I have also very much enjoyed the fall/winter/spring garden up until the point that it stopped being really really hot (well into January) and started being really, really cold. Here’s that story…
This garden began, as usual, with pigs. They did a great job rooting it up for me. I built it in sections, since I don’t plant all the vegetables for this season at once. I go for what is easy to grow when. First, right as September hits, I sow turnips, radishes, Asian greens and mustard greens. In October, when it’s starting to be more pleasant out, and less hot and damp, I start cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, collard greens, and lettuce, and I seed beets, parsnips, salsify, rutabaga, and herbs like parsley, chervil, dill and cilantro. I’ll do a second planting of any of those things, or catch up if I’m behind in November and December. After December, I don’t plant any Asian greens or mustards until after the equinox. The warm/cool temperatures make them bolt very quickly.
Moving the pigs and planting after them made it look rather messy as I was planting it, but it all got done in the end.
It’s not my best garden by any means. I found the hot weather challenging. I had, for the first time in a long time, pest problems like flea beetles, eating holes in everything. Usually frosts are my biggest thing to worry about in the fall and winter. I still don’t have frost cloth. I wake up really early and slither and crunch around in dark and the frost to turn on the sprinklers to hopefully defrost everything before it gets hit by the sun and damaged.
This was all fine until the really, really cold weather hit. I thought we were going to get to spring with the merest dustings of frost – not necessarily a good thing for the pests and parasites of the next season though. But it seems like just when things are at their height, going along and seeming to go along forever and ever, it all changes.
We had had a week of frosty mornings when a very very cold spell hit us. Every night I made a big, roaring fire in the stove that damped down to a bed of glowing coals that kept us toasty warm until the first cock crow, when I had to get up and stoke the fire again. We have spent all of the cold weather being covered by cats at night. Every cat (there are a lot of them) wanted to curl up with us in the loft – except for Tabsie, who is too rolypoly to make it up the ladder. Some of them don’t get along, so there was always a fuss to sort out at bedtime. I ended up many nights with Hobbes, who feels like a sack of cement, on my legs (his nickname is Hunky Hobbsie. He’s very much a hunk), and Thomasina on my chest, who is lighter but kneads between your ribs and puts them out of place while you are sleeping, and the three little cats spooning on my face all around my head. I would wake up from some strange dream and feel like I was drowning in fur. The other cats were scattered around on Rose and Clo. So it was quite an effort to get up and put wood on the fire!
That very cold morning when I got up, I shivered as I dressed, thinking the fire had gone out. Ethan had recently split new firewood, and I had started using the new logs as we were running very low on the dry wood. But the fire was burning nicely. I bundled up and went out into the white, frosty dawn, started the kettle, and tried defrosting the sprinklers. The first line went on, but all the water froze instantly in huge icicles along the fence. The middle sprinklers were broken from the frost. I’d left the water dripping, but it had frozen over. At one point, I brushed against the metal gate and my sweater stuck to it. I had to break free. All over my clothes where any water sprayed froze instantly, and I ended up all covered with ice.
The garden was very sad after that. We picked all the ripe strawberries there were in the field, and they were frozen through as if we had gotten them out of the freezer! I gave up after awhile and turned everything off and went to defrost myself inside. Clothilde is doing a weather journal for homeschool, and when we checked our thermometer (which might not be really accurate after being handled by a 3rd grader for months now) it said 14 F! And that was at 10:30 in the morning.
So all the green glory of the garden was gone. It was apparently the coldest night in ten years. I’ve been focusing on getting my summer garden going this year instead of worrying about losing everything. Many things are regrowing, and there is still a lot of wonderful things to eat. The lemon trees and a lot of the wild sour citrus growing under the oak trees froze. The bamboo froze. Anything summery was obliterated. But we have kale, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kohlrabi, and spinach still – which is a lot. And many things are already regrowing. The strawberries are flowering again. And the wonderful thing about gardening – there is always the next season to look forward to!