Most of the garlic and shallots that were planted in October have started growing in one way or another. One of the interesting things we’ve observed is that some varieties came up fast and have put on a lot of top growth. Others have put on next to no top growth. I don’t want to disturb the soil, so I don’t know if they are still alive or if not all the cloves are going to grow.
The other varieties, like Chesnok Red (pictured) and Persian Star have very little top growth. We won’t be able to tell for sure until spring, but here is my suspicion. The varieties showing less top growth are varieties that typically do well in colder, more northern climates. It would make sense that one of the reasons they do better is that they do not put on lots of leaves in the fall. The varieties that have more leaves are those that are supposed to thrive in warmer climates with milder winters. Again…it makes sense that those varieties could survive and thrive with more leaves in the fall/winter.
With what looks to be a mild winter on the horizon, I would expect that those “warm weather” varieties should do better for us. We will have to wait and see!
The shallots are also showing some differences in growth. I’m really excited about the Gray Shallots (shown here), because they are the true “gourmet” shallots. The plants are already beautiful! Even though a single shallot is planted in each spot (like a single onion set), the plants are multi-stemmed? clumped? shooted? I’m not sure what the right term is. Anyway, shallots grow from a single shallot and produce mulitple shallots in each clump. You can already see those divisions taking place in these plants.
The other thing you may have noticed is that we have a light layer of straw mulch that is on all the plants. It isn’t very thick, but it will provide a little bit of protection and also should help hold moisture as the weather is still very dry.
The other think I noticed, even though I don’t have a closeup picture of it, is that all the garlic and shallot plants are showing a little bit of damage from thrips already. Thrip damage looks like little silvery streaks/spots on the leaves. I suspect that the combination of the drought conditions and warm weather have resulted in a higher than normal population.
The next update about the garlic will probably be in the spring, when the scapes start showing up! Yum!
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile now, you know that in the past we have used “low tunnel” type row covers/cold frames. (These terms tend to get used interchangeably, although they aren’t necessarily exactly the same.)
This is what we’ve done in the past – putting either plastic or fabric over low plastic hoops to protect cool season vegetables. With the new garden, we wanted to try something new, especially something that wouldn’t be as susceptible to the wind!
We wanted to try a more traditional cold frame, which is a wooden box with a glass/plastic top. We used plexiglass. One of our Master Gardeners built this for us. (Thank you, Don!) It is designed to fit onto the red cedar raised beds, around the corner posts.
As you can see, the lid is hinged and runs on a track. It is also only about 4′ x 4′ rather than the length of the whole bed. We wanted something that would be usable but that we could still hope to lift and store somewhere during the rest of the year!
The Master Gardeners planted some spinach seeds in this raised bed the week before the cold frame was installed. They are growing pretty well, since the weather has still been warm. The day length tends to slow the growth down at this time of year as well. You can see we still have the lid open, since it hasn’t been getting consistently cold. I might see about closing it for today and tomorrow, then opening it again later in the week.
Overwintering Vegetables for Spring
There are two groups of vegetables that can be successfully overwintered into the spring: root vegetables and very cold hardy leafy greens.
Root vegetables should be planted early enough that they are a mature size for harvest by mid-November. As the ground begins to freeze, the root vegetables can be heavily mulched with straw to keep the soil from freezing. This method can provide an outdoor cold storage for the root vegetables. They can then be dug and used throughout the winter, as long as the soil is not frozen. Row covers can also assist with this goal.
Spinach, kale, some varieties of lettuce, and some specialty greens such as mache and claytonia are very cold tolerant and can be successfully overwintered with a couple layers of row cover. Depending on the winter and the amount of protection given, these vegetables may be harvestable for much of the winter or they may not have harvestable leaves until it is warmer with longer days in early March.