Saturday, March 6, 2010

Winter Gardening Results

So this past year we made a valiant effort at attempting some winter gardening. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with fairly mild, albeit rainy, winters. This means a couple of things for the home gardener. 1st it is possible to grow greens right into the depths of winter and root vegetables through into spring again. 2nd with the help of some kind of cold frame or Remay covers, gardeners can get and early start with seedlings for the summer. And 3rd it is possible to grow some vegetables through the winter where they begin to fruit in the spring well before anything else.

The picture above is a case in point. Here we have a purple sprouting broccoli. This plants requires about 120 days before it fruits. It is a hardy winter annual. The best thing is to plant it early in the fall so it has time to put on some vegetative growth. Through the winter it will lie dormant, and in the spring as we can see Purple Broccoli Head! Overwintering vegetables, including many brassicaes and root vegetables, allows for an early harvest in the spring.

This year was an experiment. We did not have cold frames or Remay, planted late in the fall, and did not actively tend to the plants over the winter (Both Fauna and I had some wicked SAD this winter(Oh Portland)). And despite many losses still have a few plants of cabbage, broccoli, and quite possibly kohlrabi. Only time will tell how big our spring harvest will be.

Lessons Learned:
1. If you are under a pine tree either be diligent in clearing needles on have the garden covered. Pine needles suffocate the plants, retains excess moisture during wet winters, raises the soil acidity as they decompose, and provide excellent habitats for slugs over the winter.
2. Plant early in the fall to overwinter. Greens will not survive the winter, uncovered, if it is really snowy but will grow through the fall providing fresh leaves. Plants meant to overwinter need time to put on vegetative growth to survive the cold.
3. Take care of the plot. Sure winter is a hard time to have much energy to go outside into the cold, but annual vegetables still need some care. Make sure they have adequate water if they are covered, keep pests (especially slugs) at bay, and harvest when applicable.


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