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A little fieldwork


Spent about four hours out in the field. The feeling of calm satisfaction as you head in after doing some work in the garden never fails! I dug up about half a bushel of carrots to see how they’ve done. These are, I think, Nelson and Danvers Half Long (the BIG ones)—the label stakes were out, so I couldn’t immediately check the varieties, it’s not necessarily that easy to tell! They’re mostly in fine shape. On a few, the inch or two exposed above-ground had frozen and thawed, leaving the top tips spongy and mushy, but this didn’t affect too many. I can probably get a couple of bushels! This mid-January harvest is actually consistent with last year, except for the extra 6-7 weeks of RealWinter… I also mulched the garlic, leaving a couple of beds clear as a test (I’m not sure how useful an experiment that is, since I’ll mulch them for moisture and against weeds first thing in spring…). Anyhow, a bit of winter fieldwork…

Garlic beds

As for mulch, I continue to have high hopes for the grass mulch, and it’s doing great so far! Here, the first bed on the right was mulched in November, the next is just-mulched from clear leaf bags that’d been in the greenhouse, and the rest of the beds are covered with mulch gathered from the load spread on the greenhouse floor (it’s darker, the stuff in the bags got more sun-bleached). I refined the spreading method I was wondering about earlier. No wind is quite critical, then, simply grabbing big clumps and shaking them out seems to do the trick. You’ll figure out the right…technique after a bit. A 50′ bed takes about 10 minutes. For final touching up, a simple pointed stick I found works best (I used a broom handle, but something pointier would be even better), you just stick it in clumps and shake ’em around, whereas tools with multiple tines tend to gather the clippings rather than disperse them.

Bagging mulch

These inexpensive ($12) bag holders are great, as long as there’s no more than a breeze (here, they’re in the greenhouse). So simple, so…handy! They’re even reversible, to hold large or small bags!! Ahhh, the simple pleasures of a simple life… :)



  1. I’m still picking carrots too. The frost here has made them extra sweet and yummy. It’s my first year of avoiding the dreaded carrot fly too, so I’m extra specially pleased to have them. I use grass mulching too from our lawn and allotment mowings – it’s great at keeping the weeds down and the overwintering mulch like yours gets the beds into great shape for spring planting.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Just to let you know I’ve tagged you on my blog today as I find your posts so inspirational – thank you!

  3. Katie

    I’m jealous. You got to actually do something outside!

  4. Thanks, VP!! “Inspirational” is a strong word indeed (I’m a bit of a literalist :). I’ll try and continue the chain…

    Katie, aren’t you in evergreen California?! (I’m really fairly clueless about the climate elsewhere than here…though I’m picking up stuff!)

  5. Yup, it’s good stuff – and likewise, you’re tagged mate. Any tips about how to stop the mulch blowing away?

  6. Mike you’re very welcome and I meant every word! I look forward to seeing who’s next in the chain…

  7. It is interesting to see some one leaving the carrots in the ground into the winter months. We tried that experiment this year, too. The snow here has stayed on the bed since November. The last carrots we dug in early December tasted great. I hope your carrots turn out as sweet. BTW, great blog.

  8. hedgewizard: I thought about it blowing away afterwards. I’ve heard of high winds blowing off straw mulch, and I think someone mentioned using chicken wire over it, which sounds kinda extreme. With much finer grass mulch, I’d just water it down. Ten minutes under sprinklers, or a quick pass by hand with the fan spray nozzle ought to do it! Luckily, post-mulch wind wasn’t a problem with this unusual mid-winter mulching, ’cause the hoses are all put away…

    Dee: It wasn’t exactly a PLANNED experiment, they got caught under that unexpectedly early snow in November! :)

  9. Mary Blake

    When you leave the carrots in the ground all winter, do you clip the tops down a bit to cover them with straw or grass clippings?

  10. Mary Blake: I don’t leave carrots in the ground to overwinter here, so I don’t have any experience with mulching or clipping the tops. From what’s happened here, after the ground and the carrots freeze solid, the carrots are toast, when they thaw out in spring, they’re all mushy. If you don’t have really cold winters, or you can pile on enough mulch to keep the ground from freezing, then they can stay in. Eliot Coleman, in his unheated winter greenhouse work (he’s in Maine, which is almost the same conditions as where I am in Ontario), harvests carrots through the winter, planting them later in the summer for growth, and then harvesting them through the winter. In the greenhouse, the ground won’t freeze because the daytime temperature will always be warm (greenhouse effect), even while the temp will plunge into the subzero at night. You may want to read Coleman’s Four Season Harvest for lots of interesting, easy-to-do stuff for winter, with unheated greenhouses and cold frames (building a cold frame is a simple, space-efficient season extender project). Unfortunately, I haven’t even started to explore the full winter side of cold climate gardening, but there are lots of possibilities!

  11. Eric from Maryland

    Where’d you find the bag holders? I’ve been all over looking for a simple wire leaf bag holder, with no success. Made one from 1/2″ PVC pipe a couple of years ago, it finally fell apart this year and I’d like to find something more durable. Thanks!

  12. Eric: I got mine from a chain hardware store, Home Hardware, here in Ontario (Canada). I imagine if they’re stocked in chains, a factory somewhere is churning them out, so they should be reasonably easy to find. Some hardware stores will order in stuff they don’t normally have in inventory if you ask!

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