Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Survived the Dip into the mid-20s

We had a couple of especially cold (for November) nights last week, and the garden showed it. The leaves of the pepper plants all wilted, the remaining summer annual flowers (marigolds, salvias, cleome) turned to mush, and even the last of the spring-type radishes fared poorly.

In the good news category, the winter radishes are still standing, as are the carrots. The cabbages and broccoli look good, even though they looked very sad on the coldest mornings. All the leaves fell off the Ichi Ki Kei Jiro persimmon, but the big orange fruits are still there, even a couple that have been half-eaten by my aerialist chipmunks.

The very small lettuces and assorted greens that have all struggled to get beyond the "delicious to chipmunks and wild rabbits" stage, also are still vibrantly green. In my dreams, they reach mature size before we get much colder weather.

A couple of stray potato plants had come up from tubers that were missed in the early summer harvest, and the tops of those collapsed in the cold. The good news is that we dug up another pound or so of red potatoes from underneath those wilted tops.

Essentially, last week brought an end to the remaining the summer crops that had been barely hanging on.

At the County Extension Office, we are still getting calls from people who want to know what vegetables they can plant now (gardeners rarely give up, and they aren't deterred by a little frost!). There is still time to put in some garlic and onions, but that's about it. However, this is a good time to start thinking about some winter-sown vegetables.

UGA Cooperative Extension's Vegetable Planting Chart (planting dates for middle Georgia need to be adjusted for Cobb County by 10-14 days) shows traditional planting dates for the most commonly planted garden crops. Alabama Cooperative Extension's Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama offers dates that are similar to those in UGA's publication.

Other than the onion group, neither of these publications lists any crop that can be planted (with the hope of successful harvest) this late in Cobb County. Even the most cold-hardy vegetables are fairly tender when they are very young, and,  at this point, the odds are pretty small of any vegetable growing to a tougher stage before another killing frost occurs.

However, Colorado State's Extension publication Winter Gardening: Planting Vegetables in Early Winter for an Early Spring Crop tells about planting seeds in the ground in late winter, much sooner after the New Year  than many people might usually consider planting. In this publication, author Curtis Swift offers, along with some basic instructions, this list of cool season vegetables that can be winter-sown:
  • lettuce
  • peas
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • carrots
  • radish
  • cauliflower
A website called (not too surprisingly) Wintersown offers a step-by-step guide to an outdoor container-option for sowing seeds in winter.

For the many gardeners who like to keep things moving in the garden, winter-sown crops might provide a nice outlet for that pent-up planting energy.

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