My Winter Garden

Fall has arrived early in Athens. Summer heat typically persists through September and into October. Not this year. Aside from a few muggy days, September has been wet and unusually mild — perfect planting conditions for a fall/winter garden.

High temperatures and dry conditions usually prevent me from planting anything before the middle of November. By then, garden centers have been picked over. Last wee, I popped by just in time for a shipment of fall veggies and picked up Romaine lettuce, Bibb lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower (which turned out to be cabbage).

A six-week head start this time of year is huge. Shorter days slow growth as plants shift energy to developing roots. Bigger, more robust plants going into the winter will make a difference. Lettuce should be available for harvest all winter.

The challenge was finding good spots for the new plants while minimizing damage to the zinnias and other lingering summer bloomers. I ended up reclaiming a section from an overly aggressive creeping juniper. To make still more room, a rampant creeping phlox crossed the rainbow bridge.

Freezing temperatures are the biggest threat. Prolonged exposure would be fatal. Fortunately, the mercury rarely stays below freezing for more than a few early morning hours. The sheltered location helps. My first winter garden survived overnight dips into the teens with only minor damage.

Growing vegetables is always a gamble. Thanks to heat, a lack of rain, and an abundance of plant-munching pests, my summer crop is almost always disappointing. I’ll take my chances with the cold.