Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter garden

Switching topics from last night, I thought I'd talk to you a bit about our winter garden. If you were here in the early days of the farm (a whooping two years ago) you know I struggled getting my garden to grow.

In Arizona, gardening is not a grandma past time. I mean it is, but not growing veggies. I even have a book called "extreme gardening" that describes growing food in this climate. The heat can make anything die just as soon as you plant it, the birds are predatory to both chickens and tomatoes alike, and the winter brings a few good frosts every year.

The first and most important rule I can teach you about Arizona gardening is that you cannot trust seed packets. Not that they are GMO or whatever, but they lie. They tell you to plant in "full sun" for example. There is NOTHING WITHOUT SPINES that grows in full sun in Arizona. You are best to get yourself a nice planting guide. I am a big fan of this one here.

But even then, be skeptical, and rely more on your own experience than what you read. For example, everything says carrots are a warm season crop here in Arizona. They may be for someone else but for me, they should be planted in the fall and replanted in the winter. Here are my fall carrots as they look today:

The ones I planted in the summer did not come out. However I did plant a new three rows of them in early January. It was a bit frosty, so they are just now are coming up

That tall thing there is an onion. We have them sorta scattered throughout. We got some free bulbs at Home Depot this season, so we planted them in the other bed and then all the spares ended up in this bed. Trust me when I say, if these guys get big, I will have no shortage of onions anytime in my near future.

Or cabbage for that matter! Those flat leaves in the back are cabbage and we have tons of it growing this year. If you are ever looking for a good cold hearty veggie, consider hybrid cabbage and red leaf cabbage. It's withstood several frosts. I can't say the same for its Asian cabbage counterpart. That stuff started to wilt when it got cold. We pulled it and gave it away to anyone who thought they'd use it!

Additionally this year we were able to grow a nice head of broccoli, lots of kale and lots of chard (which we really need to eat more of, as you can see!)

This winter we were able to have several salads a week out of our garden with very little trouble. We had leaf lettuce growing earlier but since it stayed so hot for so long this year, much of it bolted. That's the term for grow upward really fast. It makes veggies bitter.

So what did I learn this season that might help you? Number one, water less. It should be obvious that once its not 100 degrees outside you don't need to water twice a day, but I didn't know at what point it's onto cut back. This year I learned, pretty much by accident, that if its under 85, most winter veggies only need one good watering at sundown.

Number two, don't plant too early. There is this vicious period between aug and sept that really you can't do much with. Your summer plants will be a mess cause of the heat and the monsoons and you will want to pull them and put down new stuff right away. While I have no opinion on pulling stuff, resist the urge to put new stuff down until night temps are under 75 if you are using transplants. if you are using seed go right ahead! That might mean waiting until late sept or early October to put down lettuce and kale transplants, but trust me, you'll be glad. In the last picture I showed you you can see two sad kale plants with leaves only on top. It's tall and has no leaves on the bottom. It's because it the heat, those girls took off upward instead of outward. So we pulled our food from the bottom and it only grew on top. I'm told this happens much less when the weather isn't so hot.

And number three: plant more of what you love. We ate a LOT of kale. One of the reasons that poor little plant looks so poor is cause we pulled leaves from it every day to eat salads. It took us months to start incorporating cabbage and chard into our salads to give the kale a break. Too much plucking puts the plant into shock and it stops growing as well. Learning that is why we planted those tiny little kales you see in between our two top heavy kales!

Additionally, we should have planted more carrots. The kids love nothing so much as a carrot from the garden. The bunny is a pretty big fan too.

So those were my big tips of the season. That and you just get better the more you do it. You know when to worry a little bit more. Just like with chickens, you learn a lot when you start, then you realize it's all wrong anyway and you just wing it and make it work!

This season I'm happy to report a very happy garden and still some very happy hens. Oh did I mention the little girls started laying more?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The farm

1 comment:

  1. Oh, we have found that we really need to plant lots of Kale because we go through it faster than anything else1 Love my Kale! Try making Kake chips once you will love them! there are recipes for some that are coated with yumminess which makes them more substantial and full of bold flavor.

    Planing times can vary from year to year also with the weaather.... We have had years where we planted much earlier and it worked fine then some years we planted at the same time and every thing had to be replanted because of the heat....

    This year we just picked our first broccoli and our cauliflower is not where near ready. this was one of those years where we had to replant. Started with seed but they sprouted but died out cause of the heat. Can't wait for our cauliflower! Brussle sprouts don't seem to be doing muc. Not even a stalk yet.

    the garden does cut way back on the grocery bill though and the saticfaction you get from growing your own food is far more valuable than even that. In the late spring and early summer the pleasure you get from eating your own tomatoes is beyond words! Be adenturous and try new varieties!