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.
Lettuce, leeks and spinach are coming right along.
Carrots and radishes too. The shallots are beautiful!
The cold hits and there are massive casualties.
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.
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.
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.
|Field of Lupines|
Happy Spring to all!