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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kale House

When the garden found itself in the strong grip of autumn, I realized that there was more kale growing than I could dehydrate and freeze before plummeting winter temperatures would kill the plants. I decided at the last minute to build a house around my kale.

The plants already had a single slab-wood frame around them, from last year's early planting when I covered these frames to make low profile greenhouses. (You can see the beginnings of this frame in the Vegetable Jail Season Extension and Life within the bed covers posts from last March.) At this point, however, the "dwarf" curly leafed kale had clearly outgrown its original cold frame.

Fast forward a few months to today, and the earth has tilted away from the sun, making the world white. (This photo is taken from the same angle as the photo above it.) I learned a thing or two about snow load this winter -- for looking so fluffy, that white stuff is really heavy! 

This is the temporary entrance to the kale house. I ran out of time before winter set in, and was only able to partially complete the structure. The good thing about a makeshift door is that at least I can open it, and it isn't frozen shut like some of my other, better-built beds! (There is no prying them open, now...)

Despite the setbacks of a deep freeze before the roof was on, and roof failure after the snow came, I crawled in there today to find green plants!

Lovelies! A little worse for wear, but definitely hanging in there.

One of the more difficult things about a winter garden is remembering to water it. In this photo you see snow that came in when the roof failed. However, in places where the soil is exposed and has been cut off from all precipitation, it is remarkably dried out. I carried warm water in jugs down to the garden today and gave everybody a little drink.

When spring comes, these plants will be ready to make a comeback. Along with the Swiss chard inside the tipi greenhouse, they will be the first to produce. And since we are now locked out of the carrot beds due to thick ice and icy snow on the lids, it looks like we will harvest carrots in early spring, too!


  1. At last i found our dialoge! I didnt see that i wrote in 2015 year! Haha
    Well.... season extension techniques: not many. This year we installed green-house. So we will start with tomatoes earlier this spring. Here everything is so different from your place! Now deep-deep winter. We had -20-25 (C, -30 at night!!) some days. Much snow. Winter is time of anabiosis for all plants.
    Spring often gives us at once +30 (in May).
    About grape: we have special varieties of course. They should stand cold. More important is technique: to choose right place in the garden, to cover bushes for winter, to open grape at right time in spring.
    Could you see pictures, Julie? Then i will try to upload other pictures with our "techniques".

    1. Hello Larissa, it's nice to hear from you! Yes, I could see your pictures and enjoyed them very much. Thanks for sharing. In particular, your strawberries and grapes ( are amazing! We often think of tomatoes when we think of greenhouses, but my favorite options have been earlier and later greens, like lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach. Of course tomatoes do better also, but I love to eat veggies as early and as late in the year as possible. I wonder just how different our climates are. We can have -20 or -25 C here also in winter, as well as +30 C in May, depending on the year. It amazes me just how cold tolerant kale can be, with a little protection. The greatest amount of snow around here since 1983 seems to be 95" or 241 cm, the lowest just under 30" or 76 cm in 2001. It would be really interesting if you grew a mature kale plant by September of next year inside your greenhouse, how long into the winter it might last. Thanks for sharing info and pics from your garden!

  2. Hello again, Julie.
    Very interesting to watch your experiments with keeping plants alive in winter. Here - impossible. Well... may be possible with special greenhouse (with heating).
    Our garden is just garden for summer. In winter we live at city appartment. So... garden is there, under thick blanket of snow.
    Julie, i think, your climate is very good for grape. At one of pictures (that i give link) you can see how we grow grape here. Plant are at boxes, covered with roofs for winter. And your climate is much warmer.
    In spring we take off covers and just watch that vines dont burn of bright sun or do not freese.


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