The Garden in Winterbrrrrrrrrr.

A winter garden can be every bit as beautiful as a summer garden.  Unless it’s a vegetable garden, in which case it’s just pathetic.


Walking into a barren vegetable garden in the middle of winter is like walking into your therapists office and finding them curled up in the corner crying and wearing a diaper with a pasta pot on their head.   It’s not encouraging.


But once a month or so in the winter I check on my normally therapeutic garden to see what’s going on up there.  Such was the case a week or so ago after a big snowfall.  There wasn’t any evidence of any humans being there for a few days but the rabbit tracks were everywhere as soon as I walked into the community garden.

Rabbits are kind of the reason I go up and check on the garden.  I want to make sure they haven’t eaten my leeks which should be ready to pick in the late spring.

Leeks are very important to me.  So is

Normally my garden brings me joy! A sense of accomplishment!  Much needed therapy!  But in the winter?  In the winter my garden just brings me a lot of resentment that it isn’t spring or summer.

Last winter the rabbits ate my leeks.  All of them.  From the tips, right down to the ground.  Fully nourished, they flourished, developed curvy Jessica Rabbit-like figures, mated, and gave birth later in the summer in the middle of my potato patch.

Pulling up rabbits. In my potato patch.  That’s a bit more impressive than pulling one out of a hat.

After a little bit of wandering and rabbit tracking (I also have a habit of following deer tracks, ambulances, police cars and the smell of french fries) I tromped towards  my garden gate.


NO rabbit tracks inside.  Just rolling beds of snow and the sad remnants of last summer’s garden, like dried asparagus fronds and the odd tool left out to get that much desired Country Living “patina”.

One of my hoop houses bit the dust (the hoops just fell over) but the other 3 were going strong even after strong winds and snow.  The shape of them lets snow slip off instead of settling on top.

Sad, sad, sad.  But it did get me thinking about how I’ll change these hoop houses for next year.  I need to get them a little taller for the massive kale plants I grow and the Brussels sprouts.

At this point in the garden tour my fingers were starting to really to hurt from the cold, otherwise I would have raised one of them high in the air in a salute to the season that finally killed my kale.  Not that I even really like kale all that much.  But still.  Someone needs to stick up for the kale.



And there they are.  My leeks.  Covered by a swath of row cover supported by some  homemade wire brackets.  So far protected from the rabbits, voles and mice.  And squirrels and chipmunks and deer and whatever else might be looking for something for their soup.

The rabbits have already made it known they’re comfortable with potatoes, I don’t need them to discover the magical combination that is potatoes and leeks.

After a bit of a walk around in my garden marvelling at how much neater compost  piles look when they’re covered in snow, I made my way out again to check on my raspberry bushes at the outside of my garden.  They were thorny and dangerous.  As predicted.

After about 15 minutes or so I packed up my things, shoved my hands back into my mittens and made my way to the car mumbling all the while about my aching fingers, the lack of sun, the desolate place the garden becomes in the winter.  Also I was quite upset I didn’t happen to have any french fries on me.



51 days until Spring. Until then I’ll be in the corner with a pasta pot on my head, going through seed catalogues.


  1. Jacquie Gariano says:

    We live in the Sacramento, CA area so have a much longer growing time than you do, Karen. I’m not much of a gardener but my daughter is. I’m always amazed at how much garden she gets into a small backyard. I’m the weeder, cook and preserver for that garden. Love the look of your garden even in winter, so many things to see. I do spend the summers in VT with my other daughter and try to garden but since I’m the only one taking care of it, it does not thrive. Maybe this year, inspired by you I’ll do better. A small one to see how I do.
    I do love, love to go through the seed catalogs and dream and dream. Such good looking veggies.

  2. Mary W says:

    It is just so sad to see it this way – the kale looked like a scene from the Walking Dead! Maybe they are scaring off the vermin. I love that word – heard the Major say it while talking to Basil in Faulty Towers. Only 13 episodes and I loved and remember each one and when I watch them, I still laugh – what a genius series it was. Now that got my mind off the kale. I love the picture you took of the tree and electric towers – white sky and white ground – really looks cold and wintery. Perfectly described in photo. You are a talented gal!

  3. Maggie Van Sickle says:

    I love Kale and u needed to go to the Collins for chips and gravy. Yum. You would have felt much better and by the way did not know leeks were harvested in the Spring. Learn something new everyday.

  4. Benjamin says:

    Even in winter and covered in snow your garden is beautiful.

  5. Jan says:

    Eagerly await all of your blogs. Your garden in winter reminded me of a fascinating article I read about the Armillaria gallice that runs beneath upperMichigan 180 acres of forest. 2,500 year old parasite growth. Unless this was Trumpian fake news? Was in the Star so… Sounds like the sort of thing that would fascinate you.

    • Donna says:

      Strangely enough, this is true news. Except it isn’t news, I read about this maybe 20 years ago and even weirder, there was a tv episode about this with Fox Mulder (remember that show?)

  6. linda in illinois says:

    great photos. cold and snowy here in Illinois as well. Freezing rain makes me cry but i know spring will come eventually. any Lufa seeds this year?

  7. Erin says:

    My outdoor kale finally met a similar fate. The kale in the hoop house is ok, but looking freeze-dried. It still works in soups.

    I’ve had luck cutting the mature kale stalk to the ground and having regrowth in the spring. Not from every stalk, but enough to get us some early greens. The spring leaves are smaller but very sweet. The carry us over until the new seedlings size up.

    Enjoy the seed catalogues!

  8. Lianne D says:

    I’m​ guessing your garden is far enough offsite to need your car to get there? I built your string tomato trellis last year, I need stronger string as mine disinterested at the plant base lol
    Love your ideas!! Thinking of doing Brussel sprouts for the first time (4 hours north of Toronto, so hopefully I’ll be successful)

  9. Lianne says:

    I’m​ guessing your garden is far enough offsite to need your car to get there? I built your string tomato trellis last year, I need stronger string as mine disinterested at the plant base lol
    Love your ideas!! Thinking of doing Brussel sprouts for the first time (4 hours north of Toronto, so hopefully I’ll be successful)

  10. Jan Bushfield says:

    Love the Canadian Living look of your watering can, but be warned…I have a much loved old enamelware pitcher, the gallon size used to pour coffee at church suppers eons ago…inadvertently left outdoors one winter and now it has a convex bottom and has to hang from a rope because it can’t sit on its bottom. The power of ice is astonishing. Your watering can may meet a similar fate!

    • charlotte tataryn says:

      Karen, if you tip the watering can on its side, when the spring melt begins, ah what a notion – we’re colder than Antartica, at -50oC with wind chill tonight, so not fit for man nor beast. I am grateful I am man, and have a house with a furnace, that hasn’t stopped running in days, maybe weeks.
      In any case, it’s the frost/ice heave that rounds the bottom of the can, so if on its side, the ice melts differently and the bottom remains flat. I once had no pots, but now I have big pots, although some of them are now purely ornamental simply because they are black, and IF, by chance I actually plant in them, I dump the soil, and turn them either on their side, or upside, down and I’ve been doing this for years, having never lost a single one. My plastic water cans, fake-Haws, have survived a few winters, likewise, and all that happened was my husband picked on up, pre-melt, and it was so heavy, the handle broke, but nothing that a screw wouldn’t fix. And in case, you know all this, “HI!” from one of your billion readers/fans!

  11. Katie says:

    I just did a stupid thing…I asked White Flower Farm for a copy of their catalog…I am excitedly dreading when it comes!

  12. Diane says:

    Can you share your favourite seed catalogues? I need to try some new varieties this year.

  13. Cathy Reeves says:

    As a budding painter, I’m digging that winter sky.

    • Dawn says:

      Cathy Reeves….
      Me too !

      Thank you so much much for your funny, witty and wise musings. You soothe my silly soul!

  14. Susan says:

    I live in southern Ontario about half hour from where you live Karen. Last year my husband put up a 20 foot by 28 foot double plastic hoophouse. Last fall I planted it full of hardy greens such as kale, chard, endive, spinach, bok choi, radichio. I cannot believe that even with temperatures going as low as minus 20 Celsius plants are still alive. Yesterday went into my summer paradise with temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius above zero. I follow what Eliott Coleman teaches about cold weather crops and what to plant. I just purchased 3 of his books and they are must read books for any hobby/farmer big or small that loves to grow. Four Season Harvest, The New Organic Grower, The Winter Harvest Handbook.

  15. judy says:

    I don know-to me your sleeping garden seemed so filled with hope and promise. Made me think of that Bette Midler song,beneath the bitter snow,lies the seed that in the spring becomes the rose.
    Not to be maudlin,but when one comes to old age(I definitely didn’t mean to come to old age-must have taken a wrong turn somewhere) Everything has a kind of wistful nostalgia about it,filled with possibilities,potential,mystery and happiness already reaped by the old and now the legacy of those with decades yet to be- so many springs,summers ,winters and fascinating experiences await and even a dull day is worth living. I know Karen and her readers know how to be thoroughly alive. She vibrates with Life!

  16. Lynn says:

    Ah, the woes of having small, vegetarian neighbors! Meet Bob the Groundhog and Sheba the Deer and Fred the Squirrel.

    Have you ever considered foraging in winter? I don’t know what grows up there north of the border (I’m on the mid-Atlantic, in Maryland), but here we have chickweed under the snow, and hairy bitter cress (which is neither hairy nor bitter). And onion grass. Finding that bit of edible green in the middle of an otherwise dead looking bed is a joy for me, even if I only pinch off a sprig to munch on. And then there’s the native spice bush. Break off a twig of that and have a lovely cup of tea. There are so many hidden adventures outside, even in the middle of winter, in the middle of the yard. Might even be some chickeeed waiting for you in that same, sad-looking garden, just waiting for you to brush off the snow!

  17. Robert says:

    I feel for you Karen. I look every day at my garden in my community garden here on the wind swept prairie in Saskatchewan and wonder if anything will ever grow there again. But, I know it will – even when it’s going to -30 tonight, and the frozen ground is harder than concrete six feet down!

    Spring will come

    • Karen says:

      I believe it will. :) -30 is colllllddddd. I think tonight we’re getting -23 overnight this week but by next Monday … RAIN! ~ karen

  18. Suz. says:

    We have a snowy owl wintering on our street. He is making inroads on our bunny population.

    • Karen says:

      Excellent! Snowy owls are sooooo beautiful. I mean yuck, and poor bunnies but … it’s the circle of life. ~ karen!

  19. LeeAnn says:

    I had a big garden once that is now just landscape.
    I am a lifetime gardener that ended things because grandma became too busy to care for the things she used to do with her time.
    I took down my beautiful fences and gates and hoop houses. I dug up and gave away my blueberries and raspberries and asparagus to a victim of Crohn’s disease who had to eat only organic everything.
    I, too, wander about in that space that was is the dead of winter and wistfully remember what you see and the hope of spring brings.
    Thanks, Karen.

  20. Marna says:

    Brrr looks cold! I grew up in So. California, if we wanted snow, we just drove 10 miles up my street into the foothills and then into the mountains during winter months.

    I would not like all that snow in a garden at any time! I hope your leeks survive it all! :)

  21. Martina says:

    “Leeks are very important to me. So is______” do we fill in the blank? And here I thought you walked to your garden…or was it too cold?

    • Karen says:

      LOL! I must have meant to fill in the blank myself and then forgot about it. So, yeah, let’s go with you’re allowed to fill in the blank for me. ;) And my garden is about 3 km away from my house so I never walk there. I’ll run there and back the odd time, but rarely because I’m usually bringing home produce or tools. ~ karen!

      • Ann Brookens says:

        Yes, I, too was wondering about that incomplete sentence. So the answer was “potatoes”? “The sanctity of my garden”? “Fluffy, ravaging bunnies”?

  22. Tracy Egan says:

    I just planted Brussels sprouts , beet, hollyhocks, sweet peas and a few other odds and ends. But then again, it was 82 here today in the Endless Summer Hell of southern California that i live in…. Your garden looks resplendent in its snowy winter wrap dappled with bunny tracks.

    • Susan Claire says:

      I too live in southern California, and for the past week it has been shorts, tank top, and flip flops. I still have a producing tomato plant from last year. Avocados and cherimoyas are waiting to be picked. I don’t think we have one season where we can just lay down the gloves and pruners.

      • Tracy Egan says:

        Yep, my tomatoes are still producing as well! It’s down to 75 today. I may have to put on a hoodie! Hahahhaaha!

    • Karen says:

      I had no idea you could plant brussels sprouts when it was 82 out! Let me know how they do. :) ~ karen!

      • Tracy Egan says:

        Fingers crossed yesterday was just a fluke…. Ned Stark promised me that Winter is Coming! Where is it, dammit!??

    • Melissa Keyser says:

      i’m also in California, but in the Central Valley. I can no longer deal with the endless summer hell. We’re selling everything we own and moving to New England in the spring.

      • Karen says:

        That’s quite a move Melissa! I love having all 4 distinct seasons, I’m sure you will too. ~ karen!

  23. Deborah Burns says:

    Sleeping garden… peacefully waiting for sun and warm temps!

  24. Paula says:

    I had no idea that you could grow leaks through the winter here. Did I possibly miss a post??!!!
    If not, then more details please.

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