If you read my last post, you will know that I am experimenting – isn’t all gardening experimenting? And that’s what makes it really fun!
About 10 days ago, I planted seeds for broccoli raab, cauliflower, and collards and placed the 4″ pots in a wicking bed. Well, yesterday (at 9 days) I checked them.
The broccoli raab had sprouted, as had the collards. However, the cauliflower was having difficulty. Since the cauliflower was on another wicking raft, I moved it to the raft with its cole buddies. Also, I was told that sometimes it is necessary to top water till fully moist before the wicking is started – sort of like priming a pump.
Here’s a picture of the little seedlings! It’s another 70 degree day today and tomorrow, with temperatures dipping into the 60s in the next couple of days. But still not close to freezing. I’m optimistic that I can grow them to transplant size. Although, in the wicking bed I could easily protect them, while the water reservoir maintains a more constant temperature.
Note the bits of green to the left and barely visible in the middle.
Various planting guides stop at about November, while others continue on through the winter, recommending what plants can still be seeded.
In the past, I’ve tended to plant my carrots as late as the first of November (when the tomatoes are dying back), and reap a harvest in February and March of great carrots that grew slowly but fully during the winter. I’ve also planted turnips in October, to have very juicy turnips for Thanksgiving.
This year, I decided to try an experiment and plant (by seed) three crops even this late – I’m writing this November 17. The three crops are winter-hardy: collards, cauliflower, and broccoli raab.
I’m fortunate enough to have a nifty bottom watering container on the property where I’m renting. See the picture.
If you have taken a permaculture course, you may recognize this concoction. It is an IBC tote that has had the top third cut off, PVC pipe is inserted so that a greenhouse or shadehouse can be created; the tote has water in it, upon which is floating styrofoam rafts covered with fabric (wool or cotton). The fabric wicks the water up to the top of the rafts, on which you place your pots with seedlings. The next picture will show what the collards and broccoli raab containers look like, all floating on their raft.
So… I took some 4″ pots left from transplanting herbs into a garden bed, filled them with rich, rich soil from the keyhole bed I’d built (a compost pile by any other name) and which we’d broken down and salvaged the soil.
Then I planted seeds and soaked the seed medium. Then I placed on the wicking raft. I’ll watch the plantings for the next several weeks and see if they (1) sprout; and (2) become viable transplants this late in the season.
Leaves – they are appearing by the bagful on curbs all over the city. And I’ve been driving about, collecting as many as I can. I particularly like the large clear bags of leaves so that I can be sure it’s just leaves, and not trash.
Leaves are gardener’s gold. They provide carbon for the compost pile. They are a good soil amendment and are great for mulch. I use them prolifically in my hugelkultur beds.
And most important – They are free.
So save your leaves and put them on your garden beds or work into your compost pile now and gather a few extra bags for use later in the year.
Remember that hugelkultur bed I installed a month or so ago? The greens are taking over! We had our first dish of greens – collards and mustard – from the garden last week. And I go through and remove ragged leaves for the hens – which they, of course, love. The greens have weathered our almost-freezes well, and the chard is beginning to take off.
Now, we’re going to be installing a spiral garden in another part of the yard, and more growing space. Stay tuned for updates!
It’s still possible to plant winter vegetables and get them up before the warmth of late spring gets to them.
I’m going to be adding more spinach (40-50 days to maturity). But I could also plant arugula (40 days), turnips (50 days), carrots (60-75 days), (red) mustard (45 days), bok choy/pak choi (45-55 days) , collards (70 days), chard (50-60 days), kale (40-60 days depending on variety) and … at the end of the month … lettuce (50-60 days) and peas (snap peas as early as 55 days, others up to 70 days). And don’t forget radishes! They can be seeded and harvested within 30-45 days, depending on the weather.
I was on a tour of community gardens in Dallas last week, and we saw someone with some peas that were at least 2′ high! We all marveled that they had survived, given that the day was in the 20s with a wind chill! But the tour also brought home to the city planners for whom the tour was organized, that gardening can be done in North Texas year-round.
There is no right or wrong with gardening. No one is going to come and take your garden away if you don’t succeed! Your reward is vegetables. If you plant something and it doesn’t thrive, it just means you have learned something. You can hedge your bets by following guides for best dates to plant, but they don’t always work – particularly if we have a late freeze or spring comes early and summer heat comes earlier. Sometimes it’s fun just to try something outside of the guides – just to see if it works! Like the year I decided to winter-over my chard and I found out it can be grown in this area like a perennial.
Gardening is about finding out what works for you, for your gardening style and your location.
And remember….if our average last frost is in mid to late-March, starting some vegetables from seed 8-10 weeks earlier indoors means you’ll have transplants ready to go into the ground on time!