Gardening in the Off-Season

April 10, 2012 at 4:11 am (Other)

Success with winter gardening!

Until this past year, the only winter gardening I’d done was inadvertent, like a few years back when I left a chard plant to wither with the first frost and, much to my surprise, spring warmth brought a fresh flourishing of young leaves.

Hoping it wasn’t just luck that first time, I decided last summer to plant some cold-tolerant veggies to see if they would over-winter and produce an early spring harvest.  The verdict?  Not surprisingly since they’re all in the notoriously hardy brassica family, the broccoli, cabbage, and kale withstood cold temperatures and frost the best.  Starting them a few weeks earlier in summer would mean bigger plants going into the winter when growth all but ceases and, therefore, bigger plants at the time of spring flowering.

Maybe steaming it in the microwave wasn't the most dignified treatment of this broccoli that we waited eight months to eat, but it was delicious nonetheless.

The chard, arugula, and spinach, despite having more tender leaves, were also able to shrug off a light frost; some leaves were lost when temperatures dipped more than a couple degrees below zero.  Arugula grows particularly well in cold temperatures, forming beautifully compact plants that we ate from for months before they showed any sign of bolting, which was around January.  Soon we’ll be having garden-fresh salads with arugula and kale blossoms on top!

My big regret is that I’m not getting to enjoy the purple sprouting broccoli that I planted last year.  Not realizing that it is a biennial plant, I thought it wasn’t producing flowers last year because of a nutritional imbalance (too much nitrogen?) and since all three plants had contracted a raging case of aphids that I didn’t want spreading around the garden, I decided to remove them.  I soon learned the error in my thinking and now that I see purple broccoli sprouting in other people’s gardens, I am kicking myself for being so impatient.

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