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I received an email yesterday from a reader. She writes:
- “In the fall, we planted an entire 4ft x 30ft bed of greens and lettuce. If I had a cloth over it, we’d be picking still like crazy. We think that the greens in this bed will come back/get new growth in the spring which would put aside the need to wintersow. What do you think?”
If you’ve gardened any length of time and have previously had fall crops winter over to spring—- you already know that it’s not a safe bet to depend on them to carry you through spring and summer —- especially lettuce.
A lot of greens like chard, mizuna and bok choy are biennial. (They take two years to complete their life cycle.) They grow like crazy the first growing season, winter over, giving you a green or two and then go to seed. Sometimes they’ll surprise you and last longer, but you can’t depend on that.
Even parsley (another biennial) started new in the fall can act as if it’s two years old after a severe cold spell in winter and go to seed in the coming spring.
Most Kale that I know about is biennial. My Russian Kale wintered over last year and was fabulous. I was still picking lots of leaves even after the seed pods formed in number. So that’s one thing that I purposely plant in the fall only and enjoy bounty in the spring until the harlequin bugs arrive in numbers. Then I remove crops in that family of veggies (brassica) which harlequin bugs adore.
Spinach loves the winter and if you have enough planted you’ll probably do fine without planting more for spring.
Something ate every bit of the spinach I planted last fall so I’m going to try for an early spring crop — just because I’m starved for some. As you probably know — the minute it gets hot — spinach is done.
Lettuce – the Darling of the Spring Greens
If lettuce is left uncovered in severe cold for long periods — it’ll die. It’ll take 28 degrees on occasion, but day after day in the low twenties and teens will kill it.
As with most things — there will always be the exception. But that exception will quickly bolt and seed the minute the weather warms.
Even in the best of weather your wintered-over lettuce will not take you through spring and summer. At best — it gives you lettuce while you’re waiting for your wintersown and direct sown lettuce to grow big enough to pick.
Even Your Wintersown will not take You Through
If you want to be sure of having lettuce through Spring and almost all the way through summer, be sure to succession sow. I have already started planting lettuce and will plant at least some every month through May.
Each month will have its own set of variables — weather etc. Each variety of lettuce will have it’s own likes and dislikes. There is no way you can know until after the fact.
I’ve referred to this plan in previous posts. I call it back-up. It’s always been my ticket to having the green stuff (and lots of other things) when most folks don’t.
I think it’ll be one of your tickets to success as well.
Plan to Succeed – Plan for Backup
Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, and effective — and it’s a lot healthier.
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I don’t know what I did wrong with my spinach this fall. I planted it in mid October and it didn’t germinate at all. The weather was still quite warm here in NC.
I am not good on the cold weather crops. Hopefully, this year I will learn a little more.
It’s always a disappointment when things don’t germinate Carol.
A year or so ago I scattered a lot of some really old spinach seed — thinking that it probably wouldn’t come up. I didn’t want to throw it away just in case one or two made it through. Of course— you’ve guessed it — it seems every seed germinated.
All the charts say spinach seed is good from 1 to 5 years — depending on the chart. My seed didn’t know that.
To get even 80% germination you need a soil temperature of about 59 degrees.
If you have really warm temperatures in Sept or Oct — try starting the seed inside and then transplanting.
Even November is not to late to try. Succession sow Sept thru Nov or even early Dec. for your best chance.
Thanks for the tips Theresa. I’ll keep them in mind this year.