Posts Tagged ‘Winter Garden’

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with Momma Jane

My mom’s out here for a 9-day visit, and Momma Jane is the original CPL (Crazy Plant Lady) in this family. She’s had a gorgeous cacti and succulent garden for as long as I can remember, and she’s got a way with everything from orchids to ferns. After giving my indoor plants a spa day on Wednesday morning, we thought we’d spend today’s “balmy” 18-degree snow showers inside the greenhouses at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. This was David’s and my first time there, and we look forward to seeing the outdoor sculptures, plants and trees in other seasons.


Between Christmas trees decorated in styles from all around the world, Rodin exhibit, the Desert Room, Carnivorous Plant Room, a miniature city made from nuts, bark, leaves and mushrooms, the train, and the 5-story high Tropical Room, we plant lovers were in our element. I thought I’d share some of our favorite photos below. If they’re of me, or they look particularly artistic, David took the photos. He’s really a master at capturing just the right angles and interesting framing. 🙂


The above photos and the next one are in the entryway, filled with amaryllis, evergreens and natural light displays. Continue reading

First Real Snow Here!



Winter Greens and my PDC

Just two quick updates here:

  1. Yes, the gardens continue to produce in mid-January. We’ve had such weird weather here, ranging from minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit a couple weeks ago to 56(!) degrees last night. Between row covers and snow, the kale, miner’s lettuce, chard, and mustard are all still providing us with the tastiest of very fresh greens. I snuck out between rainstorms yesterday afternoon to harvest these yums for dinner and smoothies. I wouldn’t eat the chard raw, since it’s a little mushy, especially the stems, but when cooked, this frostbitten chard tastes unbelievably rich and chewy. One of our favorites!


      2. It’s official: I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and am now qualified to offer permaculture consultations, help individuals and communities design permaculture setups, and also teach permaculture related workshops. In order to teach the full PDC, I would need more training and an apprenticeship, because that course covers a massive amount of material; however, I’m qualified and open to teaching smaller, more focused workshops for people who want to learn about permaculture before committing to the time and money associated with learning the full spectrum of permanent agriculture and permanent culture.

Still Blooming!

It was minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit here last week, but on this afternoon’s walk through the yard, I noticed these little beauties still blooming strong:


Faery magic is alive and well in this yard! What’s really weird is that the hot pink hat, flower pin and scarf I felt oddly inspired to wear today match the primrose. Someone’s having a Midwinter giggle, scattering beauty across the frozen ground.

December Blooms

It’s 3 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but blooming bright and cozy inside Faery Hof:



Winter Wonderland Garden Update

First snowfall yesterday! Today, the yard looks like a winter wonderland, in delightful contrast with the lush and flowering indoor garden. Here are some photos to cheer you up on a chilly day. Well, it’s chilly here, anyway! A perfect day for vegan aronia-quinoa-cacao scone biscuits:

aronia quinoa scones



Flowering geraniums, a budding Christmas cactus, peppermint, a living palm screen, lettuce microgreens, aloe and jade in the southern window of our house:


The blue house offers a less sunny southern window for oregano, thyme, parsley, chives, aloe and a tree collard cutting, while Mr. Meyer Lemon seems to prefer my sunny southern office window, along with jade and snake plant companions. The office is still not finished, but at least the plants and crystals are happy!

Tonight we’re making a stir-fry and topping it with these homegrown Chinese artichokes, affectionately known by me as “the little dudes,” which I harvested on Friday alongside these self-sown carrots. Gotta love self-sown carrots! I harvested a few more before the snow arrived.

carrots and Chinese artichokes

Chinese artichokes are related to mint and will hopefully be a perennial if I harvested them right. The little dudes grow from the roots, and they taste a lot like water chestnuts. You can eat them raw, as I did yesterday, and we think they’ll make a fun topping to a mixed veggie stir-fry. They required zero work, just a contained plot and some water, until harvest, so I hope the remaining roots prove vigorous enough to grow again next spring.

Winter Garden Update ~ Plants Alive After Minus 15 Degrees!

We had some rain and above freezing temperatures, so I opened the cold frame to see if anything had survived the verrrrry deep freeze earlier this week. Um, wow. Many of my plants are still alive! I didn’t harvest much, but you can see some kale, tat soi and radish greens here:

January greens after deep freeze

David snapped this Suessian photo of our Winterbor kale earlier in the week:

January kale

That and the other two Winterbor varieties are still alive. The dwarf Siberian, lacinato and outside Red Russian kale all look pretty frostbitten, but the Siberian and Red Russian might make a comeback. I also lifted the shower curtain I have covering one of the InstaBeds with the tree collards, intending to overwinter that favorite perennial. It had about 8 inches of snow on top, but the tree collards, Lucullus chard, cilantro and leeks were all still alive with no frost burn, either. In the cold frame, the Lucullus chard looked less happy, but it remains alive, along with thyme, collard greens, beets, carrots and more. Pretty amazing.

We might be one of the very few local people to have greens growing after the insanely cold (minus forty with the windchill) early part of this week. We noticed our co-op had zero local greens and even minimum fresh offerings from elsewhere. I remember that from last year, which is one reason I felt so adamant about having a winter garden this year. No sign of my mache yet, but supposedly those seeds are super slow to germinate. We shall see…

Time to eat a stirfry with some of those fresh greens thrown in. Yay!

Winter Wonderland in Goshen

The frost faeries graced our porch this morning.

The frost faeries graced our porch this morning.

Even the Foo Dogs are cold!

Even the Foo Dogs are cold!

As of yesterday, the cold frame was hunkered down in two feet of snow, even after a brush off.

As of yesterday, the cold frame was hunkered down in two feet of snow, even after a brush off.

I harvested a bunch and a half of Winterbor kale before the heaviest snows piled on. (This photo shows about 4 inches less snow than we have.)

I harvested a bunch and a half of Winterbor kale before the heaviest snows piled on. (This photo shows about 4 inches less snow than we have.)

Snow time in Faery Town (houses courtesy of Grandma Van), but their train keeps running. :)

Snow time in Faery Town (houses courtesy of Grandma Van), but their train keeps running. 🙂

Where the morning glories were ...

Where the morning glories were …

Just inside from the above photo!

Just inside from the above photo!

This little birdie watches over the gnomes, foo dogs and faery homes. Minus forty with the windchill, but warm-hearted cheer on the porch!

This little birdie watches over the gnomes, foo dogs and faery homes. Minus forty with the windchill, but warm-hearted cheer on the porch!

Wow! The C-c-c-cold Frame Works!

It has been in single or negative digits at night for at least a week. Sometimes it didn’t even reach double digits during the day, so, as you can imagine, I haven’t exactly been messing with the cold frame. Yesterday, I even bought some rainbow chard when we ventured out to the Mishawaka Whole Foods. I’ve had this weird sense that all my plants were still alive under the cold frame, but Reason and others’ experiences would seem to have said otherwise. As far as cold frames go, ours is pretty thin plastic, and -2 degrees is the kind of weather that normally kills off everything but mache, which I haven’t planted yet. (Kicking myself. Actually, doubly kicking myself, since I could have planted it today. Doh!)

Anyway, today the temperature climbed to a balmy 30 degrees, so I clomped out in David’s slip on snow boots (mine are in the garage), armed with scissors, waterproof gloves and some optimism. Below, you can see the cold frame after I put it back together, having peeked inside and tromped around it to dump our (stanky!) compost now that the compost bin’s not frozen shut, as it has been all week:

Snowy cold frame

I would have photographed it to begin with, but I honestly had no reason to expect I’d have plants alive to photograph. I had put some row covers inside the cold frame, and David did engineer a way to keep the cold frame on and eliminate the drafts at the imperfect seals using tarps, clips, D-rings and cinder blocks. Go, David! It worked! OK, and I’m hearing some “Ahem’s” from the Nature Spirits and faeries whom I asked to “protect my crops.” Check out these greens!

Greens after negative two

The rhubarb red chard looks very unhappy and the garlic chives have melted into nothingness (until spring?). But everything else is thriving, especially the thyme. The Lucullus chard has even grown!

I bundled up the babies again after telling them how impressed I was at their hardiness:

Bundled up greens

Since most of the greens aren’t really growing, but just surviving, I harvested more modest amounts than I usually do. We’ll still have plenty for my favorite “whole messa greens.”

Greens harvested after negative two

It was -2 degrees F! It has been below 10 degrees for many nights on end. We have barely had any sunshine to heat up the inside, and those row covers supposedly only offer 5 degrees of protection. Someone’s been helping my greens survive … and I am grateful.

Winter Gardening, Cold Frames and a Greenhouse

We’ve had a few days of warmer weather in Goshen, so I pulled back the plastic from our cold frame to give the babies some sunshine and rain.

cold frame greens

The above photo was taken after harvesting this whole messa greens:

messa greens

It’s so great to have fresh, homegrown greens (and a turnip) in December! I’ve found that homegrown greens don’t refrigerate the same as store bought ones, so I’ve experimented and found a method that preserves them really well. I tear up the greens and de-stem them, then fill bowls and top with plates. This method works far better than any produce bags, drawers, paper towels or other experiments I’ve tried. The greens will store unwilted for many days this way:

greens storage

The cold frame has definitely made a difference compared to the open air plants of the same variety. Most of my uncovered chard — both rhubarb red and Lucullus — has turned to mush outside the cold frame. Inside, the rhubarb red still struggles a bit, but the Lucullus looks great. The Lucullus growing under an old shower curtain in one of the InstaBeds continues to grow, but very, very slowly, alongside some soon to be harvested leeks:

shower curtain instabed

Unlike chard, kale loves the cold. You can see four different varieties growing here:

various kales

So far, Winterbor seems the hardiest, even compared to Siberian and Red Russian varieties:


This winter gardening bug is really beginning to catch on in Elkhart County. This afternooon, four of us carpooled from Goshen to Elkhart to attend a cold frame workshop hosted by Elkhart Local Food Alliance (ELFA). I was the last stop for the pickup so that everyone could see what we have going on here first. Then we got to see our friends’ homemade greenhouse in progress, made from a repurposed garage frame, discarded windows and aluminum siding. The only thing they’ve had to purchase is the plastic for the roof:


Note all the wood mulch in the background. I never thought I’d say this, but someone actually has more wood mulch happening than we do here! It did my heart good since I am still slogging my way through Mount Mulchmore. As I told my gardening buddy Kimber: emphasis on the MORE! Sheesh, that’s a lot of wood and leaves. The ELFA folks visited some of the gardens/farms in Detroit this August, where they grow right on top of concrete. All it takes is massive amounts of organic material layered on top, hence all the leaves, compost and mulch everywhere.

We looked at a homemade lean-to style cold frame on the south side of the house, and then built a simple, untreated wooden cold frame topped by an old window:

cold frame workshop

This one rests on wooden blocks attached at the corners, so it’s a fairly low cold frame that would be supported on bricks to discourage quick rotting of the wood. Taller crops couldn’t grown here, but spinach would do well:

finished cold frame with vent

It was wonderful to see nearly two dozen people interested in growing their own winter greens and extending the growing seasons on either side of summer. On the way home, I realized that I could use my crates filled with soil as cold frame walls around my rosemary and then cover it with the small window I took home from the workshop. Moving those crates will be tomorrow’s project before our balmy weather turns bitterly cold:


Row covers will also go inside the hoop cold frame to add further protection from temperatures below 20 degrees. David cut some of my 6 foot long bamboo pole into 2 foot sections, which will support the row covers so that they don’t weigh down the greens.

I also had a welcome epiphany on the way home! I have been wracking my brain for how to fit a lean-to cold frame on the side of our house between the summer’s morning glory trellises and the outside wall. It’s a pretty skinny space, and I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. On the way home I realized that our landlord’s garage/workshop behind our house also has an unbroken southern exposure, but with open access. He already gave me free reign to plant whatever I want there, and I had wanted to grow hops on huge sunflowers. Well! If I mulch it out now with leaves covered with the rest of the wood mulch, I can let that rot down all winter. In the spring, I can lean several windows against the garage and put a couple straw bales on either end to seal it off.

That will make a toasty little cold frame to give sunflowers and hops or scarlet runner beans an earlier start, and then in the fall, once those have died back, I can plant some additional winter greens. My black raised beds don’t lend themselves too well to cold frames, and this summer, everything was already growing and lush with no room to plant winter crops. This new space might just work.

Adventures in Mad Scientist Gardening … the experiments continue. I’ve been talking with the folks at The Garden Tower Project in Bloomington, too. Looks like I may buy one of those complete units so that I have a living sample to show people in Goshen who don’t believe they can garden on very little land. One way or another, I’m determined to reach anyone with the teeniest interest in fresh, local food — through an edible front yard, vertical gardening, raised beds, kooky cold frames, and yes, a complete vermicomposting, 50-plant growing tower that would fit on a small patio. Yep, exciting times in the Land of Goshen … at least for me …