Winter spinach!

Nothing is better than spinach in the winter-sweet and tender. These pics were taken on November 23. I harvested all the outer leaves as they were slowing down their growth when the days got shorter and won’t start growing again till Jan 15. I harvested (two) 2-gallon bags of spinach!

 

Even the big leaves are tender. And it lasts a long time in the refrigerator!
Still good in late December. The variety is Carmel.

 

I still have the plants in my coldframe and hope they make it through winter. If they do, I’ll get 2-3 more harvests in spring. As of this storm last week, they were still alive. With this El Nino weather pattern, we had some much-needed moisture in the form of snow. Having been in an extended drought last year, this moisture is welcomed indeed. And now another storm is hitting us tonight on New Year’s Eve. We shall see how much snow it will dump by tomorrow. Today’s high was 25°F and tonight’s low is 15°F although it has gotten down to 5°F at night this last week.

 

Snow day!

KOKO likes the snow!

 

 

The gardens on a snowy day-Dec 26, 2018

Sleepy time for plants

When winter days are less than 10 hours a day in length, plants in the ground slow down or stop growing altogether. I’d like to think that the plants are sleeping. Eliot Coleman, who wrote The Winter Harvest Handbook, calls this time the Persephone Period. Our Persephone period here in Santa Fe is from Thanksgiving thru January 14th. What does this mean for us gardeners?

If you are thinking about transplanting plants that you started or bought into a hoop house, low tunnel or greenhouse, forget about it right now. Wait.

If you had planted greens in August for a fall harvest, you probably notice that they aren’t growing much anymore. But they should be big enough to harvest assuming you protected your cold hardy plants from our winter nights with winter weight row cover. I have 2 big cabbages still in the garden and a couple of kale that I plan to harvest this week since they won’t be getting bigger.

But plants that are small, will stay small now until Jan 14th when our daylight hours start to get longer again. Other parts of the country further north will have longer time periods of less light days. This has nothing to do with the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year but rather a time period of less light. After January 14th, daylight hours will start to get longer than 10 hours again. That’s when the plants wake up and start growing again.

So my recommendation is to hunker down with some good gardening books, get your gardening catalogs and plan next year’s garden (and get some rest too.)

Winter is here early

Fall harvest-tomatoes, Tahiti Butternut squash, Bradford watermelons and Craupadine beets

I just heard last night’s snow was the earliest on record for Oct 14th in Santa Fe. The weather apps have said it was going to be 27°F last night. Woke up this morning to a light snow, ice and the temperature was 24°F here. Harvesting has been intense the last few weeks. Why is there always so much to pick in the end? The only annual crops left are a few kale, beets and cabbages outside in the main garden and greens in the greenhouse and cold frame. I’m not sure how they fared as I wasn’t able to go out and check today, and in truth, with 34°F for a high, I was in no hurry to see if they made it. They were covered with winter weight row cover with the hopes they make it and I will check tomorrow. I was more concerned the barn animals were ok with this first cold snap and made sure all the heaters in the water tanks were working and the chickens had their heat lamps on. I guess winter is here.

Tips for Ripening Green Tomatoes

Get Ready for cold weather. We’ve been waiting all season for our tomatoes to ripen. What do we do when you know that a hard frost is going to hit and you still have lots of green ones on the vine? After ripening green tomatoes inside, I’ve had tomatoes into November and then I’m done. I won’t eat another tomato till the following season-July or August. A long wait but consider me a tomato snob as the store-bought tomatoes are never very good.

Tips on ripening tomatoes inside:
-Become a weather bug-we should check the weather for when the first freeze will arrive which historically comes mid-October here in Santa Fe.

This week Sunday through Monday is forecasted to get pretty cold at night–down to 34°F. This is not freezing (32°) but I will check the weather again on Saturday to see if it changes and if they predict a freeze or not. If it stays above 32°F, I will leave them as quite often we can squeeze out a few more weeks of decent weather for them.

-Pick em before the freeze-Pick all decent size green tomatoes and ripen inside. Leave the little ones. Ripening green tomatoes will never taste as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but they are still much better than store bought tomatoes. If you pick after the freeze, they will be ruined.

-Sort the tomatoes-Sort from rock hard green to almost ripe and put them in grocery paper bags and fold over the top. That way you don’t have to go through each bag every day and pull out the ones that are ripening sooner.
 Put them 2 layers deep.

-Use a slice of apple-In the bags with the green ones, I will put a slice of apple in the bag to help encourage ripening. An apple releases ethylene gas (the tomatoes produce this as well) which helps the ripening process. That is why you fold over the bag to help trap the gas that both the tomatoes and apple are releasing.

-Check bags every few days-When they start to change color, I pull those out and put them in other bags where they are all similar in the ripening stage.


-Leave them stem side up-they won’t rot as quickly.

-Almost ripe tomatoes-When your tomatoes are almost ripe, to increase flavor, pull them from the bags and place in a warm spot in your house a couple of days before you want to use them.


-Storage-Be sure to store them in a room that is at least 55 degrees. I made the mistake once and they didn’t have much flavor and many didn’t ripen at all. If they won’t ripen or aren’t flavorful they were probably stored in too cool a place or perhaps they were too small to begin with.

-Green tomatoes-Lastly you can always pickle green tomatoes or cook with them!

Better gobble up all the ripe tomatoes that you can! Soon the season will be over and we will be longing for flavorful ripe tomatoes again!

 

 

Remineralization-For Better Vegetable Gardens

Last winter I read about remineralizing gardens and how it’s not enough to add compost every year as minerals will eventually get depleted too as the plants use them up. I’ve been adding compost to my vegetable garden for ten years and have created a fairly rich soil but have never added minerals or trace minerals to my whole garden. So this season I decided two things-add something to remineralize the soil and get a soil test to see how my soil was. I haven’t had a soil test done in about 4 years so I knew I was long overdue especially since I garden so intensively.

The test results showed my soil was good except it was low in manganese, sodium and iron and medium for copper, boron, salt, magnesium and potassium.

So I researched out what product I should add and I decided on AZOMITE. Azomite is a rock dust mined from Utah and is actually an ancient deposit of aluminum silicate clay and marine minerals. It is a rich source of available potash (0.2%) and over 70 trace minerals, including calcium (1.8%), sodium (0.1%), and magnesium (0.5%). I bought online a 44 lb bag of micronized (consistency of flour) Azomite from Peaceful Valley Farms Organic site but they are not the only source-Amazon sells it in smaller size bags. After I added my usual 2-3 inches of compost in the spring while prepping the beds, I sprinkled Azomite on top of each garden bed and and gently turned it over in the top four inches of soil. I also read you can top dress your plants after you have them in with it. So for my strawberry plants, I just sprinkled it on top of the plants and watered in.

Here is my strawberries in April. It is just coming back from winter but was struggling

The results are amazing-WOW! is an understatement.

Strawberries grew 14″tall with the addition of Azomite this year

I don’t think I’ve had such a lush garden ever and I’ve had some amazing gardens. My strawberry beds went from struggling last year (part of that was the drip system wasn’t working very well but part of it was it needed something) to the tallest, happiest, most fruitful plants.

The main thing I’ve done differently this year is add Azomite. Now I know we’ve gotten some good rains in August which can only help a garden but all the plants in my veggie garden have gone ballistic growing and producing veggies-it’s like a frigging jungle.

I only used around half the bag in my 3000 sq foot garden, so a little goes a long ways. I will sprinkle the other half in next year and will get more for my perennial plants and fruit trees as well for next year. Once done, you won’t have to keep replenishing it every year but every few years, I’m going to add Azomite again.

Butternut winter squash-doesn’t attract squash bugs

Here is a winter squash that doesn’t attract squash bugs. I’ve grown the very sweet Waltham Butternut, an Italian variety called Rogosa Violina and this year a variety called Tahitian Butternut-all don’t seem to attract squash bugs, at least in my garden. And I grew these because I had read they don’t attract them.

In the last post, I talked about Rugosa Friulana, a summer squash that doesn’t attract squash bugs, so now we have both a winter and summer squash that don’t attract these pesky bugs. Try these two types next year for more carefree squash!