With the end of my fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions in sight—- (yes – I’m still eating fresh ones)(using the last pepper today) — I’m glad that winter sown planting time is here. At least I can take the beginning steps towards having a bounty of freshly grown produce in 2013.
Winter-sown is the most relaxed way to plant. It allows me to accomplish a great deal over a long period of time without rushing.
To make my work even more convenient, I keep a large pot filled with moistened grow mix at my work area.
Everyday I punch holes in the bottom of a jug or two, cut it almost in half, and then fill the bottom part with about 3 inches of the mix. Then I’m ready to plant whatever I want, label the jug, and tape it closed. After that I forget it — except for peeking in the hole at the top every once in while to see what’s happening —- until it’s time to transfer to the garden.
You can start almost any cool weather crop right now. I start warm weather crops using this method — but I wait a month or so —- germinate them inside — and then move them outside.
Here’s my list (so far) of what I want to start now through January:
- Parsley – I love lots of parsley growing everywhere. I pick some everyday and have it chopped fresh with other vegetables for lunch. It’s an excellent and delicious way to get calcium.
- Lettuces — I’ll plant at least a dozen varieties. More than likely, the lettuce seed will be some of the first to germinate and I can transplant quickly to my hoop tunnels. That way, I should have more ready-to-eat lettuce earlier this spring.
- Chard — We had chard for dinner tonight (torn chard, rough cut onion, chopped garlic tossed with olive oil and roasted/baked). Was the best chard I’ve ever tasted! Guess it’s like spinach and gets sweeter in cold weather. It’s been in the garden since last spring and believe me — it owes me nothing! I’ve picked it all year! I had several varieties but Rainbow chard is so beautiful and tender it’s my favorite so far.
- Mache (Corn salad)– I finally found out why I hadn’t done well growing Mache before. It LOVES the cold and HATES warm. Last spring I didn’t plant it soon enough. What germinated at all languished in the warm weather we had. I was so surprised to find it all over that bed this fall. I transferred it to my hoop tunnel beds and it’s lovin’ this cold. Keeping that in mind — I’ll only plant a little — but it should do ok if the weather stays cool. Next October I’ll plant a lot for my winter garden.
- Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale — For some reason this kale doesn’t want to germinate well for me — and when I do get a seedling or two — it doesn’t want to grow. I’ve got seed left — so I’ll give it another shot.
- My favorite Kale is Russian Kale. It reseeded itself and came up last September — so I have plenty growing already. And as you know if you grow it —– the plants get huge and 5 plants are enough to feed an army.
- Spinach — I’m missing my winter spinach. Something ate almost every bit I planted in the fall. I should be able to get a nice amount by early spring if I winter sow now.
- Mizuna — I have one full plant in a border. And one under the hoop tunnels that is the best I’ve had so far. I’ll only plant maybe 6 via wintersown. They get full and lush and with all the lettuce I’ll have — 6 mizuna plants are all I’ll need. It makes a better winter/fall/early spring crop than it does a summer crop for me because of flea beetles. They love it and try to devour it the minute the weather warms.
- Hakurei turnips — I will do a few winter sown in jugs. The rest I’ll direct sow.
- Tatsoi bok choy —
Herbs (on my list so far)
A lot of herbs that are usually hard to get to germinate are easy with the winter sown method. My list so far this year includes lavender, santolina, thyme, rosemary, and chamomile.
Flowers (on my list so far)
Flowers (and/or herbs) include echinacea, snapdragons, marguerite and iberis.
Direct Sowing in January under protection.
I’ve left some room for planting in the beds under my hoop tunnels. I’ll direct sow lettuces, chard, mache, spinach, cilantro and bok choy under the plastic anytime now. After all — it works — just like the jugs —- as a green house.
Important Points about any covers for winter crops —
During the warm spell we had a few weeks ago — I had the plastic off the hoops for about 2 or 3 weeks. It’s back on now and everything under the plastic is doing great. I anchor the plastic to the hoops with more clips when high winds are expected but that’s not often.
Almost all winter — unless it stays severely cold (25 and below) I leave each end loose — not totally open — but loose enough that air can get into the tunnels. If you close things up in our Virginia climate — you’re look for a lot of trouble. (Mold, mildew, and aphids.)
And no matter where you live — you still need to consider opening your hoop tunnels and cold frames when the weather allows. Good air circulation is just one of those universal principles that has to be paid attention to in order to be a successful gardener.
If you haven’t started your winter sown stuff yet, now is a good time. It’ll give you a lot more time come spring.
Let the sowing begin! 🙂 And have a great New Year!
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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