OK, I'm really going to put up some low tunnel, cold frame type structures for at least a couple of the raised beds. I've been saying it for a few years, but I've found new inspiration.
A great pictorial tutorial by some folks who own a farm in British Columbia, just north of the Idaho panhandle. (Thank you Grunt & Grungy!) inspired me with their detailed description on how they did theirs. You can check it out here:
Grunt & Grungy's Low Tunnel
I'm considering combining their design with an interesting article I read about Eliot Coleman's version of a low tunnel using a double cover combination of frost preventative/insulating row cover fabric and clear plastic because I don't want to run a heater out there (too many dogs, kids, etc.).
I'm also looking for a better way to get my seeds/seedlings growing and hardened off faster, so I'm going to do some "winter sowing" I'm also going to try to move my indoor started seedling out into the low tunnels much earlier than I would normally consider moving things outside.
For anyone who wants to fill the "hunger gap" time of winter-early spring when the garden isn't producing much, there are a number of other alternatives you could consider to keep some fresh produce on their family table or going out to your CSA customers. Check out perennial varieties of vegetables. We've enjoyed a bounty of kale as well as a number of root crops that have over-wintered in our beds this year and you can too. The interest in perennial vegetables is growing and availability of winter hardy crops is getting better. Contact your local garden center or favorite online vendor and ask them what they might have available. If they don't have much in their inventory, consider doing them a favor and educate them on the subject. You'd be surprised how may vendors are open to suggestions for new varieties to include in their offerings. Another source for hard to find seeds are through seed trades with other gardeners. Do a web search and you will find a multitude of web sites and online forums/bulletin boards based around seed trading. Most of these groups have a a set of rules regarding trading, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the correct way to perform a trade. And remember, these are your fellow gardening enthusiasts you're dealing with so be kind, be communicative, be honest, and follow through on any trades you set up. If somebody is willing to send you something for free, then please at least offer to send them an SASE...a hand written thank you note is also always a nice way to show your appreciation.
Here are a couple of places you can go to learn more about perennial vegetables:
The Perennial Platter
The Vegetable Garden
Nine-Star Perennial Broccoli anyone?