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Wednesday PhotoEssay & Miscellany

Sorry about not posting for a while. If you’ve been following my Flickr stream, you’ll see that I’ve been posting pictures, but just haven’t gotten around to writing any posts.

The leaves on the Sweetgum trees were beautiful a couple weeks ago. They are still nice, but not quite as bright as they were.

This Shumard Oak was showing this great red color this fall. It will fade to brown over time.

With the leaves off the trees, it is easy to see what has been going on in those trees all summer. This gingko tree was home to a large squirrel nest in the top. It is kind of funny to see a squirrel nest made entirely of gingko leaves! I wonder if those squirrels have really good memory?

Since the overnight temperatures were getting cold last week, we decided to pick the rest of our Swiss Chard and Kale from our community garden plot. Do you think we have enough chard? It weighed in at 4 lbs 11 oz!

The first step in dealing with all that chard was to strip the leaves off the stems. You can see the mountain of stems and the cascade of leaves in this picture. The water glass is there for a little bit of scale…

I chopped the stems up and shredded the leaves. Then I sauteed them in batches with a little oil, salt, and pepper.

We ended up with a 4 quart freezer bags full of Swiss Chard to use during the winter. I’m sensing some of that yummy Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Gratin in our future!

Just don’t ask. Really. Don’t ask.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday PhotoEssay

I wandered around the garden earlier this week to see what there was to see after the snow and cold. I’m so impressed with the vitality of our plant under the circumstances!

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been posting the temperatures under the row covers, and that’s for a very good reason. The row covers were frozen to the ground, so I couldn’t get at the thermometers! So the readings right now are the highest and lowest temperatures that have been experienced since the last time I took readings. (I have to be honest – I don’t even remember when that was!)

This is the outdoor thermometer. The max temperature was 75 degrees and the minimum was about -10 degrees. I don’t know if the garden really didn’t get any colder than -10 or if the thermometer was under a blanket of snow which would have insulated it somewhat.

The thermometer under the plastic row cover gave a reading of 100 degrees maximum and 20 degrees minimum. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.

First, let’s look at the plants that were growing outdoors, completely uncovered and unprotected (except by that nice blanket of snow). The larkspur is looking great! I think it has been growing, because it is bigger than I remember it being before the snow. We are planning to transplant it to another spot in the garden sometime soon.

The outdoor spinach is looking fine as well, and to my surprise, the lettuce is also still alive! I was kind of expecting most of the lettuce to be dead and gone. A lot of it is, but the beautiful ‘Red Cross’ Butterhead lettuce (that we chose for heat tolerance!!) still has some life to it in the very center of the plants.

It isn’t exactly what you would consider “harvestable,” but the fact that it is still alive is rather impressive. It will probably grow a little bit more before it bolts this spring. Maybe enough to harvest a couple leaves, but probably not. It was just a fun experiment, and it does show how much potential there is for growing lettuces in the winter if they are given more than no protection.

The next thing I looked at was the garden under the plastic row cover. This bed did sustain some damage from the recent winter storm!

As you can see, a couple of the PVC hoops got a bit flattened. I’m not sure if it was the weight of the snow itself or the weight of the melting snow/water that did it. I kind of suspect it was the water in the end that caused the damage. I pulled the plastic up here before I took the picture, but there was a lot of water sitting in the plastic. The plastic wasn’t tight enough for the water to just run off, so it pooled crushed the hoops.

I’ve decided to take the plastic off this garden completely for a couple of different reasons. This is one of them:

I think the conditions under the plastic tunnel have been too humid and too warm for parts of the winter, resulting in the growth of this beautiful fungus seen above on some dead kale leaves. The plants under the plastic don’t look nearly as good as those under the fabric row cover, and most of them are supposed to be more cold hardy!

The leeks and onions aren’t looking terrible, but they have some diseased leaves too.

Meanwhile, under the fabric covered hoops, things are looking pretty good. There are some dead leaves here and there, but I think some of this lettuce and spinach could still be eaten!

The moral of this story is that you should only use plastic for row covers if you are going to be able to vent the plastic on warmer, sunnier days.

A January Look at the Garden, Part 3

I really intended to get this post up either late last week or early this week. Now, all the pictures were taken before the recent snow and cold weather. I’ll get around to taking the row covers off again and checking on things after a couple weeks. (We’ll watch the weather and pick a nice day!) I haven’t been disturbing the row covers to read the temperatures, but the next time I check, I’ll see what the absolute Minimum and Maximum temperatures were for the cold spell.

The carrots are looking quite sad, but they are still alive. More importantly, they are harvestable. The roots don’t show any freeze or cold injury and are fine to pull and eat. So if you don’t have a root cellar, it seems to be reasonable to leave your carrots in the garden under cover, at least until it gets really cold.

The Watermelon Radishes are about 80% dead at this point. Many of the roots are still alive, but they are no longer harvestable because they have freeze injury in them. Yuck! I pulled these out and put them in the compost bin.

The beets are looking better than the radishes, but not great. The roots are still harvestable, so I’m letting them go and hoping that they have survived the cold this week.

The spinach under the plastic cover actually looks worse that the spinach under the fabric. It’s even arguably worse than the spinach outside. I think the warmer conditions under the plastic row cover caused some disease and more aphids than otherwise.

The kale is definitely looking pitiful. I’m pretty sure that the kale would look better than this if it had been left completely uncovered! It is normally very cold tolerant, but I think the plastic row cover was keeping things just a bit to warm for the kale to develop enough cold tolerance.

The radicchio looks a little more “zapped” than I anticipated, but it is starting to form very small heads in the center of each plant. It is also pretty cool to see the variation in color/color pattern on the different plants.

This particular radicchio plant is still looking pretty nice. I can’t wait to see how purple these have turned after the recent cold weather!

The leeks are really looking pretty good. I’m impressed by how big the are getting. The front leek was the first seedling to come up way back in August when I started the seeds inside. If the leeks are less than perfect come spring, I think it will be entirely because I didn’t get the seeds started soon enough.

The onions aren’t looking quite as nice as the leeks. The leaves are showing some damage. I’m not sure if it is cold injury, disease (from too much humidity), or maybe onion thrips. It looks a little bit like thrips, but I’m not sure.

I couldn’t resist pulling one of the onions. It obviously has not been convinced to “bulb” yet, even though it is supposed to be a short day onion. Maybe the days are too short? I hope the onions have survived, because I really want to see if the bulb up in the spring before the days get long.

That’s what was happening in the garden last week. It will be interesting to see what is still there by the next time we look under the row covers.

Snowy Garden

A January Look at the Garden, part 2

I already told you that the unprotected plants were more than living up to my expectations. Let’s take a look at the plants under the fabric row cover.

The spinach is clearly doing very well. There are a few scorched leaves from cold damage and maybe some disease. Overall, the spinach is a great benchmark for everything else.

The Red & Green Saladbowl lettuces are looking a little more zapped than the spinach, but there is still plenty of good lettuce that is harvestable.

The ‘Winter Density’ lettuce is looking even a little bit worse than the saladbowl lettuces. You can see some droopy leaves indicating some damage. The newer, interior leaves are still crisp and sweet.

The fava beans, while still alive, are looking pretty pitiful. They are still trying to grow a little bit, but I don’t know if they will ever be productive. At least they help out by fixing a little bit of nitrogen into the soil.

The leek seeds that I threw into an open space on a whim are looking really good. They hardly look like there’s been any cold weather at all. The seedlings are still pretty small and not growing very fast, but I think they will look great once spring comes!

This was a later planting of spinach, I think maybe the Oct. 1st planting? You can definitely tell the difference that 2-3 weeks makes in planting, as the top picture was the spinach planted on Sept. 15th. It’s a little small right now, but when the weather warms up it will grow well and be ready to harvest nice and early.

I’m not really sure what happened to this lettuce, but it isn’t doing as well as the earlier plantings of the same lettuces. The Elegance Greens mix that is in the left hand corner is also pretty well frozen.

I’ll leave you with a less depressing picture! The radicchio seedlings that I threw in for fun in early October are looking pretty good. They have a lot darker color than their older counterparts that are under the plastic row cover. It will be fun to see how fast these grow as spring comes and if we actually have anything to harvest.

That’s what’s under the fabric row cover! Either later this week or next week we’ll take a look at what’s growing (or not) under the plastic row cover.