The garlic is starting to come up nicely, even through the snow. I believe it wakes up when the daylight hours get long enough. By planting garlic in the fall, you’ll get larger bulbs and will be able to harvest earlier in the summer. I planted it in late October and put straw over it to protect the bulbs from winter. Looks like it worked! The straw keeps the bulbs from freezing and the snow can melt through it and provide moisture. Didn’t even have to water it this winter. Such an easy crop to grow and fresh garlic is the best!
Here is some lettuce I harvested from my unheated greenhouse on January 16th! I’ve been experimenting growing some cold hardy lettuce varieties (Winter Wunder and Marshall Red Romaine) this winter. I told you I would report back and here is my first harvest. I find it amazing that they survived some very cold nights 6 to 8°F (-14 to -13°C for my European friends) in the greenhouse with only some winter weight row cover over them for added protection. I planted them from transplants instead of seeds in November so they had a good head start. It’s really fun to see something ‘green’ growing this time of year and yummy too.
So now that the Persephone period is almost over and the magic date of January 15th is upon us, what does that mean? It means our day lengths are getting longer and January 15th is when we start getting 10 hours of daylight that will continue to get longer every day. Have you noticed already it now gets dark around 5:30 instead of 5 pm? The darkest time of the year is over. What does that mean to gardeners? To learn how to start cold hardy vegetable seeds super early outside and how also how to start them inside read on.
If you already planted cold hardy vegetables late last fall in a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house, you may have noticed that the little seedlings haven’t been growing much at all as winter set in. Now with longer daylight hours, they will start to grow again and barring any devastating freezes, they will continue to grow and you can get cold hardy crops earlier this spring.
In late winter, before you have harvest your winter crops, decide what you want to plant in your bed once space opens up in your cold frame. As the end of the Persephone period draws near (January 15) , you can re-seed the openings created from your harvesting or you could start planting seeds in your bed if you don’t have anything growing. My soil in my unheated greenhouse is at 40°F right now (as of January 12). Lots of cold hardy vegetables germinate in cold soil. They will be slow to start at first but they will start as your soil warms up to 40°F and warmer. Now with the day light getting longer, you can think about starting early. The winter sowing you do will be ready for harvest by early spring, often long before the same crop when grown outside without protection. A bonus is many of the cold hardy winter crops don’t like our springs, bolting on the first few warm days so you’ll be able to harvest that spinach before it bolts!
Some cold-hardy plants planted inside a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house can tolerate a hard freeze at night, provided they are allowed to thaw during the day. The plants must be completely thawed before you harvest them. In addition, put some winter row cover over seedlings at night to give them an additional 4-6°F protection even though they are already in a cold frame, etc. Remove the row cover on days when it is above freezing. Watering is necessary to get crops started, but they will generally need very little water during the winter season-early spring once established.
STARTING VEGETABLE SEEDS INSIDE:
I’ve already written about starting seeds inside on many earlier posts.
To learn all about starting seeds indoors to get a head start go here:
WINTER HARDY VEGETABLES
The following list of winter vegetables to grow is from ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ by Elliot Coleman. These can be planted either as transplants (first started inside under lights) or outside as seeds in cold frames, low tunnels or hoop houses.
Asian greens-Tatsoi, Pak Choi (Mei Quing Choi), Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana,Komatsuna
beets-Red Ace, Merlin, Touchstone Gold
beet leaves-Bull’s Blood, Red Ace
carrot-Napoli, Mokum, Nelson
chard-Fordhook Giant, Ruby Red, Argentata
lettuce-Red Saladbowl, Tango, Rex, Rouge d’hiver
mustard green-Toyoko Beau
radishes-Tinto, D’Avignon, Cherriette
Here is a great read from our friends over on Home Grown New Mexico from Mike Warren. It is on ‘The Persephone Period’ What is the Persephone period? It is about winter, the short days in this season and the amount of light plants need to grow. Even though the shortest day of the year is upon us and the days will start getting longer, it is still too soon to start planting outside or even in greenhouses or hoophouses. Be sure to read the article about this interesting time we are in right now.
This past fall I took a trip to New Orleans and while there took a tour of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum where a pharmacist, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. was the first to pass the national licensing examination in 1804, therefore making his pharmacy the first licensed United States apothecary shop. What does this have to do with plants-everything because as I toured the museum what became clear to me was the pharmacies of old were nothing like our current pharmacies where chemical drugs are sold to help heal aliments. The cures of yesteryear were plant-based and although some of them I’m sure didn’t work, I’m just as sure many did. So I saw the original ‘drugs’ that came from medicinal herbs and plants, not chemicals, and I saw things in a whole new way. Now I’ve known of some herbs that help with various aliments but never really connected the dots until I took a tour of that pharmacy. Gives me a whole new perspective on pharmacies and their beginnings. Sometimes going forward means looking backwards to see where we came from.
And speaking of pharmacies, soda fountains became popular in pharmacies where sweet syrups could be mixed with carbonated water and herbal concoctions to hide the bitter taste. Coca-Cola, one of the most famous fountain drinks, was invented by an Atlanta pharmacist, John Pemberton in the late 19th century. It was intended to be used as a medicine. Coca-Cola’s name came from its two ‘medicinal’ plant ingredients—coca leaves and kola nuts, hence the name. Coca-Cola originally had some cocaine in it from the coca leaves although no one knows how much as it’s recipe was and still is a secret. Coca-Cola was completely cocaine free by 1929 being replaced with caffeine. For more of this interesting story go here: http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/cocaine.asp
Many people have contacted me about what’s going on in their vegetable and fruit gardens in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico or in Zone 6a throughout the seasons and have particular questions. Feel free to write me but I want to go over how to use this website to your greatest advantage. Every few days I post something interesting to me or want to share. One way is to just go backwards (scroll down) and read them. But let’s say you have a question about growing tomatoes. You could go backwards which would take you forever as I have over 650 posts on various subjects (so far) but another faster way would be go over to the right hand column of this blog. From there:
Go down to ‘GARDEN TOPICS’ and scroll down to whatever interests you (in this case tomatoes) from starting tomatoes from seed, to garden hints, or all the way down to tomatoes in the vegetable section. That way you can cut out subjects that aren’t interesting for you. (What?)
Another thing I like in the right column is the ‘ARCHIVES’ section where you can read my posts for a particular month and even for a particular year. I use this a lot for myself as I look up when I planted something in previous years, or other info I want to review again for a particular month.
Another section is called, ‘PAGES’ which you can access from the right column or on the top menus on the blog. I think this is a great resource as you can look up the page for catalogs I like to get, my garden plans for each year, my seed lists of what I’m planting that year (and where I get them), classes I may offer, films I enjoy, Santa Fe Master Gardener’s radio show, ‘The Garden Journal’ where I talk about what to do in the vegetable garden for the following month. and even the about me page with info about me and this website (if you care to know!)
So next time it’s snowing or cold and windy outside this winter, take some time to catch up on what’s going on. I know I do.