The Persephone period is over. Elliot Coleman in his Winter Harvest Handbook, coined this name. When daylight hours are less than 10 hours per day, the plants that are in the ground slow down or stop growing altogether during this time. This means that the spinach or mache you planted last fall had slowed down and by Thanksgiving stopped growing. The Persephone period can be longer or shorter depending on what latitude you live in. For us in Santa Fe, it is from Thanksgiving to Jan 14th. In states that are further north, they are still in the Persephone period. As the daylight hours continue to get longer and longer, you should notice the plants starting to grow again. I grew ‘Carmel’ spinach last fall in one of my beds up by my house and it is still alive, covered with winter weight row cover. I did this the year before and it survived and gave me beautiful spinach by March that I was able to harvest 4 times before it became too warm. If you didn’t grow anything to overwinter, you can now start spinach, Asian greens like ‘Tatsoi‘ and ‘Baby Bok Choy’, mache and some very cold hardy lettuces like ‘Winter Wunder’ and ‘Marshall Red Romaine’ once the soil warms to 40•F+. If you keep them covered with winter weight row cover to protect them from our cold nights, you will be able harvest them in early spring barring any devastating deep freezes. If you can’t wait and want to speed up the process, start the seeds under lights inside now and transplant them next month in February. To find other extra cold hardy crops to grow, go here.
I’ll be on the Santa Fe Master Gardener’s Gardening Journal radio show with host Christine Salem twice a month now. My original show gives tips and advice about what to do in a vegetable garden each month as the gardening season progresses. This assumes you have an existing vegetable garden.
We are adding a Vegetable Gardening 101 show. It seems we have many people here in Santa Fe that either have never started a garden or haven’t had success here in our challenging garden area. Many want to be successful organically growing their own food and need help on where to start. So I will take us from the beginning through planning and building a garden, creating good soil, raised beds vs in-ground beds, starting seeds, transplanting plants, varieties that grow well for beginners and even harvesting tips. This will be more basic info but even advanced gardeners might benefit from some of the tips I’ll be giving.
Go here to listen to past radio show podcasts and pick up awesome information -https://giantveggiegardener.com/radio-show/
Here’s the rundown:
SHOW #1—my regular radio show-‘Monthly Veggie Garden Tips’
Where: airs on KSFR 101.1 on the Garden Journal
When: on the last Saturday of each month
Time: from 10:00-10:30am
Topics: What to do in our gardens for each month, problems that arise and solutions
SHOW #2—my NEW radio show-‘Veggie Gardening 101′
Where: airs on KSFR 101.1 on the Garden Journal
When: on the 2nd Saturday of each month
Time: from 10:00-10:30am
Topics: Beginning vegetable gardening from start to finish and everywhere in between.
It might be good at the end of the year to review what happened in your garden and/or hopefully you took some notes last season. You can refer back to it instead of relying on your memory on what worked and didn’t work for future years. If you don’t like writing it down than use your computer. I still keep a notebook on when I start seeds, put them in ground, etc but I’m using the computer and my phone more and more these days for my garden notes. I like to go around throughout the season and especially at the end of the season before everything is torn out and make notes on my phone while things are still fresh, then I go back and enter them in on my computer where the pieces of the puzzle fall in place and are sometimes are very revealing as to what happened that year.
So this coming season if you haven’t been keeping a journal, write down important things like did you amend your soil, when you first planted seeds, when the first frost-free day actually occurred and did a late freeze sneak in, when you transplanted seedlings outside, did you protect them, how hot was the weather and for how long, how cold were the nights, how much rain did we get and did it do any damage (hail), which pests and disease were particularly bad, which plants did well, were they prolific, how long you could harvest certain crops, how long was the season and when the first frost got us.
Sounds like a lot of work? Not really. It’s just recording your OBSERVATIONS through the season and by doing it, you will become a better gardener. It helped me realize a few years back that one variety of tomato got Early Blight for 3 years in a row while the other tomato plants did not (it seemed susceptible to EB- I don’t grow that variety anymore) and that this past season, I could have started my seeds indoors much earlier than I did.
I have my saved seeds everywhere. I had them in cardboard boxes which have seen better days. Some got wet, some got chewed by mice where I keep them in a shed. I needed to get better organized and wanted better protection from the elements and mice so I found some boxes with lids with clasps.
After that, I got some cardboard dividers for the different varieties of vegetable seeds. I had to trim them down to fit in the box and I had to fold over some of the seed packages so they would fit inside. I also made some labels for each box like Cold Season varieties, Warm Season varieties and many other categories. So far I have 6 boxes done. Nice project for winter.
2016 GARDEN REVIEW
Here is what happened in my garden in 2016. Wow-what a weird but interesting year mother nature threw at us. It looks like over and over again I could have planted earlier in hind site.
PLANTING SEEDS INSIDE INFO-for those of you who want to plant your own seeds
I use a seed starting soil called Metro mix 300 from Agua Fria Nursery. I plant seeds in very small seed flats (see here). I transplanted up 2 times using a soil mix called Moonshine, also available at Agua Fria Nursery. Growth was unbelievable with this stuff. I grew my best tomato transplants ever this past year. All warm crop seeds were planted and brought inside and placed on heat mats and under lights as it is too cold to keep them in an unheated greenhouse. All cool season crops were brought inside and under lights but no heat mat, they germinate at a lower temperature.
Normal spring weather pattern. Cold one day and warm the next. Windy.
–Tomato seeds were planted on April 15 which is late BUT it worked because I used the soil mix Moonshine when transplanting up to a 4 pak from the seed flats (see post above). Moonshine makes everything grow faster. I think I should have planted the seeds on March 25.
–Eggplant and pepper seeds were planted on April 15th with the rest of the tomato seeds and they should have been planted 10 weeks before putting them outside in the ground. So that means I should have planted them on March 15 to plant them outside by June 1. I’ll remember that this year!
–Basil, kale and chard seeds were planted in early April. Did well but I should have started the seeds in March. Transplanted 2x before being planted outside in early May.
May was warmer than usual. No late frosts. Windy as usual.
-Potatoes were planted May 3. Could have planted them sooner.
–Tomatoes were transplanted to 2″ pots on May 6.
–Tomato plants were transplanted outside in wall of waters by May 24. This was late but they caught up as the soil was warmer.
– The soil was too cold for any other warm season crops to be direct seeded.
-Kale, chard and onions were transplanted outside in early May. Probably should have put them outside in late April as they can handle cold nights with row cover over them. Need to remember that! Transplanted all different types of basil outside in late May under shade cloth.
–Beets and carrots were direct seeded in early May. Germination of Detroit Red beet was good but poor for Craupadine beets. Will plant Craupadine seeds inside next year to hopefully get better germination. My two best beets grown so far have been Detroit Red and Cylindra. I only planted Atomic red carrots this year-good germination. Soil temp can be from 50°-80°F for good germination of these crops.
June was a hot month averaging 94 degrees with little rain and lots of winds.
–Pepper and eggplant were transplanted in garden with row cover protecting them from June 1-4 when the soil was warmer, not May 15. I have experienced them going into shock if planted earlier when the soil is still cold.
-Leeks and basil plants were transplanted with shade cloth over them in early June. They both loved the semi-shade and the basils didn’t flower so fast in the heat-huge harvest of them this year. My three favorite basils were Genovese (or Italian) Thai and Lime Basil (had to grow this one from seed). I grew Lemon basil as well but I have enough lemon scented herbs with lemon verbena and lemon thyme, so I will pass on that one next year.
-The wall of waters came off the tomatoes in early June and the plants had their drip lines put around the plants, straw was placed around their wells to help retain water, tomato cage put on and immediately put row cover over all the rows of tomatoes to keep the leafhopper from biting them and giving them a disease called Curly top Virus.
–Eggplant/pepper plants were transplanted outside by June 9th with row cover over them. They loved the warm days throughout the season this year.
-Warm season crops like beans and cucumbers were direct seeded outside in June. I had a big problem with rolly pollys eating the seedlings as soon as they sprouted. Planted seeds for both crops 3x and only when I used Sluggo Plus did the problem go away and it’s organic too. But the cucumbers didn’t have enough time to grow to fruit and I never got good pollination due to the hot days in June, July and August. No pickles this year. Wah!
-Instead of a green pole bean, this year, I tried a new pole bean called Marvel of Venice and I didn’t like it at all. They were suppose to be yellow but by the time they turned yellow, they were tough and not much flavor. Will not plant them again.
July was stinking hot averaging 94 degrees with no monsoons. The heat affected the plants adversely. We never get this hot day in and day out in July.
-I was expecting the monsoons to come by the second week in July and they did not. July was very hot averaging 94 degrees and blossom drop was extensive on tomato, cucumber, squash and bean plants—so very little fruit set. I didn’t take off the row covers on the tomato plants because the leaf hopper bug which likes dry, hot windy conditions and (transmits Curly Top Virus -CTV) was still present. I thought OMG, am I going to have to keep the row cover on all season? Luckily August weather changed.
Summer squash got a wilt this year and it wasn’t from the squash vine borer as they were covered with row cover. They died before getting any fruit. Can you imagine, I had to ask people for summer squash this year!
Waltham Butternut and Butternut Rugosa were my winter squash this year. Both did well. I heard they don’t get squash bugs and for me it was true, I didn’t have any squash bugs on them which was great. Good varieties to grow if squash bugs are your nemesis. I will grow them again.
-My giant pumpkins once again couldn’t set blossoms in late June-early July when they should and didn’t set any fruit until August because of the heat and by then it was too late to get big-my biggest was the size of a basketball! Once again foiled. Will try next year again!
The monsoons finally came in August but not a lot. Still, it cooled down things.
–Tomato blossoms finally set but we lost 2 months of growing time. Took off the row covers once it cooled down. Unfortunately, when the monsoons came, the nights got cold- in the low 50’s which slows down the growth of tomatoes but at least I had tomatoes! By mid August I had 2 boxes of tomatoes which wasn’t enough to warrant going to the Farmers Market. Normally I have 6+ boxes mid August increasing to 10-12 boxes by the end of August. Not so this year.
-The peppers and eggplants however, loved the heat and were very prolific this season.
-Kale and onions did very well, they don’t mind the heat or the cold!
–Chard got leaf miners and I battled them all summer but still harvested a lot.
Turned off drip lines to Giant pumpkins, summer squash in August as they didn’t do well.
-Weeds, oh yea, weeds-they were prolific once the rain did come and I didn’t get on them right away so the battle was on but since I decided I wasn’t going to market and wasn’t on any tours this year, I decided to not be so diligent about weeds and picked them at a more leisurely pace to just enjoy the garden. Plus I went on more flyfishing trips this past summer!
Weather much cooler with some rain. Cold nighttime temperatures slowed growth of tomatoes
-This month the tomatoes continue to grow but more slowly and harvest continues. Only lost 2 plants out of 40 plants to CTV disease this year. Because of little rain, fungal disease was at an all time low which usually hits the tomatoes in Aug-Sept.
-Planted my gorgeous garlic. Varieties were Chenok Red, Music and German White + some Stanley garlic from the SF Farmers Market. Hope they do well next summer at harvest time. Usually I plant garlic in October but I taught a garlic class in Sept and put them in then.
-Beets and Carrots-did well and started harvesting in Sept.
-I didn’t use any organic fungicides or insecticides this year as pressure was lite.
Wonderful warm fall-best ever which gave the veggies a chance to produce more fruit to harvest
-Harvesting of chard, beets, carrots, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes were good.
-Potato size during harvest this month were smaller. I think I should have watered them more. Will try a bigger variety next year. i tried them in Potato bags and directly in the soil. No difference.
Kale got aphids worse-sprayed them with water and still harvested a lot. The really bad ones with aphids I gave to the chickens-they loved it!
Unbelievabley no hard freeze until Nov 9th! I haven’t seen it this warm in November-normally we get a hard freeze in October but not this year!
-Harvested everything left in the garden by end of November-chard, kale, carrots, beets, tomatoes, leeks, winter squash.
Pretty normal December weather but not much precipitation.
-Cleaned out garden but didn’t have time to add compost to beds. Will add it next spring.
This year was pretty good for fruit. By far the most prolific fruit this year were apples.
Strawberries- did ok but I’d like to amend the beds this year for better production.
Rhubarb did well until I lost one to a fungal disease called red leaf disease. I still have one left which is actually enough.
Apricots-Since we didn’t get a late frost this year, we had a little apricot crop (very little) but hey, it’s been 7 years since I’ve had ANY apricots. Got about 8 jars of apricot jam from them. I just enjoy the tree as a shade tree mostly.
Grapes-My Himrod grapes did great this year. Loved them.
Raspberries-This was the first season for them (they were planted last fall) so production was low.
Blackberries-Just planted in the spring. They got established and hopefully I will get some next year. Looking forward to it.
Apple trees-They were very prolific in the fall as we didn’t get a late frost this year. Dried many apples and this year made hard apple cider.
Plum trees and peach trees did not do well and I will replace them next year (they are old) with better varieties of peach and pear trees that will do well here. Will get them from Tooleys Trees in the spring.
Today I woke up to a white Christmas. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen snow on Christmas day. Not a lot, but a few inches is great! What a great time to make a fire, curl up with some book you’ve been meaning to read or dig in to your new seed catalogs arriving daily and dream of your future garden you’ll be planting this spring. I love doing research either with books or on the internet during the winter months when I actually have time to absorb some of it. I think my brain started out the size of a melon and has now shrunk to probably the size of an orange if retaining info is the guide! So I better enjoy this cold weather because soon enough the growing season will be upon us.
Even though it’s not 2017 yet, many of you are now getting your seed catalogs in for 2017 season. I just updated for 2017 my favorite seed and garden catalogs. I have many favorites besides the two above. Here they are:
GOOD SEED LIST:
THESE SEED CATALOGS/COMPANIES ARE GREAT. THEY DO NOT BUY ANY SEEDS FROM SEMINIS, A SUBSIDIARY OF MONSANTO AND ARE MY FAVORITES.
Seed Saver Exchange—As a SSE member I want to support this non-profit organization who is dedicated to CONSERVING and promoting heirloom varieties of veggies, flowers, fruits and herbs. It’s catalog is wonderful with many varieties of seeds that are hard to find or have been kept in families for generations. http://www.seedsavers.org
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds—It features beautiful pictures of many varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers and fruits, some of which are very unusual and rare. It gives wonderful descriptions and history of where each variety originated. Check them out. www.rareseeds.com
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange– recommended by Baker Heirlooms as another good source for heirlooms. Has many hard to find vegetable seeds. http://www.southernexposure.com/
Wild Boar Farms—specialize in fantastic OP varieties of tomatoes. wildboarfarms.com
No catalog-go online to order.
Baia Nicchia Farm—specialize in more fantastic OP varieties of tomatoes. Created the Artisan Seed Series of tomatoes in Johnny’s Seeds catalog. Support their company for certain select seeds not available anywhere else and go to Johnny’s for the rest of their Artisan tomato seeds. Support their breeding work by buying directly from them. https://store.growartisan.com/
No catalog-go online to order.
Secret Seed Cartel—specialize in unique, unusual or rare seeds of peppers and tomatoes from Europe–secretseedcartel.com
No catalog-go online to order.
Wild Garden Seeds—My new go to catalog for wonderful greens and lettuce www.wildgardenseed.com/ (I use to think they sold in bulk only, but they sell smaller quantities as well. The packet price listed on top of catalog pages)
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds—Sells many wonderful hard to find heirloom seeds like Argentata chard and French gray shallots. http://www.kitchengardenseeds.com/
Kitazawa Seed Company—Oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds. http://www.kitazawaseed.com/
Irish Eyes Garden Seeds—Get your different types of potatoes here. http://irisheyesgardenseeds.com/
Native Seed/SEARCH—fabulous seeds by native people in the southwest. www.nativeseeds.org/
Hudson Valley Seed—The Hudson Valley Seed Library is an amazing source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds and beautiful garden-themed contemporary art. http://hudsonvalleyseed.com/
Peaceful Valley (Grow Organic)—I get all my row cover and most of my growing supplies from here.www.groworganic.com
Johnny’s Selected Seeds—provides hybrid, heirloom and OP seeds, tools, information, and service. A general all-purpose catalog packed with more than just seeds. www.johnnyseeds.com
There are many other good seed companies that do not buy their seed stock from Seminis. To see more good seed companies that may be among your favorites, go here. If your favorite seed company is not listed, call them if you are interested.