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.)

5 comments on “Sleepy time for plants

  1. Gene solyntjes says:

    Helo” thank you for all your insights over the years. Last year was great for me, as I activated a garden that never worked properly before. I increased the efficiency of the drip system there and it paid dividends.
    I provided veggies to three different programs, and one of them said they would provide me with seed funds this year.
    If I send you a list of veggies wanted, would you consider informing me which seeds produce the very best veggies here in terms of production? I know you do a fine job of telling us what you grow each year, but my request is a little different.
    A confession: last year I grew zuchinis the first time. I literally supplied them liberally with water, did no weeding or pruning, and harvested when they got large and the various agencies were glad to get them. After final harvest simple logic was that there had to be a better way. So, I went on U tube and learned how to grow zuchinis RIGHT- less plants planted, more space between them, aggressive weeding and pruning, harvesting them at 6-9 inch lengths, not letting them get huge. It was humbling, and common sense!
    Thanks once again,
    Gene Solyntjes
    Las Vegas

    Like

  2. tonytomeo says:

    That is what we used to think, that they were sleeping. So many are doing what they can do unseen below the surface of the soil, especially in mild climates such as ours.

    Like

  3. This is EXACTLY the kind of gardening help I need! Just little reminders that say ‘in Santa Fe, this is what’s going on right now” because online calendars and general rules just do not apply here. THANK YOU!

    Like

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