Most of the plants in my garden have long ago succumbed to the cold weather, but there are still a few hints of life around the farm if you know where to look. When I set out with my camera to document these hardy plants, I was pretty surprised to notice that my elderberry bush is beginning to set new shoots, in December. While I would have never expected this plant to begin growing when the sun is far away and the tempuratures are even lower, the whole process may hold some secrets to cloning elderberry bushes. I’ve tried in the past to clone the bushes in the spring, and now I’m thinking it may be best to attempt cloning while the canes are very cold.
When I got to the garden, I was hoping to see thriving Swiss Chard plants, but none were found. In fact most of the cool hardy plants in my winter garden are going to seed, with only my garlic, a few turnips and Brussels Sprouts left to display to green colors that keep me planting. I’m very happy to have the brussel sprouts doing so well, but I must admit these are my first plants, and I’m not quite sure what to expect from them, and even more importantly when to expect it. There are lots of little sprouts on these plants, and they taste good, but I don’t think they should be eaten just yet.
Moving away from the garden, I walked down to my rock garden, where I planted a second batch of garlic. I had planted an early crop of garlic in July (As Good a Time as Any), but I wanted to plant an additional batch at the correct time to ensure a healthy supply of garlic. I’m a huge fan of garlic, and this will hopefully be the best results I have with this tasty plant so far. To prepare the ground, I dug up some garden soil, mixed in some sandy silt from a nearby stream, then added lots of manure, epson salt, bio-char, and pot-ash to make this one of the most fertile beds of soil on the farm. After taking this picture I spread an inch thick layer of hay and straw to protect the bulbs from the bitter cold in February, and help block weeds from growing in the spring.
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I’ve been trying to expand my gardening skills to include cooler weather crops, or in other words the items that I didn’t like to eat as a child. I’ve had to adjust my thinking about the growing season to get the plants going, but I think I’m on the right track. I planted my broccoli weeks before the garden was roto-tilled, using a pick axe to turn over and smash up the soil. The plants were tiny then, and after a few visits from some ravenous critters, I wasn’t sure if they would make it, but here they are, growing quite well.
I’ve found a few peas that are ready to be tossed in salad even though they were planted late. I’ve also found that the squash plants that have invaded my strawberry patch are quite good, although they don’t seem to taste like zucchini. They carry a nutty flavor, and light colored stripes. I’m going to assume they are a cross over mix of many of the squashes I grew last year. Either way these plants must have gotten a very good jump on the season, as the rest of my zucchini plants are shorter then the veggie shown.
I’m not the only gardener thinking about the late season possibilities. Over the Fourth of July weekend, while visiting the whole family and enjoying my birthday cake, my Mother and I began conspiring to plant cooler weather crops, and so we planted seeds for broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I hope to add cool season kohlrabi to the mix if I can locate seeds soon. We decided to leave the seedlings on the steps to allow them to grow up in full sun.
The peppers and tomatoes seem to be right on track now, after some heavy watering with my new water cannon. The peppers shown still need some help from the compost pile, but in due time they will be growing like the bean in the fabled jack in the bean stock story.
The honey berries that I planted in the field are doing really well. They have begun their vertical reach, and are nearly 8 inches tall. I wasn’t sure how well they would do in my neck of the woods, but daily trips out to the edge of my yard with a gallon of water have paid off very well.
I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved out my tiny goji berry plants. I’ve added a layer of safety just to be sure the sun would not cook them while they were taking root. I placed a green mesh over the plants to block out about half of the sun’s day time rays. I was mainly trying to block the hot rays the sun beams down during the middle of the day, as they seem to be the most damaging. I moved one of the plants out to the field last week using the same setup, and recently added the second. The shade will be in place for about a week just to be sure the plant gets a good grip on it’s new soil.
I’m still waiting for my paw-paw tree, which won’t be shipped until September or October. I find the timing of shipping to be odd, as most plants arrive in spring, but when it comes to paw-paw trees, I’m the still the amateur.
I was very happy with last years Pepper harvest, and in an effort to duplicate the results again this year, I’m planting my peppers a few days early. I’m changing my methods a little however, In the past I grew almost exclusively Non- Hybrid plants so that I could save the seeds from one year to the next. I figured with these saveable seeds, I’d have a way to continue planting if something should happen where I would be unable to purchase new seeds. This year I’m scrapping that mindset, and rolling out the best of what I hope is some great pepper lineage. I grew Chablis peppers last year, and I was exceptionally happy with the volume and timing of the peppers. I picked my first Chablis pepper on July 9th, just 39 days after moving a seedling out of the greenhouse.
I’ve also planted artichokes, eggplant, brussels sprouts and celery in the last few weeks. My celery seedlings look like very thin wires sticking out of the soil with tiny leaves on top, while the artichokes are growing much like a cucumber seedling. I’m planning on re-planting brussel sprouts as they have become very long and spindly.
I’ve decided that 2011 will be the year I finally move my gardening habit into the cooler weather seasons. I’ve gotten a start from a row of Swiss Chard that was planted in the spring of last year. I noticed at the tail end of February that these plants were still setting new growth, and I decided to cover the row as a way to help the plants produce earlier in the season.
This is the first time I’ve used a row cover to get a jump on the season, and I’m fairly surprised at how easy it is, and how well it works. I also wanted to show the difference between the plants which have been protected, and the ones which have felt the full brunt of the late winter snow.
The exposed chard isn’t looking too good. Many of the leaves are wilted, and I doubt they are edible, never mind tasty. There is one small leaf in the photo which might sustain a cricket for a day, but It would be nearly useless for a human snack.
Now…. To find more plastic to use as a row cover for some soon to be planted lettuce.
I should also note that I’ve planted my Artichoke and Brussels Sprouts seeds on March 14th.