In Novembers past, following custom, my wife and I would put our garden to bed and give up on harvesting anything more.
This year, though, we have a new house with bigger grounds on the North Side. And we've been reading about four-season gardening, the practice of keeping plots productive year-round.
Short of building a full-fledged greenhouse, of course, we weren't expecting tomatoes in January. But with a relatively simple adaption we've had surprising luck with our greens. All it took was some translucent, heavy-gauge plastic sheeting and a bunch of small wire frames salvaged from those suddenly useless campaign yard-signs.
Once frosts began, we stuck several wire frames in our two biggest raised beds. At night, we'd just drape the plastic over them, and secure the edges with bricks and scrap wood. By day, we uncover them. And as of Thanksgiving weekend — and beyond the season's first snowfall — we're still pulling fresh mizuna, arugula and red-leaf lettuce. The swiss chard's held up, too. So have the kale and collards, even though we didn't bother to cover them.
We also learned about the hardiness of seemingly dainty leaves. One cold night the beds went uncovered, and the salad greens contracted a case of freezer burn. They were blistered and sad. I thought them done for, but they bounced back. And some of them will surely make it into lunch this very week.