Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Winter Garden, Spring Walk



     In Mariposa, when you hear gardeners talking together in the Fall, one question often comes up: "Are you planting a Winter garden this year?" The first time I heard this, I thought how nice! Peas and lettuce and carrots and broccoli all Winter long, just like back home! However, I came to find out a Winter garden in Southern California, where I grew up, is a very different thing than a Winter garden in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Without the influence of the Pacific Ocean, gardening in the Winter is a gamble, and it gets riskier the higher you go. What I think these gardeners are really asking each other is: "What kind of Winter do you think we'll have?",  or: "Are you feeling adventuresome this year?". My garden is at about 2700'. The coldest it gets here is around 15 degrees, but not every year and not often. Usually Winter night temperatures are between 32-36. This makes it possible to grow a few things in the Winter, to try to grow a few others, to succeed and to fail, but mostly, to get an early jump on Spring. 

Here we are way back at the first of October. It was still hot and the Summer garden was still going strong. I planted seeds into pots for cabbage, collards, brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, leeks, and spinach. At the end of October, I planted garlic and shallot bulbs and strawberry runners into the now empty garden beds. By the beginning of November, I had everything transplanted and direct seeded some peas, carrots, and radishes. 




By December, the peas and garlic are up and potatoes are volunteering like crazy through the strawberries. A couple of cold snaps took care of that.







Lettuce, leeks and spinach are coming right along.


Carrots and radishes too. The shallots are beautiful!










Then ... 


The cold hits and there are massive casualties.

I know! But it looks worse than it really is. Most of the plants were able to freeze and thaw day after day with no trouble at all. This ability of hardy plants still amazes me all these years later. You might be thinking, "Why didn't she just cover them up?" The main reason is that I'm interested in what the plants will tolerate. I think on this morning it was 19 degrees. About half of the little Brassica seedlings died and all of the larger lettuces. The smaller lettuces were fine. Just doing my part for science!













Through the cold and snow, the little plants were very busy... 

Growing roots! Then, Bam! By the middle of March they begin to shoot up out of the ground.

That's when I started to pick the first of the radishes.
And spinach.














And lettuce!


And the Brassicas? They bolted, every single one. Every collard, broccoli, brussels sprout and cabbage. With one notable exception:
The cabbage plants I bought at the hardware store in February to replace the frozen seedlings. Probably grown on the coast and never exposed to too much heat or too much cold. All the others I replanted midwinter, but I had run out of cabbage seed. This Winter we had some crazy temperature fluctuations. A few times there was a difference of 30 or more degrees from day to day and even more from day to night. Brassicas hate that. You know, last Summer I learned that a few strategic tomato and pepper plant purchases can really help the harvest. This Winter I think I learned the same thing about plants in the mustard family. 

 This was last week with everything growing so beautifully in the warm Spring weather.


I picked baby leeks and carrots.
I'm really looking forward to these strawberries, but the asparagus will have to wait until next year.
I got two magnificent heads of lettuce. The top one is Forellenschluss, the biggest I've ever seen. I'll let it go to seed. I don't know what the bottom one is. Possibly a cross between Black Seeded Simpson and Red Salad Bowl. It did the best through the Winter cold and it's so pretty too! It will be very interesting to see what its seeds give me next year.

The peas are just starting up. They will go until June when the first hot day will kill them.


Sunzilla's granddaughters were getting ready to shade out the Summer tomatoes again, so I gently moved them to a more suitable place in the ground to the North a few feet away.

Elsewhere in the garden the little buds are buttoned up tight. I suppose in case Old Man Winter tries to make one more clumsy grab. They are politely waiting their turn because April is for the wild flowers. Yesterday Sugar Baby and I took our daily walk along the ridge line above the house. I brought my camera along so you could see how pretty they are this year.

Chinese Houses


Lupine
Field of Lupines
Madia



























Fiddlenecks

Buttercups





Brodiaea


Happy Spring to all!

23 comments :

  1. Your veggie garden is something else. Can't even imagine getting anything during the Winter months. Yet I know it happens as I get to buy the stuff up here. :) And what a lovely walk to take with that pretty view.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Hi Cher!
      Glad you enjoyed the walk. All that good stuff you buy in the Winter most likely comes from the valley below us!

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  2. I have tried so hard with the 'winter garden' concept... My cabbages made it through and then bolted like yours. But lettuce? Was it just the summer lettuce that grew in March, or when did you plant it out there? Very impressive early harvests!

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    1. Hi Linnie!
      The lettuce seed was planted around the beginning of October, then transplanted into the garden after the frost killed the last tomatoes. This is exactly my second Winter garden, so I'm no expert, but I think the main thing you have to get over is thinking that you're actually going to be picking anything November-February. The little plants sit there so small and cold all Winter. All the growth is going on below the soil and that's what allows them to burst forth in March.

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  3. Spectacular sis! Lovely garden...can't wait to see it in person! Love you :)

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    1. Just a few weeks now! This weekend I'll be shifting into cleaning frenzy mode for the Mother/Mother-in-Law double whammy. Pretty much the only time any windows get washed is when one of the Moms comes to visit. I sure hope the wildflowers are still blooming for your visit!

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  4. I used to just move when it was time to wash the windows! My mother in law is coming in June so I'll be in the same, miserable window washing mode as you pretty soon. Really, I think glass is way over rated.

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    1. Clean windows aren't just over-rated, they're plain dangerous. Every time I wash the big window, someone walks right in to it. Washing it once a year is more than enough. Just doing my part for safety!

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  5. I am drooling over you harvest. The radish look really good.Pretty wildflowers.

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    1. Thank You! The radishes were particularly good this year!

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    2. The parsnip must be very sweet. I used to cook them in Korma/Curry dish.

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    3. I only wish they were parsnips! They're white carrots. The parsnips didn't start to germinate until March, so they're still very small. Maybe this Fall I will finally have some.

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    4. Oh wow look like parsnip when without the top. I have never grown white carrot before.

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    5. They do look like parsnips! They were okay when picked very early, but got woody and bolted way too soon. The little orange ones are much nicer and I'm able just to pick them as I need them. I got the idea to grow parsnips and Daikon radish and lots of other things from your blog! Thank you for sharing your experience with growing so many different things.

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    6. I also found that purple/yellow carrots also tend to bolt much earlier than the orange ones. I learn so much from you too and motivated me more to save seeds.

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  6. How wonderful to be able to grow a winter garden. I'm still waiting for my snow to melt and the frost to come out of the ground so I can harvest the potatoes and carrots I left in the ground last October.

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    1. Hi Melanie!
      It is pretty nice to have just enough Winter. Hope everything melts for you sooner rater than later so you can get at those carrots and potatoes. The trade off for us for our nice Winter is a raging hot Summer!

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  7. Does Mariposa offer generally great gardening conditions or are you just a great gardener? I've only been through on the way to Yosemite and I would have envied your location even if there wasn't much in the way of gardens, but now. . . . I look forward to reading your blog! How awesome!

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    1. Hi Anastasia!
      I don't know about being a great gardener, but we do have a very nice climate. It's almost always sunny here in the foothills even when the valley is fogged in. Welcome, and I look forward to following your blog too!

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  8. Thank you for sharing the faburous pictures of your garden. Your garden is really beautiful, full of fresh vegetables and lovely blooms. A Lupine is one of my favorite flowers in spring. I wish I could read a book at fields of lupines in a rockin char. By the way, your lettuce heads are really giant,aren't them? Oh, I seeded Mellons, sunfolwers ,lettuce and Maltese cross three days ago, as climate has been stable and warm at last. I wonder which plant comes at first..earliest.

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    1. Thank you Kumittyi!
      Your kind words always make me smile. I'm so curious to see how the seeds do in Japan! Their sisters are all up and growing on this side of the Pacific. Lettuce was first here.

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  9. You grow so many things! Like you I let unwise things happen - because they are interesting.

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    1. I know you do, Esther. That's why I like you.

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