Growing Lettuce in the Winter?!

snow march 2013 from inside high tunnel

Shh—do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of your favorite vegetables growing.

In the winter.

That’s right, Blue Moon Acres is still at it, even in January.

In concert with our Pennington Market’s new winter hours, we’re offering an array of in-season, local, New Jersey Grown veggies. Cabbage, leeks, scallions, beets, kale, collards, spinach, arugula, and baby heads of lettuce are either currently available, or soon to be.

These veggies are grown in high tunnels, which are essentially unheated greenhouses. High tunnels can add in excess of 20 degrees to the surrounding temperature, especially during sunny days. The plants are grown on raised beds, and during cold spells—like the recent ‘Polar Vortex’—are covered with reemay cloth, helping prevent frost.  Special, heartier seeds also play an important role.

Obviously, farming in the winter is not without downsides. Shorter days and colder weather make for slower growth rates. There are, however, some benefits. Subfreezing temperatures can have a sweetening effect on the vegetables, for instance. This happens because plants move glucose and fructose in order to hedge against frost damage. A cell with dissolved sugar is much less susceptible to freezing.

Another advantage is the absence of pests and insects, the majority of which are dormant. The threat of disease is also greatly reduced, as the water content within the high-tunnel remains more or less constant.

All in all, wintertime farming is a challenging prospect, but one whose results are well worth the effort.

But don’t take my word for it; stop by our Pennington Market today and see for yourself!