How We Manage our Organic Garden in the Winter

Wintertime is upon us here at Halter Ranch! As the days have grown shorter and colder, we take this time to reflect, recuperate, and reinvigorate. Over the past few weeks, our mornings out here have been frosty and wet. The fruit trees have almost entirely lost their leaves, the last remaining summer crops that were not frost hardy have died off, and the winter rainstorms have begun. Winter is not my favorite time of the year, but it allows for next year’s crop/season plan to start taking shape. Stick around for an update on how our cover crop is doing, what winter crops we have in the field right now, what kind of seeds we are picking out for next season, where to get your seeds, and pruning our fruit trees.

If you read the last blog, you know that I spread cover crop seed over most of Le Jardin du Chef this winter. Planting a cover crop has many benefits for the soil, microorganisms, and pollinators. I first spread organic approved gypsum, sulfur, and compost in the field and tilled it in. After that, I broadcasted a cover crop mix of peas and oats into each block of the field. Once the seeds were spread, I used a rake to incorporate them into the soil. I timed this before it rained so I would not need to irrigate the cover crop seeds. Following a week of wet weather, our pea seeds began to sprout. I am thrilled! I hope we continue to get some rain so that our cover crops can continue to thrive.

Besides cover crop, we have a limited amount of produce growing in the field. The garden currently provides mustard, mizuna, lettuce, arugula, kale, radish, edible flowers, and some broccolini to the Tasting Room. Unfortunately, since the days are shorter and colder, we have slower growth, and our crop yield is much lower. I will continue to harvest these crops through winter and then allow that section of the garden to take a rest by planting another cover crop in early spring.

Working on the crop plan for the 2022 growing season is a lot of fun and allows me to daydream about all that is possible next year. I order seeds from Johnny’s Seeds and High Mowing Seeds; both companies have exceptional organic seeds. Next year I want to grow a consistent supply of lettuce and greens for Chef Paul Arangorin. I will be looking for lettuce seeds that are heat tolerant and can withstand the hot Paso Robles summers without bolting too early. I try to pick interesting varieties that people typically don’t see in grocery stores or farmer’s markets, for example, black radish or speckled endive. Before ordering my seeds for the season, I work on calculating how many pounds of a particular product the Tasting Room will need per week. After calculating, I have a better idea of how many pounds of seed I will need for the entire year. Last season I grew a little bit of everything, and this next year I will be focusing on growing a few select crops but diversifying the varieties. Make sure you check out our menu when visiting the Halter Ranch Tasting Room to see what garden-fresh veggies we’ve got growing!

An important task I am working on this winter is pruning the fruit trees in Le Jardin. Pruning fruit trees is crucial. You want to prune fruit trees in winter or early spring while the trees are still dormant. When pruning, you are looking to remove any dead, dying, or diseased branches. You will also want to prune off the shoots that sprout up from the base of the tree and thin and clear out the center of the tree. This action allows air and light to reach different parts of the canopy in the tree, thus increasing fruit production and decreasing the risk of fungal issues that could form later in the season. There are plenty of additional online resources that can help you navigate specifically what to prune and what to leave for the following season

So far, I am very happy with how this winter is going. I got the cover crop in at the right time, and it is sprouting! I am still harvesting lettuce and various other greens out of the garden, and there are several other crops sprouting in the greenhouse. My plans for the 2022 garden are starting to emerge, and I will be ordering the seeds once I finalize the seed count. I am waiting for drier weather to prune our fruit trees, and then I will hit the ground running in springtime with a healthy and flourishing garden. I am excited for the new year and thankful to have these winter months to work towards an organized and productive growing season in 2022.

My plans for the 2022 garden are starting to emerge.

Here at Halter Ranch, we take the health of our soil seriously. It is our job to manage the land in sustainable ways to maintain the vitality of our planet and our ecosystems. I am honored to be able to steward this land in sustainable ways. If I did not take care of our soil in Le Jadin Du Chef, I would not be able to grow healthy, delicious vegetables for Chef Paul.

Make sure to check back in with us in late winter to get a head start on ideas for your spring garden!

Date Published: January 07, 2022

Category: Blog

 Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove, Estate Culinary Farmer