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.
Here’s the flyer info for my class this Saturday April 5th-Hope many of you can come-it should be good!
Saturday, April 5
Cold Weather Protection for Vegetable Gardens
Protecting your crops in spring
Time: 10 am-12 pm
Instructor: Jannine Cabossel
Location: Whole Food’s Community Room (St. Francis location)
Please RSVP to 505-983-9706 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jannine Cabossel, a Master Gardener and ‘The Tomato Lady’ at the Santa Fe Farmers Market will teach a class about how to use row cover, cloches, hoop houses, wall of waters, and other items to get your garden in earlier with protection.
Jannine has extensive experience in growing vegetables on her 3000 square foot garden using all organic methods. Follow her blog at giantveggiegardener.com. Suggested $10 donation. Become a 2014 Member for $35 with $250 value-includes all classes, potlucks and tour.
Happy Solstice! Yea-the days get longer now-and here it is the end of the year. As I look at winter, the first two months of winter-November-December are done and only two more months of winter (January-February) to endure. Then its early spring and off to the races! But let’s slow things down a bit. December is a great month to reflect on the gardening season and look at what worked and what didn’t work in the garden during the past year and what I might do differently.
So what worked and what didn’t?
-I only lost 10% of my tomato crops vs. last year’s 50 % tomato crop loss to the dreaded beet leafhopper. I covered almost all of my tomato plants with row cover from May 15th until the first week of July. The leafhopper leaves when the rainy season comes and this year they hung out till the beginning if July when it started raining. -The downside of this is I really don’t like NOT SEEING my plants hiding under the row cover-I like watching them grow, but that seems to be a tradeoff. Also I want to try to transplant my tomatoes outside earlier than May 15th to try to get tomatoes earlier.
-Rotating my crops seem to help with diseases. I have everything on a three-year rotation, which is why I made an additional 1000 sq ft section last year, giving me a total of (3) 1000 ft sections. I move the crops around so they only return to the same section every 3 years. The pumpkins use to have their own additional section in the horse corral but now that I have a horse (Koko), I will put them into the rotation in the main veggie garden since the corral has been reclaimed by Koko.
-Speaking of pumpkins, I need to find a way to keep critters from eating them although it was almost impossible to keep the rabbits away early in the season when food was hard to find for them-even with 2 fences and row cover over the pumpkins, something ate my prized potential pumpkin plant, so I’ll be thinking on that one a lot more this winter. Plus I want to get the plants outside earlier too if I’m to have a chance to break the state record again…
-I covered my eggplants with row cover for a while this year thereby avoiding the first hail storm’s devastating damage. That first hail storm set back many of my vegetables due to the severe damage by about a month. The downside was aphids found the eggplants underneath the row cover and it was a battle to get rid of them. The aphids also went after the summer squash and peppers with all the rain we got. I controlled them with strong sprays of water on them and insecticidal soap. Also lady bugs appeared and came to the rescue eating many aphids (and I didn’t have to buy them). I think I need to remove the row cover earlier.
The almost finished greenhouse was unbelievably hot last summer-110°F. Too hot to grow anything which was ok as it wasn’t ready anyways. So after I work to button it up this winter, I will have to find ways to cool it down next summer. Still, I have a greenhouse! I’ll take the challenges it will present.
-I have to say I enjoyed all the rain we got after 4 years of an extreme drought. The fruit trees loved all the rain but 2 more hail storms almost wiped out the vegetable crops especially the chard and squash. It was amazing anything survived plus the one week of rain that we got-about 3 inches-watered down the flavor of the tomatoes for about 2 weeks but then they bounced back.
Most of the problems came from Mother Nature and there is not much one can do about her-she does what she wants and we need to adjust. We always think we have everything in control and then wham! She does a number on us!
-I will grow more tomato plants and other veggies to sell at the Farmer’s Market as many people seemed excited to try some of the different varieties I grow. To this effect, I think the greenhouse will be great asset this spring.
So now I will be going over all the catalogs that are coming in and start to plan the veggie garden for 2014.
I’ve been taking some photos of the vegetable garden the last few days. The light is so beautiful at 8 am every day that before I started weeding, I took these photos. Slowing down and and really looking how beautiful the garden is makes all the work worthwhile. Enjoy!
Below is a seed starting date calculator from Johnny’s Seeds. I downloaded it from the interactive tools section on their home page. I put the date of our spring frost-free date (May 15 in the Santa Fe area) and it automatically put in all the dates from when to start seeds inside to when we can safely put the plants out in our gardens. I just copied the vegetable section here for you to see but it also has many flower planting dates as well-it was just too big to capture it all. If you live in another area or want to capture the flower information as well, then be sure to go to the interactive tool section at Johnny’s to get your own. But here it is for those of you who live in Santa Fe, NM for all the vegetables they list. If you click on the image it will show up clearer and you can print it.
The Plant Hardiness Zone is a standard set by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and is calculated by accumulating many years of data. Zones are used by gardeners to help determine which plants will most likely thrive in their area. “The maps are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10 degree-F Zones”. There are 13 Zones, the coldest being Zone 1 and the warmest is Zone 13.
In Santa Fe, we used to be in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5 but now Santa Fe is in Zone 6b (-5 to 0°F). The reason our Zone has been changed according to the USDA is because it has better models to follow with more information gathered throughout the years- not necessarily because it’s getting warmer (although I do believe that too). Some areas in our county could be Zone 6a (-10 to -5°F) if they are closer to the mountainous areas. If you are not sure what zone you live in (where ever you live) go to the USDA plant hardiness site and type in your zip code and it will tell you what zone you are in-it’s as simple as that. So when you go to a nursery and the plant tag says zone 7-forget about it—it won’t survive our winters but any tag with Zone 6 or lower number should survive.
The average first frost free date is the date that we can safely put plants outside in our gardens. Notice I said average because some years we are colder and some years warmer. You’ll just have to watch the weather closely in spring for deciding if you want to try to sneak them out earlier in your area if spring appears to be a warm one. In Santa Fe our first average frost free date is May 15. So plant away outside after May 15, unless you hear we are getting a hard freeze! Of course if you are starting them in a hoophouse or greenhouse, you can start seedlings much earlier.
Now, once you know your planting zone and first frost free date, you can use the many tools available on the web for calculating all kinds of things from seed starting to succession planting to harvest times. Many seed companies have web tools to help you calculate the dates. In my next post I will show one such tool I use.