Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thinning The Winter Garden (2016)

The picture looks lush and healthy but it is not; it is overcrowded.  About two months ago I broadcast an assortment of Chinese vegetable seeds out into the dirt and left them to grow. I have thinned them once for meals but it is time to do it again.  Not all are winter hardy so I will be harvesting those that will not make it through the coldest part of winter to make room for the hardier varieties.

When you part the leaves you see where bugs are beginning to nibble on the plants plus there is a small cabbage seedling in the shadow of the larger plants. Everything around it will be harvested or trimmed back to the ground.  The sun will penetrate down inside to help the seedling grow, air will circulate to keep molds from growing, and beneficial insects will help themselves to the bugs.

Here is a wasp sunning himself while waiting for his lunch.  As long as he does not sting me, he can eat all he wants.

Some cabbage worms were hiding underneath a leaf. They can devour a plant quickly. Cold weather does not stop them but only slows them. Spraying with poison would not have gotten far enough underneath the leaf to kill him.  Even though I could use an organic spray on it, I still hesitate to do so.

This is the same area with just a little of it cleared.  Even though all the seeds were planted on the same day, they vary in speed of growth.  The Chinese vegetables will quickly overtake the other winter cabbages, but the winter cabbages can take the bitter cold better.  The cabbage seedling is too small for me to identify the type yet.  I saved seeds from many overwintering plants and threw them all together.  I lose track of what is what and don't really care; all are edible.

If you look to the left of the seedling there is a small winter radish. I will cut the leaves back low but leave enough so it can still grow. Since that will slow the growth some, I will harvest it later. There are many others that are ready to be picked now. This one can wait a while. Removing the leaves will also give more sunlight to the winter cabbage beside it.

To the left of the cabbage, the seedling is more of the same type grouped together in one bunch. They all can't stay so one will need to be chosen and the others will be harvested. The choice will be the healthiest one that has the thickest stem.

Even though this one had a good thick stem, it was cut down because it was too close to other plants plus it had aphids.

On this close-up view, you can see the aphids plus the damage done to the leaf by other bugs. Once again, the poison would not have gotten down under here. These plants were not used for dinner because they are bug infested. I do have my standards, although they are sometimes a bit low.

After the area was cleared, I broke up the soil killing any weed seedlings that may have sprouted. Normally there are not too many because it is so shaded underneath.

The last step is to take all of the inedible, thinned leaves, chop them up into smaller bits and spread them over the ground. This blocks more weeds from sprouting and keeps the moisture in the ground from evaporating. It looks crowded but they will dry very quickly and begin to decompose. Doing it this way saves me from hauling the plants to the compost bin and then having to bring the compost back later to the garden. I take the buggy leaves and throw them in an empty area of the garden. The predators will find them and they will be gone soon or they will die because there is nothing live for them to eat.

This is the same area about four days later.  It is now easier to see what is alive and what is mulch. The Chinese vegetables have already grown some.  

Every few days I work in a different area based on which spot is the most overcrowded. After I get finished, I start all over again.  It never ends.


  1. I guess we are finished gardening for the winter. We tilled our summer garden and sowed some turnips and collards but they never came up, it has been so dry. My husband had installed a water hydrant near the garden, which is far from the house, but it is not economical to water the entire garden and try to keep it watered. We are on "city water" so I don't want to have to do all that since our bill is already up from watering calves. Glad yours is doing well. Enjoy your greens.

    1. Will it ever rain again? I have loved being on well water but now I am starting to get worried. It is still producing fine but I have no idea what we would do if it dried up.