Category Archives: Season Extension Gardens

Friday PhotoEssay – March 13, 2015

I guess it is about time to start on Friday PhotoEssays for the year! There isn’t much going on yet, but there are a few things to share. I will say that the Friday PhotoEssay posts may be a little few and far between this spring, as I’m planning to be out of the office more often than not. We may end up doing PhotoEssays whenever they come rather than on Friday!

The garden looks very much like it did last fall after we finished up, which is fine.

We have lettuce seedlings up and growing inside though! They are already looking a little bit stretchy. I’m tempted to put them outside, but I think they are a bit too small yet. Next week for sure!

I had left a few of these ‘Deep Purple’ bunching onions outside last fall when the first cold spell hit, completely unprotected. I wanted to see what would happen, and I thought they were completely dead. Deader than dead. But I was wrong! It is always amazing to me how resilient plants can be!

And now, a Tale of Three Spinach Plantings:

This spinach was planted fairly late last fall. I think early October? It was really small when the cold weather hit, so I didn’t even bother covering it. This spinach has had NO protection all winter. It is now a nice size and lush. Very little signs of damage.

This spinach was planted at about the same time as the previous picture, although perhaps a week earlier. It was larger last winter, and we ended up putting the cold frame over it. The cold frame was kept closed all winter until late last week. Again, this spinach looks great!

This spinach was the largest last fall, and had been harvested a couple times already. I put it under the row cover for the first couple cold spells, but then took it off and left it off for the rest of the winter. There are also two different varieties. The one on the right is ‘Giant Winter’ and the one on the left is ‘Donkey.’ It isn’t as obvious in the picture as in person, but the ‘Donkey’ spinach looks a lot better. I’m curious as to whether being under the row cover early resulted in these plants being more susceptible to cold injury later or if it is simply the fact that the plants were larger when the cold hit. Because clearly, the earlier picture of completely unprotected spinach shows no damage. However, those plants were much younger and smaller all winter. I think they have put on a lot of growth in the last couple weeks. It would also have been interesting to see what these plants would have looked like if they had been harvested heavily at some point during the winter.

Overwintering vegetables sometimes causes more questions than answers!

On a completely different topic, I would like to point you all toward a blog post by one of our Master Gardeners, Cynthia Abbot: Tolerating the Uglies, Take 2. I know you are probably not thinking about blister beetles on your tomatoes yet, but you should read her post on the subject and tuck it away for later this summer!

Have a great weekend!

Preparing for the Sudden Onslaught of Winter

I feel like I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the weather, but it really isn’t just idle conversation! The weather is extremely important to our success as gardeners. After one light freeze and lots of unseasonably warm weather, we are looking at more than a week of unseasonably cold temperatures. Overnight lows look like they will be hovering in the upper teens to low 20s for the better part of the next two weeks. (At least that low of 9 degrees is gone, for now!) Many of the cool season vegetables will tolerate temperatures down to 24 or 25 without significant damage, but two weeks of lows down around 20 is probably a bit much for them to tolerate, especially when they haven’t been hardened off with cold-but-not-too-cold temperatures.

So…it was time to harvest some things and cover others this afternoon! Because I can’t resist experimenting, I left one or two plants of almost everything in the garden, just to see what would happen.

We already had the cold frame out, but still open. We closed it up and tucked some straw along the back edge to keep the cold air out.

We also put hoops and row cover over the main section of spinach and radicchio. Normally I’d leave those out, but I think this will be a bit cold all of a sudden.

I left some of the other spinach around the garden uncovered, including the Indian variety. (I don’t have great hopes for its cold hardiness!)

I harvested a few of the radicchio plants to see what stage they were at. I also harvested the watermelon radishes, fennel, half the bunching onions, and most of the dandelion greens. I was just going to leave the lemongrass, but then I just couldn’t let it go to waste, so it went to our Foods & Nutrition department.

I’ll post more pictures and show what I did with some of the different vegetables later in the week!

Purple Peacock Sprouting Broccoli

Given the lesson of the other sprouting broccoli, when the Purple Peacock Sprouting Broccoli started putting on a head, I took it off fairly soon.

The head definitely has a purple cast to it, although I think it is really just a deeper, darker blue-green than normal broccoli.

As you can see from this view, it doesn’t look nearly as purple up close. And then there is the caterpillar. We haven’t treated for the cabbageworms recently, so I wasn’t surprised to see one. What was surprising is that I actually found six caterpillars in this small head of broccoli. Yes, that’s a lot. Yikes!

This is what it looks like now, about 2 weeks later. You can see all the side shoots that have developed after cutting the main stalk. And yes, these are currently frozen solid.

Here’s the green sprouting broccoli that I cut several weeks ago. It also has some nice side shoots growing. Once things thaw out, we may have to cut some of these. Broccoli is typically damaged once the temperature dips below 24, so I’ll be interested to see how these plants come out of the cold.

What’s a Frost? What’s a Freeze?

I saw this posted on Facebook this morning and thought it was really interesting!

Here is an excerpt from the Manhattan Community Garden Newsletter, written by Dr. Chuck Marr:

“You have often heard these 2 terms used interchangeably. However, for horticultural purposes there is something of a difference. This is forever etched in my brain since a former professor quizzed me about this in one of my final oral examinations. I think he wanted to demonstrate that he knew more about this topic than I did (and he won). A frost refers to ice crystals that form on various surfaces. This traditionally happens when a ‘radiational freeze’ occurs. As the night goes on, heat is lost from near the ground. Some plant tissues can be frozen at the outside edges while others areas inside the plant can be spared when heat gets trapped. It is easy to protect from this type of damage with some kind of insulating cover for 2-5 degrees below the freezing point. These radiational freezes often are difficult to predict and there will be some variation in locations from heat emitted from surrounding structures and cold air moving to low lying areas. A freeze usually refers to an ‘advective freeze’ when a large cold air mass moves into the area and freezing plant tissues happens. Old-timers often called this a ‘black freeze’ since there my not be any white colored frost but a lot of blackened plant tissue. In this case, there is generally a freezing of tissues equally all over the plant. These are harder to protect by covering although some protection may be gained. Forecasters can more accurately predict and estimate temperatures from this type of freeze so the temperatures are usually close to what is predicted everywhere. So, when you hear the weather forecast predicting a ‘frost warning’ or a ‘freeze warning’ this is what they are talking about. Both can damage plants but a frost is a lot easier to deal with than a freeze.”

Friday PhotoEssay

I thought I would sneak in with a PhotoEssay this week and then perhaps highlight some more new varieties next week. We are also having our first planning meeting next week, so I may have some things to report regarding our plans too!

This is the spinach that is growing in our cold frame. It had been closed, but I opened it back up this week. Just in time for the rain, too! The plants that are on the end nearest the sidewalk are much larger, and I think it has to do with the amount of sunlight they are getting. The plants on the other side of the cold frame get shaded by the wall of the cold frame. That would be the argument for either a plexiglass side on that end or for a shorter wall on that end.

The overview of the radicchio patch looks pretty depressing. It obviously didn’t care for the cold temperatures of the past few weeks without protection. It is interesting though how distinctly you can tell where the green variety and red variety were planted.

If you get down close to the red radicchio, you can see that some of the larger plants have tolerated the weather pretty well and are even starting to develop the heads in the centers. I’ll be interested to see if they survive through the winter and how they continue to develop.

I pulled one of the ‘Red Beard’ onions just to see how they were doing. These are bunching type onions, so this is about the size you would expect them to be. They are still doing quite well without protection, as are the shallots and garlic. You can tell from the tips of the leaves that we’ve had some cold temperatures, but the plants are still healthy.

Did you know that you can eat the roots of onions like this? They are a little tough at this age, but you still get that nice onion-y flavor. Maybe something interesting for a salad garnish?

Last but not least is the rosemary. It is looking really good, even though most of the herbs are dead/very much dormant. I expected the thyme to look better, but I think it is either not the most hardy of varieties or it had too much vigorous, young growth late in the season that has gotten zapped by the cold. It’s still alive, just not looking too tasty, especially compared to the rosemary.

Speaking of Thyme, we will be highlighting thyme as our local Herb of the Year as well as Elderberry (the official herb of the Year) at Herb Day (May 4th) this year. Can you believe we have already started working on Herb Day?!? Yikes!