow all these things right now – ha! Living vicariously through you right now. 🙂

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