Snow on leafbags-kale_0793 When we talked with our gardeners last fall about extending their growing season there was not a high level of interest. Some people tried a fall crop of greens but that was about it. Our gardeners remembered 2014 as the worst winter in memory and did not think any effort would survive a similar season.

We merged our Extending the Growing Season/garden planning workshop with a workshop on stretching your seed potato as we thought that would be of more immediate interest. But when one of our gardeners brought in fresh kale and fresh spinach less than two weeks after the last (we hope) snow we made true believers out of those who scoffed at the idea that you could garden in the winter.

The photo sequence was presented to our gardeners.

leafbags on rasied bed

Photo one shows a “free” means of insulating the winter crop. Those are bags of leaves that are piled on top of planks across the plastic covering that holds in the warmth of the plants. All local scraps (except the leaves which were actually lifted from curbside in Charleston since the wind that blows through Big Ugly Creek’s hollow scatters our local leaves. [Question for Candace: should we estimate how long it took those Charleston homeowners to rake their leaves into bags and count those as leveraged volunteer hours?] Note from gardener: the leaf bags are only needed for frigid nights.

Photo two (at the beginning of this blog): The biggest snow we have had the day after the coldest temperature we can recall (19 below). No, those lumps are not a vehicle, or stray dogs or neighbors—that is the snow covering our leaf bags.

Photo three and four: Our spinach and kale brought to our March 26 workshop.



Spinich 3-15_0820


These fresh veggies elicited the following comments:

“I believe I’ll try that next winter.”
“That kale and spinach looks awful good”
“If you can grow it through this winter you can grow it through any winter”

Instead of ½ dozen people ordering crop cover or thinking through how to use plastic for similar results we expect a majority of our gardeners to try to grow well into cold weather.  IMG_0815

(Photo five: Kale brought to our March 26 workshop–after the last big snow)

Our leaf bag gardener shared “I‘m pretty proud of this,” to which a veteran gardener replied, “You oughta be.”

She acknowledged that for much of the winter it looked like we had debris piled up in the yard and had not cleaned out our raised beds. This technique is not going to get us into Better Homes and Gardens.

But if gardening isn’t always pretty it sure does taste good. And it sure does provide hope after a long and difficult winter.