Friday, November 4, 2011

Cool Weather Gardening

Last year I experimented a little with winter gardening. I planted broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts in late August and early September to be harvested in the fall and early winter. What I got was broccoli with green worms, cauliflower with ricey looking heads, and brussel sprouts with tons of grey aphid. I swore I wouldn't try it again. Instead I was going to sit on my butt and read, have fun during the holidays, and cook. Somehow I couldn't resist the siren call of the garden this fall. I planted all of the above plus sugar peas and lettuce in early August. I am now harvesting sugar peas and lettuce for our October and November dinners. The aphids are so far leaving the peas alone and the plants themselves are adding nitrogen to the soil. The lettuce is incredible especially compared with store bought and will last about two weeks in the fridge (except we always seem to eat it before that).

 In July I attended a garden tour in my old stomping grounds on Lummi Island with my friend K. It was a lot of fun and there were some beautiful gardens. However K's garden gave me the tip of the year for my own and she didn't even know it. She had netted her blueberries with netting purchased at a fabric store. You know the kind used for petticoats and tutu's? It's cheap and easy to get and she used that instead of garden netting because the year before she had found a bird tangled in the garden netting that had died. Anyway I went home and bought a few yards at $1 a yard, planted the broccoli and Cauliflower and covered them all with the netting. I noticed the white butterflies trying to get in to lay their eggs all over my plants but to no avail. Come September I was harvesting big heads of broccoli that was worm free and believe me I looked really good. If my kids EVER saw a worm in their broccoli that would be the end of
ever eating it. Now the plants that I harvested from in September are providing side shoots of broccoli. Some of them quit sizable. The white cauliflower is coming along and I have harvested an orange cauliflower called cheddar that was very yummy. I will plant more of that one next year. Once the white cabbage butterfly season was over(when the weather got colder) I removed the netting. Guess what happened then? I got grey aphid. Yep! Guess I should have left it on. Lessons learned. Aphid isn't a real big deal. Hit them with a strong spray of water from the hose a couple times and you should be good. Any left over can be washed off or in the case of brussel sprouts the outside leaves can be peeled off.

This summer's project for the man consisted of trying to figure out how to keep the geese off the porch so we didn't have to pick our way through goose poo every time we wanted to enter or leave the house. Yes they were looking for me. Standing on the porch rattling the screen door until they got my attention then looking very innocent. We came up with a solution that consisted of a short cute fence around the patio with a cold frame for winter lettuce and spinach and a grape arbor over the top. This has turned out to be a great solution and I love the way it looks. Now all I need is the time to fill the cold frame with soil and plant it. However nothing is easy because I am always looking for a better way to do things. The cold frame is made of untreated blank T1-11 siding on a frame of 2x2's. The four lids on top are poly-carbonate panels that we found in the remnant pile at a greenhouse supply place. He mounted them in frames made of 2x2's and installed them with hinges to the top of the box. Then he lined the inside with plastic sheeting so the soil wont rot the untreated wood poking slits in the bottom for drainage.  My plan is to layer organic material that will decompose and give off heat starting with leaves and manure and topping it all off with a "growing layer" of soil for the lettuces and spinach and what ever else I decide to experiment with. I am also planning to line the back wall with some kind of water filled containers that can heat up during the day and release the heat back to the growing area at night. What I would love to get is 3 or 4 of those black plastic flat things that they sell at the auto parts store for draining oil out of cars but they are about 40 bucks each. I will probably end up with one liter soda bottles painted black. I guess you could call it a passive solar grow box. What ever you call it the man did a great job as usual. He even installed a gate in the fence that swings both ways and is spring loaded so you can push your way through it in either direction with arm loads of stuff and it springs shut behind you. I discovered one little problem. When the dog wanted out I was having to walk outside in my bare feet to open the gate for her so she could go outside and pee. I have now taught her how to open the gate herself. She doesn't like doing it but if she wants out bad enough she will push through it. (No she wont pee on the patio. She has manners.) I will let you know how this is working out when I get it planted. I will take pictures along the way so you can see how it's put together. Stay tuned.

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