Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 49

What to do this week

This week, I have been thinking about four-season gardening and those greens you have in the yard that might be still alive. Kale will be fine, so long as you can find it under the snow, but you may even have some chard that hasn’t turned to mush yet. There are some things you can do to keep it going all winter, if you have the time now. You might even want to take some action with your kale, just so you can find it.

One way to keep the delicate things going all winter is to cover them with row covers, even if they are inside your greenhouse. This will be like making a little greenhouse within a greenhouse, double protection. You can keep your salad greens going all winter this way. They won’t grow, but they will stay alive for the picking.

Kale in winter. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

Kale in winter. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

If you have a bed of delicate greens, like lettuces or Swiss chard, out in the open, you can try row covers and hoop houses together. Hoop houses are made with metal or plastic rods that are bent into a hoop shape and fastened to the ground, then covered with greenhouse plastic. Row covers are made with spun-bonded polyester. The fabric is usually somewhat opaque. Start with the polyester row cover and then cover that with a hoop house. This double protection will serve the same function as a simple row cover within a greenhouse. It is going to get cold. I know it is hard to imagine, but here we are in Cape Breton after all.

Be sure to pick your winter, outdoor greens when the temperature is above zero. Even if your kale is out in the open, where it can apparently freeze and thaw and just not die, you want to wait for mid-day to cut it. If you cut it when it has ice crystals, the crystals can shatter the cell walls an damage the greens.

My kale is out in an open field. I don’t usually make row covers there. The covers just wouldn’t survive the winds I get in Skye Glenn. But you can set up hoop houses over yours if your garden is in a more protected area. It won’t need the double protection, but the hoop house will be your marker in the snow drifts.

I was just out in the yard the other day and see that I have a whole row of chard that still looks really beautiful despite having been snowed on and frosted. I know that once the snow comes that chard is going to turn to mush, but with just a little bit of protection I could be harvesting that chard all winter. I might follow my own advice this week. I do have celeriac in my greenhouse, and I will be putting a row cover on that. I’ll have lovely fresh celery leaves all winter.

If all of this construction is too much for you, with the other things on your list this time of year, but you do have chives or parsley still, dig some up and put it into pots for the indoor porch windowsill. I talked about this a few weeks ago, but if you didn’t get to it, it is still worth a try. It is a bit late, so anything you dig up now will get set back a bit with the move. It doesn’t cost anything to try. With luck you will be happy you did it, once February rolls around.




Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.





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