The weather has cooled off today—it’s only 85 not 98 degrees—and in honor of the cooler weather I’m gonna tell you about winter gardens.
Actually, I am going to tell you about our latest class on Winter Gardens. We were blessed to have Cathy Rehmeyer, Ph. D. come to the Big Sandy Community and Technical College Tuesday evening to do a presentation called Winter Gardening: The basic of growing your own in freezing weather. Cathy is a professor of Pathology at Pikeville College of Osteopathy and one of our local gurus of growing food in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
Cathy asked us if we liked bugs, weeds and daily watering in our gardens. “If the answer is NO” she said, “winter gardening is for you.” She told us how there are several vegetables that can not only survive cold temperatures but actually taste better with a little frost-ing. And while you can’t grow tomatoes and beans in an outdoor garden with no special apparatus, you can grow root vegetables, cucurbits and greens with only a low tunnel. And sometimes, not even that!
Cathy grew 250 pounds of food in her garden last winter and credits Eliot Coleman’s book The Four Season Harvest for her interest in growing food year round. That and her desire to feed her family only the freshest food possible. She uses the terraced wide row concept of gardening on her ¼ acre hillside within the city limits of Pikeville. For winter crops she uses her own version of a low tunnel that she can put up by herself in under ½ hour using only pvc pipe and Agrabond fabric on most beds, although she does use 6 mil plastic sheeting sometimes.
Some of the factoids I learned:
- winter carrots are sweeter because they create sugar to protect themselves from the cold-the colder the weather, the sweeter the carrot;
- the elevation of Pikeville is lower than the elevation of Lexington;
- Tanglegut, a mountain spring delicacy, is actually a form of Claytonia, a winter green;
- And weirdest of all, chickweed is wonderful grown in winter as a salad green.
I can’t wait to try a winter bed this year and I already have a starter patch of chickweed. Check out Cathy’s website, www.motherofahubbard.com, for more on growing good food.