Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February's Garden (2017)

It has been the most unusual winter, almost no winter at all.  A few weeks of bitter cold and then it turned warm. However, I know better than to be happy.  Spring weather is about a month ahead of schedule.  The plants think it is the middle of March and have come out of dormancy.  Buttercups are blooming, trees are budding - this may or may not good.  It could easily turn off cold and everything would be killed.  We may not have had enough cold nights for the fruit trees to set fruit and I know it has not been cold enough to kill the bug eggs.  Right now we are holding our breaths.

What few plants are left in the garden are growing so fast I can't keep up with harvesting.  It is really a month ahead of schedule in spring growth, but if it turns off cold and starts snowing, I will put the hoop house covers back over the wire supports. Everything out there has been hardened off so cold weather won't bother it much.  

When I harvest greens, I cut the outer leaves off so there are only one or two leaves left.  This forces the plant to produce new leaves instead of wasting energy keeping the old, tough leaves alive.  The tender new growth has the best flavor.  The small plants (below) have all had their leaves harvested; they are surrounding an untouched plant in the center.

Morris Heading Collards
This is a Morris Heading Collard plant.  They did wonderfully in the winter garden.  All are from seeds I saved from last year's garden.

Morris Heading Collard.
This is the first year growing a savoy cabbage and I am pleased with the hardiness; however, it grows slow. Only a few leaves were picked all winter.

On the left is a Morris Heading Collard and on the right is a Tronchuda cabbage which also did wonderfully in the winter garden.  It too was from saved seeds.

Morris Heading Collard on left, Tronchuda Cabbage on right.
The elephant garlic has sprouted and is growing fast.  I keep clipping the leaves and chopping them up to go in salads.  This is a sprout from a bulb I bought years ago.  Every harvest, I save a few bulbs to replant. Sometimes they fall apart when being dug so little pieces stay behind and volunteer sprouts appear all around the garden.

Elephant Garlic in the strawberry bed.
My favorite green vegetable, collard greens is thriving.  This area was hard hit by the armadillos so there are only a few plants left; however, they are finally starting to grow.

Collard Greens
There are only about six kale plants still alive.  They too have come back to life and started growing rapidly.

This is my first time growing scarlet kale and the flavor is better, I think than the other varieties.  It has a milder taste, which is what I like.  After all the seeds I planted, there are only about three plants left alive.  Plus, I had to make myself stop harvesting the leaves so it could grow.  Next year I will put my kale under hoop houses to keep the rabbits away.

Putting a net over the Australian Winter peas worked great. They were not bothered by the cold weather.

The Florida Broadleaf Mustard plants have also sprung back to life.  I still have too many because they love the cold weather and only Bill likes them.

They are doing something strange. The main stem is dying, then rotting and breaking off.  I thought the plants were dead, but instead, they started sprouting around the damaged area.  This might be some type of virus according to the internet.  I am not really bothered since all I need are a few plants, but I decided to show the pictures.  As I dig up the infected plants, they will be burned and not put in the compost pile.

Even more mustard plants.

More mustards than I want.
The onions were out in the open, not under the hoop houses and only a few survived.  Next year they will all go under the hoop houses.

Empty onion bed.
On the left is a red romaine lettuce and on the right is buttercrunch lettuce.  These were planted real late in the season (November, December) when I was replanting daily due to the armadillos.  I did not expect much from them and they stayed tiny for a long time.  The hoop house kept them alive since they were too young to survive.  Now they have finally decided to start growing.

Red Romaine on the left.  Buttercrunch on right.
Every year I save many of my seeds and do not worry about cross-pollination.   Open pollinated seeds, which I use exclusively, adapt to your local area and improve.  Over the years I have not been vigilant about saving plant names, I simply did not care, it did not matter since my garden was only for my family.  Now that I am blogging, oops, my laziness has been on display for the world to see.  I do not have the Latin names for everything and if someone sees a mistake, please feel comfortable correcting me.

This is Ching Chang Bok Choy that is already bolting and going to seed.  The flowers may not be pollinated well enough to make fertile seeds since there are no bugs.  Normally they don't survive my winters but for this plant, the hoop house made all the difference.  I occasionally snipped the leaves off of the sides so it was never completely harvested.

My Chinese Napa cabbages are bolting so I will allow one to go to seed.  It won't need all the leaves so I will pick the better ones off for salad greens.  This is the second year I have grown them for the winter garden.  Last year they did not survive even under the hoop house so this year's mild winter has made a difference...or the seeds have adapted...or I planted it at the right time...or...or...who knows.  It lived.

The one below on the right was harvested one week ago.  It was sliced off across the bottom leaving the root unharmed.  It has begun to sprout new leaves.

I have not planned my spring or summer garden yet and usually don't make final decisions for a few weeks; however, this year the warm weather is ahead of me!  Should I go ahead and start seeds?  Or be wise and wait? Or take a chance and risk it for extra gain?  I have some seeds I can sacrifice on the expectation the weather will stay warm.  Whatever am I to do?  Is it winter or spring?


  1. Your garden still gives you a lot of green vegetables. That is great ! As to the winter peas, do you harvest the young leaves too (I have read about that once) or the peapods only? This variety of pea is quite unknown here.
    I do think, you could start sowing now, - spinach, radish, parsley,
    kohlrabi (turnip cabbage). Covered with garden fleece or in your hoop house it will grow quickly. Last Monday I sowed lots of cress and also spinach. Have you covered your chives with a cloche? That also makes them grow quicker and they are tender. Bread with butter
    on it and chives is so delicious.
    Good luck for all your garden work, Jeannie !

    1. They are Australian winter peas and they are new here. I looked them up on the internet before I bought them last fall and they are grown for the leaves in the winter when nothing else will grow. I haven't harvested them yet because there was not much out there to pick. Now they are really growing. They are supposed to grow about 12 feet tall which is why I put them by a trellis, but they just grow in a tangled mess on the ground. The next sunny day I am going out and pick them. I will let you know how it goes.

      I think I will try planting spinach, radish and kohlrabi under my hoop houses to see if they will sprout. My parsley is planted in my flower bed in the front yard and it is doing great. My chives are beside the parsley and they are just sitting there doing nothing. Maybe they do need a covering. Gosh, buttered bread with chives, oh that sounds good.

    2. Hi,
      Love your gardens.There's not an armadillo in sight. I got some new seeds that I'm starting this weekend for bok choy and some "container" friendly squash. Amazingly, because of the weird weather patterns the rosemary, thyme and sage wintered over and I've had fresh herbs all winter. Did you get my email? Dorothy

    3. Hello Dorothy! It is amazing what a husband with a shotgun can accomplish against unwanted critters, I am so proud of him.

      Yes, I got your email but I have ignored everyone and everything because Dustin is home for a few days since it is spring break! It is so wonderful to have someone who is starving to feed again. As soon as I get his stomach full (a really hard thing to accomplish), I will sit down and do some blogging.