By now nearly all of my outside raised beds in the garden have been put to rest with cover crop and a blanket of straw. Perennial herbs and pathways are newly dressed with wood-chip mulch, and tender hanging baskets have been brought inside. Still, there are opportunities for winter vegetables with a little extra effort.
|The enchanted Swiss chard forest in December|
A star of the garden this past year has been 'Bright Lights' chard, with another bumper crop this year, and quite a few of the volunteer seedlings carefully transplanted to the front and side yards for use in the "edible landscape." If you want to add edibles to your manicured front yard, this selection is outstanding for color, structure and it holds throughout the year. When it finally bolts to seed there is a spectacular tall (over 5') spike that rises and produces thousands of seeds... so cut that and lay it down where you want a new patch.
Garlic has been planted for next season, and the herbs all neatly trimmed with a final harvest in late fall going to the drying shed. There are still a few late artichokes on my established plants, and the foliage adds a striking evergreen texture to the front yard landscape.
|The tomato house - center lid left in place|
|Access to the tomato house via end panel|
|Small cold frame by peach tree - doing temporary duty storing straw|
|Gull-wing cold frame - designed to fit SW facing nook|
Important on the coast is to provide a way to secure the lid for high winds. The last thing you want is an airborne lid crashing through your neighbor's window... or some other tragedy. Also be sure to create a sloped lid on your frame, so that more light enters from the south. Remember the sun is at a very low angle at our 45-degrees-north latitude in winter; a box with equal sides will create too much shade inside for your plants. If you create a very tall frame like our tomato-house, be sure there is access on the sides for planting, harvesting, etc. It will be impossible to manage just from the top.
|Detail of lid construction - note angled top edge|
Additional resources - great books I use on this topic include Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest and Gardening Under Cover: A Northwest Guide to Solar Greenhouses, Cold Frames, and Cloches