Saturday, January 11, 2014

January Update on My Winter Garden: Things Learned So Far

 I had a lot of fun planting my first "winter garden" this year. Then, Paul got sick. But God was so good that He watered my garden for me with nice regular rains for two months!  As a result, much of what I planted came up. I was able to harvest radishes and several messes of turnip greens!   With turnips, plant them thickly, then when you thin them, just snip the roots off and they are lovely tender turnip greens. All those little weeds you see around the turnips in the picture are just winter annual things like chickweed and henbit - they are edible too, if you want to fiddle with them.

I just scattered all my seeds down the rows in rather wide swaths.  But I learned that I can't cultivate the rows if I don't plant the seeds precisely. So come Spring, I'll use a seeder and put them down One At A Time. Then I can wheel the cultivator through the rows and take care of most weeds while they are tiny.

 I also learned that most things will not live through the winter, so I better limit plantings to those things I can harvest before the arctic air comes in and it gets down to 12 degrees!  Turnip greens I harvested. Turnips? Not so much. Unless they are still alive under their poor bedraggled and dehydrated dead tops - will report back on that in a couple of months!

 I used scallop shells I collected when we lived on the coast for row markers. Just punched a hole in them with a nail, wrote on them with a Sharpie, and wired them to a stick.  They look cute. People can't tell what they are from the street so they ask me about them LOL

Another almost-miracle was when I came home from the hospital and discovered my Saffron Crocus blooming! I planted those bulbs about 5 years ago, and they have never bloomed, not once. This year, three of them popped up their pretty little heads. Naturally, I quickly took my tweezers and collected the stamens. So now I have home-grown Saffron, nine whole threads of it! :-)

The deer always travel through my garden spot, even though we live in town. So I had planned to put up a barrier of plastic Deer Netting to keep them out.  But these are not deer tracks.  It is a tiny town, and most people let their dogs run around so we know most of the neighborhood pets. I thought at first there must be a new dog because there aren't any that large that come through. But then my neighbor looked at the tracks and told me it was a BOBCAT! The way to tell the difference in that cat tracks never have toenails showing, while dog (or coyote or wolf)  footprints always show toenails, since they cannot retract their claws like cats do.  That is one big bobcat!  They are common in this vicinity, but I never dreamed of them following the deer down Main Street!

My son Nick and grandson came a day early for Thanksgiving, and set T Posts around the perimeter of the garden. My grandson is 14, and is just beginning to get his muscles. He is going to have the same powerful arms that his dad and his uncles Nick and Ethan have. He made short work of pounding the posts into the ground. It made me proud to watch them work together so comfortably.

 The posts are spaced far enough apart that Daddy's tractor will still be able to fit between them. When spring comes, I'll attach the black plastic netting to them before the deer get used to finding tasty morsels inside. This is a very inexpensive solve. We can't afford to fence the whole area permanently, and these are nearly invisible from the street until we wrap them. The plastic netting can be replaced annually. And, if we want to enclose more area, these T posts are easy to remove. Well, they are if you are Nick. It was great fun watching him one-handedly pull up some that had been staking trees - posts I had not even been able to budge with all my weight behind it!

Onion plants are in at the local produce market, so I will buy them next time I am in town, and will go ahead and put them out in a portion of the garden I left for them. I LOVE growing onions. They are so rewarding, since we cook with onions every day: it feels good to raise somethng that is a real "staple" for the table.  We plant the little skinny plants, not the hard bulbs, and this far South we MUST have "Short Day Onions", because we do not get the length of daylight hours they have up North. Onions are very dependent on hours of daylight to make their bulbs. If we plant the regular onions listed in most seed catalogs, they might make good green scallions, but would never make bulbs.

Our winter is moving along pretty much as the Almanac predicted: cold and wet. So other than the onions, I probably won't put anything else out until March. Then I will plant more turnips, mustard, lettuces, etc. The seed catalogues are coming in and I'm having such fun reading them and plotting what to buy.  Right now is the pleasant winter day-dreaming time in the garden and I am enjoying every moment of it!


  1. Tina have you ever grown parsnips? They love cold weather and in fact hard frosts mellow the flavour. Here in Northern Alberta we often leave them in the ground until spring and somehow they are much bigger than when the first snow fell on them last fall...and we get down to 40 below. I really don't know how they do that.

    How long do your cold snaps usually last?

  2. How funny you should mention parsnips! Paul and I were just bemoaning that we can't grow them here because it doesn't stay cold enough long enough. I tried them one year - very few even germinated, and of those, none grew to maturity: they just shriveled up. It is delightful that God created different plants so that we can all grow some things even in winter!

    Today I bet it got up to at least 70, and it has been in the 60s for the past several days. But last week, we had a 3 day stretch with lows of 12 degrees F and highs in the 30s. So although it does get cold (and will snow or have ice storms), most cold spells last about a week at a time before warming up again for several days.

    But oh! we do love parsnips! They are so sweet and tasty. Maybe I will find an out-of-the-way spot and try planting some seed again next fall in hopes of a cold winter. In the meantime, we can buy them in the stores, at least. :-)



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