Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Garden Update

Last week we had a series of wet days that resulted in our getting about 4 inches of rain. I am hoping that the deeper soils are benefiting from all that moisture! This week, though, we were supposed to have actual winter - with overnight lows in the low twenties.

On Monday, having seen the forecast, I spent a little time getting the garden ready. There is second a patch of broccoli that was planted very late, and the plants never did get very large, but they all finally developed little heads of florets on top. Temperatures in the low twenties likely would have damaged the little heads, so I harvested them. I didn't want to lose the good food, even though it wasn't much. If these plants had been purchased only for food, this would have been a total bust in terms of payback, but these plants were used in a demonstration about raised bed gardening, so I'm not especially unhappy with the outcome. The plants were dual-purpose! Even better, the little harvest provided some very tasty broccoli for last night's stir-fry.

We've been getting fairly continuous harvests of side-shoots from the earlier-planted broccoli, but on Monday I pulled that all up. Over time, the flavor of the little shoots on these older plants had declined, becoming less sweet and more sulfur-y (not a word, I know). Since outstanding flavor from food in the garden is important, deciding to pull the plants up wasn't hard.

I also harvested the last of the cabbage. There were six small-ish heads all in good shape, and two that should have been harvested a week or two back. The outer leaves on those two had gone brown and a little slimy.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know when to harvest a crop -- the inclination is to leave it out in the garden just a little longer, so the plants can develop just a little more -- and I certainly fell into that trap with regard to the cabbage this year.
However, we only lost two cabbages. The rest are now either in "cold storage" (in the garage) or in the big fermenting jar becoming sauerkraut.

The only plants I covered up in advance of the forecast cold are the beets. I really like the tops for greens, and I didn't want them to turn mushy/slimy in the lower temperatures.

The garlic is growing well, and it didn't need any cold protection. The shallots and multiplier onions are also up and cheerily green, and a later planting of carrots, the winter radishes, some spinach and a bit of lettuce (that's started to turn bitter), one plant of Swiss chard, one plant of Kale, and an interesting assortment of weeds are all still providing variety in the meals of ourselves and of my bunnies. I'm not especially keen on bitter lettuce, but Moonpie and her babies love it!

As it turned out, the forecast actual winter failed to arrive. If the lack-of-really-cold-weather keeps up, we all will need to brace ourselves for another buggy and disease-filled gardening year.

Meanwhile, indoors, I am planning for spring.  I've been putting seed orders together, and the orders include what seems like a crazy number of packets for such a small gardening space, but when I look back over the lists of everything I've harvested  in the past year the numbers seem more reasonable.

I'm also planning a seed-starting talk that will be given in February, and I am making decisions about varieties to bring to that talk, too (there will be a hands-on activity for people who show up). Have I mentioned lately that I love my job? It lets me think about gardening and plants pretty much all the time!

Like last year, the daffodils have decided to herald the beginning of spring in January. I do enjoy the sunny flowers, but it's a bit discombobulating to see them so near bloom so early in the year.

They aren't alone in acting as though we are nearing February's end rather than January's end. Leaves of the Spanish bluebells are several inches high, and one of my hardy amaryllis has pushed leaves up into the air, too. Looks like we could have another very interesting gardening year!

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