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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!

One Last Wintry Blast?

It looks like we are due for one last onset of sub-freezing temperatures this week. (Next week they are forecasting 36, which still isn’t that spectacular.) The forecast Thursday night is for 29 degrees. If you only have cool season vegetables out, this really isn’t anything to worry about. You don’t even need to cover them. If you’ve got tomatoes or peppers planted, you will definitely want to cover them!

I also noticed that our newly planted rhubarb crown bit the dust sometime in the past couple weeks. It had a couple of new leaves growing, but they are gone now and the crown seems crumbly and dead. I suspect fluctuating temperatures had a lot to do with that.  Rhubarb crown number 2 is coming soon! We’ll see if we can keep that one alive.

Friday PhotoEssay

Hopefully this is the first of a full season of Friday PhotoEssays! There’s just a few things up right now, but the garden is going to start changing quickly.

I don’t know why, but I’m loving watching the shallots grow. Maybe it’s because I know there was only one bulb planted in each spot originally, and there is now a clump of stems coming up from each spot. I love watching the multiplication! So much more fun than regular onions, or even garlic.

Speaking of garlic, this is the ‘Maiskij’ variety. It is huge already! Those stems are about the same diameter as a quarter! This variety is either going to be VERY early maturing or the bulbs will be huge by late June.

To put it in context, the variety in the background is ‘Maiskij’ (no, I have no idea how to pronounce it), and the one in the front is ‘Siberian.’ It is healthy, but not nearly as big as ‘Maiskij.’ There are some varieties that are currently even smaller than ‘Siberian.’

This radicchio is unfurling a little bit in the warmth and sun from earlier this week. I’m not quite sure what it’s doing, but I’m afraid it is going to bolt. I noticed today that it was curled back up a little more, so we’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Yes, it’s a handful of dirt. No, make that soil, folks. One more picture, and then I’ll explain.

Yes, I know. Another handful. Can you tell which handful of soil is moist and which one is dry? Maybe? It’s a little hard with our current soil to get a really good differentiation in the pictures, but the first picture is moist and the second is quite dry. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to take pictures of differences in soil moisture and temperature (because, you know, warm soil looks so much different than cold?!?). I finally decided just to take a couple pictures and explain.

Because we’ve had (and still have) straw mulch over a good portion of the garden this winter, you can really tell the difference it makes in both soil temperature and moisture. The mulched areas have nicely moist soil, while the bare areas are dry. However, the mulched areas are much cooler. You can easily distinguish the difference in soil temperature by touch, because the mulched areas feel almost cold to the touch, especially after you have touched the unmulched soil. There are definitely some pros and cons to mulching through the winter!

Have a great week!

Winter Storm Aftermath & Upcoming Events

Unfortunately, due to the amount of snow that piled up last week and the beginning of this week, I didn’t get more pictures of the garden until yesterday.

You can see that the snow on the beds nearest the building has already started melting significantly, but that the far end is still piled and drifted with snow. It should be a good amount of moisture (and protection) for the garlic and shallots for the time being. It’s kind of nice having a winter that looks like winter for a change.

Normally I would have a few teaser pictures from the Outdoor Living & Landscape Show to share, but again, I didn’t get my camera down there yet. I’ll probably have a few pictures next week. Meanwhile, you can find out anything pertinent about the show here: Outdoor Living & Landscape Show. The list of seminars is there as well.

The 3rd annual Grow Good Food Workshop is fast approaching! It will be on Saturday, March 23rd here at the Extension Office. You can see the schedule and register online at