Brussels sprouts are still sprouting in the garden in December. (Mary Lowther photo)

Brussels sprouts are still sprouting in the garden in December. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Still eating from the garden in December!

Hardy herbs like parsley and rosemary sit on a sunny shelf in an unheated room

My brother-in-law gave me three heating pads that sit underneath a flat of seedlings. Two of them were twice as wide as my seed table, so I let them curl up on both sides of the flat. Since the flat needs to be heated all the time, I bypassed the lighting socket that was fed from the timer. So far so good, and I think the plants are ready to go into the heated cold frame. I guess that’s an oxymoron.

Since I’ve got the equipment and the hydro cost hovers around $12 a month, I’m going to keep re-seeding flats and grow seedlings to go into the heated cold frame as I harvest the present crops and see if they’ll take us through to spring.

Since clouds and rain prevent much sun from reaching the cold frame, I’ll just try greens that don’t require a lot of sun, like escarole, winter lettuce and Chinese greens.

Hardy herbs like parsley and rosemary and microgreens like arugula and cress sit on a sunny shelf in an unheated room in the house with the door shut because Mom taught me to close doors to rooms we don’t use in the winter to keep heating costs down. She also recommended keeping plugs in sinks and the bathtub to prevent spiders from coming out of the drains. I forgot to do that last week and was extremely sorry the next morning when I glanced in the bathtub, but not as sorry as the huge spider that valiantly tried to hang on as I mercilessly flushed it back down the drain where it probably begat more of itself.

I cloister my seed table in plastic, including the bottom shelf, with a flap of netting and plastic on the front for easy access that I open on sunny days when it can warm up substantially in the seed table. Tending to these seedlings and transplanting uses up a half hour each day, and it’s fun to see how far I can push the envelope.

Brussels sprouts, kale and turnips still sit rooted outside and really perk up our meals. There’s just no comparison between vegetables freshly harvested from my backyard to those on store shelves. Yesterday I cut up a stored carrot and turnip, skinned and chopped a few kale stalks after trimming off the leaves for soup, and steamed them together for dinner. David even ate the kale stalks without complaining. I wish I’d cooked more. The Brussels sprouts should be sweet, having undergone a few frosts. They’ve opened up a bit but that won’t affect their flavour.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.